Our climb to Angels Landing in Zion National Park is a story we laugh about. We were determined to get to the trail early and hike to the top before the crazy crowds of people arrived.
Zion National Park is an incredibly busy place. On a daily basis, the park seems to welcome in more guests then it can hold. In order to help people get to where they want to be and to help relieve traffic issues, the park offers shuttle buses to move people around.
The challenge is getting tickets for the shuttle bus. Each day at 5:00 PM the park’s website sells them for the next day. These tickets are sold almost immediately and if you are lucky enough to get tickets, they might not be for the time slot you want them. Additionally, depending on the time of day, people with tickets must stand in long lines to board the buses.
Gail and I decided not to participate in this process. We opted to use our bicycles to get around in the park. Many people use bikes for transportation but the majority of people do ride shuttle buses.
Getting to Angels Landing Trailhead
Without going into all the reasons why, our overnight campsite was not ideally positioned to get to the trailhead early. It was about 16 miles outside of Zion’s West gate.
Our Angels Landing hike day started out crazy! We had set our alarm for 4:30 AM and it sounded on time. Quickly, we dressed in the dark and drove to the entrance gate at Zion National Park. We arrived at our parking lot about 5:30 AM.
Preparing for our adventure, we took our time organizing our gear and getting the bikes ready. We wanted to make sure we didn’t forget anything critical.
When we finally hopped on our bikes and started peddling, we knew we had a 6-mile uphill route to the trailhead.
The morning was cool and crisp as the sun peaked over the canyon. Our legs had fresh energy and enthusiasm as they powered the bikes up the beautiful winding road. We reached the trailhead at about 7:00 AM.
We mentally shifted from “biker mode” to “hiker mode” as we assessed the scene before us. Even though we started early, the number of people who had arrived ahead of us was surprising. There was a slow but steady stream of people arriving. The good news; we beat the big crowds and were on the trail before the first shuttle bus dropped off anyone.
Generally, we were happy our plan was working and headed up the path to the top.
Starting the Hike to the Top
I describe the climb to the top of Angels Landing trail in 3 sections. The lower third of the trail starts with a mild uphill grade but shifts to a steeper unforgiving climb about a mile in. The path in this section of the hike is a wide paved trail with numerous switchbacks.
At points along the way, we stopped occasionally for a picture of the canyon and a quick rest break. The higher we climbed the more the valley opened up to us. The scenery was spectacular!
The second third of the hike continued with a well maintained paved trail with more switchbacks. The trail continued through treed areas with rich vegetation that offered no viewpoints into the canyon.
This section of the hike ended at an area called the Scouts Landing. The funny thing is we thought we reached the top when we got to this place!
We were taking pictures and doing high fives in celebration. Someone observed us and straighten us out by letting us know we were not at the top. He then pointed to the actual destination. We were shocked. We had a quick discussion whether we should continue to the top but ultimately decided to push on.
The Final Leg From Scouts Landing Overlook
The final third of the Angels Landing hike is a bit intimidating. If I were to guess, I’d estimate that 80% of the people who climb to Scout Landing do not go further up the rock.
The path from Scout Landing to the top of Angels Landing is very steep and quite narrow. The national park installed a chain handrail system to help keep hikers safe on their way up and down. Being in a hurry on this trail is unadvisable. The trail is so narrow, fast hikers cannot pass a slow hikers unless they step aside and let the faster hiker by.
If you are hiking up the trail and someone is coming down, someone is going to have to wait before continuing on. Generally, uphill hikers have the right of way. Our experience was that the hikers we encountered were very friendly and polite as everyone made their way up and down the mountain.
When we finally arrived at the top, there were about 30 people already there enjoying the morning views.
The Way Down
We spent about forty minutes on the top of Angels Landing before deciding to head back down. While at the top, we enjoyed the 360 degree views of Zion National Park. Equally special, we witness a proposal which included a man on one knee asking a tearful young woman to be his wife. The good news is, she said, “Yes”!
Normally, when I write a story about a hike I don’t write about the round trip but in this case some of the best pictures were taken on the way down. These pictures are the best I have at showing the heights and narrowness of the Angels Landing hike. I will let the pictures tell the the rest of the story. Enjoy!