On day five of our trip and our third full day in Zion, we hiked Angels Landing. We had built up this hike in our minds quite a bit, watching videos of it on YouTube, and talking to people who have done it about their experience. Being extremely fearful of heights when mixed with ledges/cliffs, this probably wasn't a good idea. I was very hesitant about this hike and all I’ve heard about it, but I was also pretty determined to finished it. The day we did Angels Landing, we made the decision to arrive at Zion at 6:30am. The first shuttles are scheduled to run at 7 am, although you should always call the visitors center to confirm and check for changes.
When we got to the shuttle we stood in line for a few minutes then off we went. The park wasn’t crowded yet which was our whole goal for getting there as early was we did. When hiking Angels Landing, you want to do it as early as possible. If you wait too long, the trail will become flooded with people trying to pass each other while hiking the 4 foot wide ledges. You want the trail to be as empty as possible, especially if you're like me and have a slight issue with heights and ledges.
We started up the trail with our packed lunches and two liters of water on our backs, which we found was the perfect amount for most all of our hikes. The hike leading up to the actual ridge that is the namesake of Angels Landing is absolutely incredible. You get to hike through Refrigerator Canyon, (you will quickly find out why it was given that name…hint hint… Bring a sweater!), and up the famous Walters Wiggles, a series of 21 steep switchbacks named for Walter Ruesch, Zion National Park’s first superintendent who first put in place a plan to construct a trail to Angels Landing in the 1920s.
Out of our group of seven, we all hiked up to Scouts Landing. This is the lookout just before the final push to Angels Landing and the place where most people stop their hike.
Five out of the seven of us then made the hike to the summit, and I barely made it. Matt, Jamie, and Mandy all made it up quickly and without a problem. Blake stayed with me since I moved pretty slowly, and was a little shaky from looking down the thousand foot drop-offs on each side of the trail. At about the half way point, I had a small panic attack before Blake talked me down and pushed me to keep going. We made the final push and the view was beyond worth it! Although we had kind of already seen the view, as Observation Point looks down on the top of Angels Landing, it was still incredible, and the perfect spot to each lunch aside from the rogue Chipmunks climbing all over us to try and get our food.
The way down was a lot quicker and easier for me than the way up. The only hinderance was that it was starting to get more crowded at that point, and you really have to communicate with the people around you. The best way to function on Angels Landing is to take turns and work together. We had to talk with every person that passed, and there was a lot of “Ok you guys go first…Ok we’ll go this way then you guys go that way…” But everyone was extremely nice, and seeing that I was shaky and afraid, mostly everyone would let Blake and I go first. You will get the occasional few hikers that don't speak english, but they still understood what you meant. So, the biggest piece of advice I can offer for Angels Landing is to go early, and be patient and work together with your fellow hikers on the trail. By the time we made it back to Scouts, there was a Disney World-looking line of people waiting to walk up to Angels Landing, and we were so glad we were done by the time most people were starting to get there. Over all, everyone on the hike was so incredibly nice that it made the hike easier for people like me who are a little shaky with the steep drop-offs!
When we were done, we decided we deserved beers and burritos- and lots of them! So, we went to the local Mexican restaurant, Casa Amigos, for lunch. After stuffing our faces, we strolled around town, got some ice-cream, and enjoyed the area. After we felt capable enough, we did the Watchman's Trail in Zion. This short hike offered a nice view over the town and was the perfect “cool down” to end to our day. When we got back we hung out at Zion Outfitters doing laundry and paying to take 5 minute showers. After we had gotten all cleaned up and finished laundry, we stocked up on beer and ice and headed back to our public land site at Smithsonian Buttes to call it a night.