If you’ve heard of Angels Landing in Zion National Park, you most likely have heard rave reviews of it’s amazing beauty, unsurpassed views and recommendations as a “must-do” hike during your visit. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s a waste of your time and I question why this hike is allowed.
Let me start by saying that I have done this hike twice, finished it once. Yes, it has amazing views, among the best I’ve ever seen. Yes, it is considered a dangerous hike. Yes, I am a regular hiker of more difficult summits and found this to be very similar to a walk in the park. No! You should not do it.
Why should you not do it? It’s simple, really. Too many people are on the trail.
You start your hike by following the West Rim Trail up to Scouts Lookout, an easily walkable path, wide enough for people to pass each other and wide enough for that to be done safely. If you only want to go to Scouts Lookout…go, do it! You still get pretty good views from there.
From Scouts Lookout you’ll see the 0.5 mile trail along the Angels Landing ridge. This part of the trail is where “questionable safety” comes in, it’s a ridge walk with a chain to hold on to. The chain weaves along the ridge and up along some wider sections of trail, goes along the cliff and over another ridge until you make it to Angels Landing. For anyone with a fear of heights, the mere sight of this will have them curled up in fetal position on the ground.
As an avid hiker, I’ve walked along chain sections and ridges many times before at much higher elevations, so none of this bothers me. What does bother me is that this is a single lane trail, which means that when you meet people on the trail moving in the opposite direction as you, one of you has to maneuver around the other person. So imagine if you will, one person has pressed themselves up against a rock wall while clinging onto the chain to prevent a fall from the cliff. The oncoming person is left to precariously “walk” around that person without falling off the cliff. So for a moment it either looks like you’re piggybacking someone as they climb around you, or you’re in an awkward face to face hugging maneuver. It wouldn’t be so bad if you only needed to do this once, but that won’t be the case. There will be at least 20-30 people you will need to do this with. Sounds fun, right! No.
So, why have I done this twice if I don’t recommend it? My first trip up was in September 2012 with Curtis. We had no idea what we were in for. By the time we realized this was a dumb idea we were already half way across and decided that since it’s only another 1/4 mile “let’s just finish it”. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people make this mistake. This past June 2014, I was in the area again with my Mother and decided that we’d just go to Scouts Lookout. At the time I had thought that she would go to Scouts Lookout and I would continue on and get some pictures. When we got to the lookout and I saw the herd of people lined up across sections of the ridge, I thought that it would be a nightmare to try and plow my way though them and this has reaffirmed to me how much of a dumb hike this is.
I do love seeing people who are enthusiastic about hiking, people who want to get out there and see all the beauty the world has to offer. I even encourage people to go out and see what I love so much. But it saddens me to see people doing this hike (or any hike) in flip flops and/or jeans. Too many things can go wrong when people are unprepared. So if you do insist that you must do this hike, please go prepared. That includes sturdy footwear, breathable clothing and lots of water because this is a scorching hot hike on a summer’s day. I recommend going when it’s not peak season and not raining. Get there early! The buses start at 6am, go then, if you must.
The National Park Service notes on their website that there have been 5 deaths on this trail. The sign at the trail head states that 6 people have died since 2004. I’m not sure why the numbers are inaccurate, it makes no sense at all. I’m sure that for a trail that started in 1926, more than 5 or 6 people have died by falling to their death.
Have you done this hike?