Sunday, December 27, 2015

Angels Landing

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah...)

In my last Zion National Park post, Roger and I experienced a very stormy night while camping in the park.  We'd planned to hike the famed Angels Landing trail the following day, and I was worried this bad weather would force us to cancel.

At the trailhead

Luckily, the next morning dawned dry and thunderstorm-free.  My hubby and I awoke to a sopping wet tent (which had leaked onto our sleeping bags sometime during the night).  We'd planned to spend tonight in a nearby motel, so our camp had to be broken down and packed into the car for the day.  Crabby from lack of sleep, we both groused our way through this unpleasant task.  But finally, with all our damp gear crammed into my poor car, we parked in the Visitor Center lot, and caught a shuttle bound for the Angels Landing trailhead.

Roger rockets ahead

Angels Landing is one of the most famous hikes in the National Park system.  A nearly 1500 foot tall rock formation located within Zion, it's a 2.5 mile one-way climb to the top.  The views from the summit are magnificent - stretching down the canyon in each direction.  To access this spectacular panorama, the park service constructed an amazing trail that in some places is cut into solid rock.  One portion of extremely steep switchbacks is known as "Walter's Wiggles" after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer this section.

Muddy Virgin River

Today's trek began in the same location as yesterday's Emerald Pools hike.  Crossing the same bridge, I noticed the Virgin River was a totally different water body from the previous day.  Thanks to last night's rainstorms, this placid, clear, meandering stream had been transformed into a wide, muddy torrent.  On the opposite shore, the paths parted, and instead of heading left to Emerald Pools, today we took the right fork towards Angels Landing.

Fall colors just beginning

Scenery was absolutely stunning from the start.  The trail followed the Virgin River's banks, and wound through a wooded area, with fall colors just beginning to show.  Colorful sandstone peaks rose from the river, Angels Landing jutting prominently in front.  Although clouds lingered in the sky, diffused morning light was fantastic on the nearby rock walls.  Right off the bat, I was stopping and taking photos, and Roger, not wanting to wait, zipped ahead.


After a half mile, the path begin to climb, switchbacking steeply up the first sandstone cliff.  Puffing while ascending the steep grades, I took lots of photo (ahem-rest!) stops.  These frequent breaks provided chances to take in the fabulous scenery that kept getting better the higher I climbed.  There were some great views looking back down the trail.  The switchbacks were so tight, I mistakenly thought we'd already reached Walter's Wiggles.

Sinuous path upward

After a mile, we got a break from the climbing as the trail leveled out and passed between Angels Landing and the adjacent Cathedral Mountain.  This gap between the two peaks, known as "Refrigerator Canyon," was named for it's continuous cool breeze and shade.  During hot summer days, this canyon provides welcome relief for hikers.  Today, however, with cloud cover and temps comfortably cool, overheating wasn't a problem.

The trail was hewn into the rock

Roger would rocket ahead on the trail for awhile, and then wait for me to catch up.  Sometimes, I'd see him gazing down from an upper switchback.   Once I'd been spotted, he'd continue on.

Switchback in Refrigerator Canyon

After a scenic stretch through Refrigerator Canyon, I turned a corner and there before me were the famous "Walter's Wiggles."  A set of 21 very tight switchbacks, literally stacked on top of each other, the trail seemed to rise straight up.

Walter's Wiggles!

Although I'd met lots of people on the trail, thus far I'd been hiking by myself.  But everyone seemed to congregate at the Wiggles.  I began my climb in a crowd of people, and passed many more on my way up.  These sharp switchbacks seem to slow many hikers. I was surprised by a few of the people I saw trying to climb this trail - they didn't appear to be fit enough to attempt such a strenuous hike.

This trail is crazy steep

Of course, I huffed and puffed plenty all by myself.  The Wiggles was an extremely steep climb.  It was kind of freaky to look back down and see the switchbacks nearly vertically stacked on top of each other.  It was quite a view!  Yeah, I took a lot of "photo" breaks to capture these unique sights.

Scout Lookout (aka "chicken point")

Then suddenly I reached the top of Walter's Wiggles.  The terrain flattened out into a broad saddle.  I'd reached Scout Lookout, a wide area of sandstone leading to the final steep push up Angels Landing's very top.

