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.
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.
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.
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