Angels Landing

January 1, 2018


Zion National Park, UT

Angels Landing is a spectacular rock spire in the middle of Zion Canyon and offers the highest view-to-effort ratio in the entire Zion National Park. The hike is a must-do for pretty much anyone into hiking and sight-seeing. There’s some exposure but mostly protected by cables and chains. The correct YDS grade should be “class 2”. Asides that it’s worth noting that the construction of Angels Landing trail back in the days must have been a huge project. Having already hiked the trail I can sense the amount of blasting and paving required to make it happen. Without the engineering work I wouldn’t be surprised if the easiest route up Angels Landing involves technical climbing.

The objective of the New Year day of 2018 between Jake and myself was to bag both Moapa Peak and Angels Landing. Earlier in the day we did successfully ascend Moapa Peak but the ascent took longer than expected thank to a route-finding error. The drive between the two trail-heads also experienced some delays and ate up more than 3 hours. That’s still OK as we did manage to park the vehicle in Zion Canyon by 3:30 pm and the 1.5-hour daylight time should be sufficient. As mentioned above the entire ascent would be done on a trail so asides trail-runners, water and layers there’s no need to bring anything fancy. I brought two trekking poles which turned out to be a mistake.

Angels Landing standard hiking route.

The worst part of this hike was to negotiate the gong show at the parking lot. Once crossed Virgin River the mass gathering of tourists ceased a bit although we’re talking about Angels Landing trail so expect massive groups of tourists at any time of a day. The flat section of this trail was actually quite scenic especially considering this was my first ever time visiting Zion National Park. Once the grade picks up the trail does its first set of switchbacks into Refrigerator Canyon which is essentially a “hanging valley” above the main Zion Canyon.

Angels Landing from the parking lot. This was my first time in Zion Canyon

The trail crosses Virgin River on a bridge

Another picture of our objective – Angels Landing

Looking back we could see the imposing cliffs of The Great White Throne

After a set of switchbacks the trail enters Refrigerator Canyon

The traverse inside Refrigerator Canyon provides some very different scenery. The next stage was Walter’s Wiggles and the 21 short and tight switchbacks brought us to the Scout Lookout. This is essentially the extension of Angels Landing’s NW Ridge and the next section would be following the ridge crest to the summit. This is the most exciting stage but the constructions of those cables and chains had eliminated any form of difficulty such that even tourists could have made the summit. We didn’t find the trail itself to be that spectacular partly because we were already in the shades, so moved on quickly. The summit was pretty close and we even ascended back into sunshine.

This is the famed shot of Angels Landing from Scout Lookout

As you can see the trail might be exposed at places, but well protected

After a long while we eventually ascended back into sunshine

This is looking across Zion Canyon towards Weeping Rock area and East Rim

Jake getting close to the summit

More about the trail. Note the transition from red rocks back to yellow rocks

Another hiker on his way down.

The whole ascent had taken us under 1 hour so there’s still plenty of time to linger before sunset. It got a bit chilly once the sun’s down but the temperature was within tolerable ranger so we actually did wait for a while. Eventually after the colours had turned we started the descent. The poles were useless thank to the paved nature of this trail so I have no idea why I actually brought them up.. Lower down through Walter’s Wiggle and then Refrigerator Canyon we sped up our speed and managed to finish the hike before it’s too dark to see without illumination.

Jake arriving at the summit

The summit with Great White Throne behind

This must be Observation Point or part of the East Rim

Looking down at The Organ and Zion Canyon

Me on the summit of Angels Landing

Another shot of me on the summit

The dusk horizon looking south. Photo by Jake R.

Me hiking down. Photo by Jake R.

Overall I would agree with the classic status of Angels Landing and it surely served well to introduce me into Zion National Park. On the other hand I do think my expectation of this peak was inflated due to the constant social media exposure. It’s still a very aesthetic hike so don’t get me wrong. But after bagging 152 peaks in one calendar year I guess only those really, really spectacular objectives would impress me so it’s hard for me to comment.