Final precarious route to the top

Scout Lookout is also known as "chicken out point."  Many people, upon reaching Scout Lookout, get a glimpse of the final half mile scramble trail and decide they've gone far enough.  I told myself I wasn't going to chicken out, but when I saw the "route" (it wasn't a trail!) to Angels Landing's summit I decided there was no way I was going to attempt it.  The route was a nearly vertical climb up very slippery wet sandstone, with only a chain to hang onto.  And it was crowded with people going in both directions.

Amazing view below

Roger debated continuing on to the top.  But the large amount of people swarming the summit made him reconsider.  My hubby and I decided we'd climbed high enough.  The views from Scout Lookout were mighty fine, and we didn't have to risk our lives for them.

Wall of red rock

Roger and I found a place on the rocks, ate a snack, and enjoyed the amazing scenery below us.  We also were entertained by our fellow hikers, some beginning their climb and turning around, others waiting for companions to return from the top.  A group of chipmunks stealthily scurried amongst the crowds looking for crumbs, and boldly climbing into unattended backpacks.

Proof we made it

The cloudy skies, which until now had remained dry, began to drop precipitation upon us.  Now Roger and I were doubly glad we hadn't attempted a climb to the very top.  This rain would only make the slippery sandstone even slicker. 

Roger admires the white sandstone

Roger noticed another trail leading away from our perch, that appeared to contour the top of this saddle.  Not many people were hiking this direction, so he suggested we follow it for a bit.  Growing weary of the mass of humanity parked at Scout Lookout, I was more than happy to leave.

Rough trail

We followed this rough path through rocky landscape for a half mile or so.  The rain let up, and I enjoyed the views of adjacent rocky peaks.  But Roger's knees were beginning to bother him, so he suggested we head back down.

High altitude bathrooms

I was surprised to see two small restrooms perched above Scout Lookout.  When I decided to use one, Roger said he was going to head down, and he'd meet me on the trail.  Approaching the bathrooms, I was disappointed by a sign that said these restrooms were for emergencies only.  (Apparently they are difficult to keep clean - big surprise)  I decided I could wait.

Back down Walter's Wiggles

So it was back down Walter's Wiggles!  The descent was much more fun now that I wasn't gasping for breath - and the views pretty darn spectacular.  But there were still mobs of people climbing up.

Quite an amazing trail!

Here's a photo showing the intricate rockwork lining these sharp switchbacks.  As you can see, constructing this trail was quite an engineering feat!

Fantastic views going down

The canyon views were even better as I descended down the first steep cliff.  By now, the rain had stopped, and I even glimpsed a bit of blue trying to break out.

Looking down the canyon

I caught up to Roger and trailed him down the final sinuous switchbacks.  Although his knee was still aching, he'd been taking it slow, and it was doing okay.

White dome

As the trail leveled out, and began to follow the Virgin River once more, I began to see sunshine lighting up the canyon.  Turning around, I got a final view of Angels Landing, beautifully lit up by the sun, with a bit of blue sky behind.  A wonderful scene, I captured a few final images to remember this fabulous hike.

Blue skies to finish our hike

My favorite trail in Zion so far, I was glad the weather cooperated.  But now it was early afternoon, and there was still time for another hike.  Where should we go next?  Come back for my next post, as my Zion National Park trip continues....

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday


  1. Sbeautiful shots. One of my favoritehikes. I have a fear of heights and was so proud when we reached scouts landing I had thought it was the end then I saw the rest and couldn't make it my nerve was gone. Hubby did and had to do some of it on his butt. Shear drops on each side. Just a few days before a lady committed suicide up there too scary. The view he said want much different. One day I will attempt it again. I did however see a condor very close up while waiting for him to come back. Number 99 or 66 wasn't sure which way it went.

  2. Well, I for one am glad the weather held off enough for you to complete the walk so that I could appreciate those fantastic photos. What an amazing feat of engineering just to enjoy the views. I wonder how this work was financed.

  3. You chose wisely!
    Super gorgeous captures of this totally gorgeous place. Wow!
    Love love loved your post!

  4. Magnifica esta caminhada por paisagem de montanha.
    Gostei bastante.
    Um abraço e continuação de Boas Festas.

  5. Hello, I can see why it would be your favorite trail. But, what a strenuous hike, those switchbacks look awful. The views are just stunning. Awesome photos, thanks for taking me along. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  6. Another nice capture of some beautiful country

  7. What an incredible hike! Those are some switchbacks! And aome spectacular views too! It must have been an incredible challenge to build that trail. Hope you had a happy holiday.

