I fell in love at first sight with Zion National Park. Unfortunately, our visit to Zion was quite short and we only had time for one hike. Both the Angels Landing hike and the Narrows hike sounded great – the Angels Landing hike went up to the top of one of the walls of Zion valley and involved hiking on a narrow ridge, and the Narrows hike went through a slot canyon and involved hiking in a river with vertical walls on either side. Hmmm, tough choice. We decided to head UP for a better view of the area.
Since I am definitely NOT a morning person, my husband had to drag me out of the tent at an unreal hour. We wanted to miss the crowds and the heat by catching the very first shuttle bus to leave the Visitor Center. There are no cars allowed into the main part of Zion, so there is a very efficient shuttle system that leaves the Visitor Center every 30 minutes. I managed to be conscious for the 6:30am shuttle, but not before begging to stop in Springdale (town on boundary of Zion National Park) for coffee – please, please, please!
The hike up Angels Landing starts out fairly tame – maybe ½ mile of flat trail. Then the trail heads up a series of switchbacks called "Walter’s Wiggles." After the switchbacks, there is a narrow slot with high walls looming up on each side. A couple more switchbacks, and then comes the final stretch. The last part of this hike is not for those who are afraid of heights – it involves hiking across a narrow ridge with HUGE dropoffs (2000 feet) on one or both sides. There are no railings but there is an occasional chain to hold on to.
The summit of Angels Landing also has the huge dropoffs, but the flat area at the top is large enough so that you can sit a comfortable distance away from the edge (I thought it was a good distance, but maybe others would have a different opinion). My husband and I were one of the first ones to the top (we had passed a couple people farther back on their way out) and at the time we had it to ourselves. So we stuck around enjoying the view of the valley and watching the birds float on the wind, diving and dipping and looking like they were having a blast.
When other folks started showing up, we headed back down the trail. We passed a ton of people coming up, so we were glad that we had gotten an early start. The hike was 5 miles round trip with 1488 feel of elevation gain and loss. Definitely bring lots of water – it is hot and dry and dehydration is dangerous. Plus, Angels Landing is a scary place to have to be rescued off of!