Angels Landing trail: the incredible Zion Canyon hike
Extraordinary!! A must-have and probably one of the most frequented trails in the USA, but also one of the most dangerous, and we understand why. On the programme: an ascent of 453 meters of vertical drop, ending with a vertiginous ridge about 700 meters long and narrow in places of a few centimeters! The ascent is incredible (provided you don't feel dizzy), and at the end of the ridge, the view is absolutely grandiose. If you are fond of sensations and beautiful landscapes, it's the trail to make absolutely, an experience you won't forget! One more reason to come to Zion, a national park often wrongly neglected because it is full of wonders.
1Angels Landing trail: A dizzying hike
But before all things, you must know that this trail is not to be taken lightly. The last stretch on the ridge, the most spectacular, is extremely dangerous. 6 people have died there since 2004 and you will be reminded of it all over the park.
Some portions are on the side of a rock and overlook an empty space of about 400 metres. To ensure your safety, chains have been installed at the most dangerous passages. It is essential to feel comfortable and not be afraid of emptiness to consider the last part. On the spot, we have unfortunately seen people who are tetanized, crying and unable to retrace their steps. Don't take unnecessary risks, if you don't feel capable, we advise you to stop the ascent to Scout Lookout, an already very impressive viewpoint that is situated just before the start of the ridge. Above all, don't commit yourself without being sure of your abilities.
2First steps on the Angels Landing trail
The start of the hike is from the shuttle bus stop "The Grotto", located in the heart of Zion canyon. If you come in high season (from April to October), no vehicles are allowed to travel in the Zion Canyon area, except shuttles. They are free and run very regularly (every 15 minutes, I think). The terminus is located at the Visitor Center. Once you get to the stop (speakers will tell you the names of each stop), you have to go to the left and take the bridge over the Virgin River. The trail starts right after. The first portion to Scout Lookout is common with the Rim trail. The trail is very well laid out.
The beginning of the trail is rather easy and snakes quietly in a rather arid vegetation. If you are attentive, you will be able to observe many birds (including hummingbirds). Squirrels, as everywhere, are invited on the way. But this "walk" will only be of short duration, because quite quickly, the path starts to go up. The dusty path turns into a kind of concrete sidewalk that has been dug on the cliffside. It climbs rather strongly, in shoelaces, but very quickly, the beauty of the landscapes make us forget the effort.
After climbing the cliff, a sweeter portion awaits us. This time we rush into a pretty little canyon where we find some vegetation and above all some shade, which is very pleasant after the exhausting ascent. The trail continues up the hill gently until it reaches the Walter's Wiggles, a series of 21 narrow bends. This is the last "difficulty" before reaching Scout Lookout. The advantage is that the laces are very short, and it is easier to motivate yourself to cross them one by one.
3Arrival in Scout Lookout
After a final effort after a total of 2.8 km of ascent, we finally arrive at Scout Lookout. We are immediately rewarded by the superb view on the canyon, but also by the discovery of the incredible ridge that starts from this point.
This is where we wonder, where we begin to doubt... Will I succeed? Am I capable of it?
Many hikers choose to stop here. Florent didn't hesitate for a second. As for me, I've thought it through. I was overwhelmed by the anxiety, but also by a great excitement at the thought of going all the way to the end, surpassing myself and discovering the sequel. Finally I took my courage with two hands and started.
4The final ascent: climbing, narrow passages and fantastic views!
The first few metres immediately put us in the mood. We begin by climbing a small rocky hill with a slightly sloping slope, which requires the help of chains to climb with confidence. Then there are portions of flat sections, a bit of climbing, narrow passages. The chains are always there to reassure. The ascension in itself is not very difficult if you are agile, it is above all not to let yourself be destabilized by the vacuum.
Not being very reassured, I used the channels as soon as they were present, especially to reassure myself. At first I was rather tense on it, especially in the sloping portions, for fear of slipping and falling. I even had marks on my hands so strong that I would be strong. As time went by, confidence grew and I felt more serene.
Some passages are painful, because they are too narrow or delicate to cross. As the last portion is quite crowded, we often have to wait, sometimes in not very comfortable positions.
Then, the summit of the ridge rises, more than a few meters to climb. And there, what landscapes!! It's incredible, absolutely beautiful!! Let's get the camera out of here and don't let him go! The highest point culminates at 1763 metres above sea level and overlooks the beautiful valley where the Virgin River serpents peacefully.
From here you can enjoy a 360° view of the impressive ridge and the whole canyon. That's grand. The trail then descends slightly to reach a platform with light colours which marks the end of the ascent, the ideal place to have a nice lunch break, or simply to rest while enjoying the show.
The return is done by the same path, so we have to go down the ridge. This time, I feel really comfortable and I don't use the chains very much. We're going down rather quickly, as opposed to going down. We go back through Scout Lookout, then we go down the 21 shoelaces of Walter's Wiggles until we reach the Virgin River, which looked so small from above.
It takes between 3h and 4h depending on your physical condition and the photo breaks to cover the whole hike (7 km).
Given the renown of this trail, expect not to be the only ones and to wait often for the last game. In the hottest months, we recommend that you leave early in the morning to avoid high temperatures and to leave with plenty of water. Do not attempt to climb the ridge in heavy rain or thunderstorms.