  8. Amazing views, Linda! I'm surprised so many people attempt that trail with so many switchbacks. But I'm even more surprised that someone engineered it!

  9. As always, wonderful pictures. The rock is fantastic, and you captured it so very well. :-)

  10. Gorgeous photos as usual, Linda. I'm looking forward to reading and seeing more of your adventures in 2016. Happy New Year!

  11. That's where we stopped seemed plenty far enough! We started up the next part with the chains and had so many people climbing over and around us that we decided it was way too stressful and dangerous to continue. A wet surface would have been the clincher! It's an amazing hike no matter how far you go!

  12. That's quite a hike, but beautiful scenery along the way.

  13. Linda, what a gorgeous place for a hike! Beautiful series, thank you!

  14. What an incredibly awesome area. The perfect way to spend the day. And you end up with spectacular photos, too!

  15. Now that is some trail! Lots of exposure, What a beautiful area!

  16. Yeah, I don't know that I could have finished that final push up vertical, slippery sandstone with all of humanity leap-frogging with only a chain to hold on to. Not my idea of a good time. Probably also why I will never attempt Half Dome either. :)

    Stunning pictures. Last time I was in Zion I was in high school, might need to plan a trip back with my fella.

  17. That was an amazing climb. What views! I wonder what constitutes an emergency to use the rest rooms. I mean when you need to go you need to go.

  18. What a marvelous hike and exciting views! My husband and I hope to visit Zion NP one day and seeing this hike gives me a goal to work towards getting in shape for. I've been sidelined by eye problems, and now face more surgery, but in about 4 to 6 weeks I should be able to begin exercising again.

    Have a very Happy and healthy 2016!

  19. Wow. What a great looking place - this post has been added to my bookmarks folder: "places to go"!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  20. There sure are some beautiful places in the world, thanks for sharing so many of them.

  21. I loved Zion but this hike and your photos show just how absolutely, stunningly beautiful it is.

  22. You always get to the best places for photos! These are amazing scenes, as usual!

  23. Oh my goodness what an absolute treat! I am very impressed with your hike and that you would have carried on but can understand with that many people it would be a risk. Thank you so much for taking us along - I'm shattered now! :)

  24. Your photos rekindled my memories of this hike! I liked the Wiggles and did climb the chains - a harrowing experience! We went quite early, and it wasn't very crowded though we met hikers going back down the wiggles. The rock formations are just fabulous! Hope you got some skiing over the holidays. Happy 2016!

  25. What a great hike! Your photos are wonderful and I feel as if I have been there now:)

  26. When we went, I went about 1/2 of the way up, and decided that it just wasn't worth it. I was slow - too many people - it was apparent to me I had reached my comfort level extent. My husband kept going up and checked it off his list - no longer a requirement on mine :)!

  27. Amazing place. Love that hairpin bend trail. Bet the toilets still get used a lot, despite the signs.
    "Built it in the wilderness and they will go."

  28. Stunning scenery! I don't like high places and I'm not sure I would have been able to hike that trail.

  29. Just enjoyed joining in on your hike to Scout Lookout and beyond. I had been advised to do the Angel's Landing hike as early as possible in the morning so was fortunate enough to share the summit with only three other people. I would not want to be on the Landing with a large group. Your photos are impressive and they brought me back to the day I was there. I also veered off along that other trail from Scout Lookout and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your day with us!

  30. I chickened out on the Angel's Landing chain trek, too! I battle an inner conflict in situations like this. . I love few things more than taking in stunning views. .but I have a great phobia of heights in some situations! Mitch LOVES scaling dangerous daredevil heights. I can barely stand to watch him. Similar to your after-rain conditions, we visited in March- during snow melt, when trails were also wet and slick. Benefits included very few people, and having decisions like Angels Landing made for us. ;)

  31. how wonderful to have gotten that high and for safety reasons, glad you didn't go any further.

  32. You got some nice perspectives of the trail up that most people forgo, I felt like I was almost there with you guys. Surprised so many folks were going up on a rainy day, they don't call it slickrock for nothing.

  33. I am so impressed you two hiked what you did. These photos are stunning and I would have chickened out long before chicken-out point. Thanks for taking us along.

    Leaving in awe :)


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