Do you like a hike with a bit of a challenge, Angels Landing in Utah’s sensational Zion National Park fits the bill. Although not an especially long in distance at 8km return or time at around 4 hours, it is the narrow switch back trail topped with a heart thumping rock scramble that makes it the challenge. This last spurt gains an elevation of 453 metres.
As we found out after barely getting over jet lag, it is no doddle, but wow, the views are amazing. We start our hike by crossing a bridge over the fast flowing Virgin River just past the Grotto Picnic area. Within minutes we are heading up the west wall of the Refrigerator Canyon on a series of switchbacks. Being November, we are hiking outside the peak summer months. Nevertheless the trail is busy enough with puffing hikers.
The day is cool and it soon becomes quite sweaty work with walker delayering in the first couple of kms. The trail clings to the vertical rock face with constant views way down into the valley and the snaking Virgin River. This reasonably small river has created this amazing landscape. On the other side of the river rises massive rock walls the defy belief in their grandeur. The trail is reasonably wide here and only the truly height challenged will find this section scary.
Beyond Walter’s Wiggles there is a flatter area with superb views all round. You could stop right here at Scouts Lookout and take it all in before descending. And that would be very advisable if you have any fear of heights. The next section to Angels Landing is only for the sure-footed and height tolerant. With only a low-slung chain for a handhold, it’s a heart-thumping climb over steep sloping rock. Over 300 metre drop-offs plunge either side of the at times only one-metre width track. Great care is required and any slip from loosing attention could end in tragedy. After taking in the stupendous views, it’s time to descend and that is more hair-raising than going up. Thank God for that handrail.
It’s a terrific feeling of accomplishment completing this trail. The scenery is breathtaking as well as doing the trail. Wear sturdy hiking boots, a hat and sunscreen. Don’t even think about if there’s a chance of a thunderstorm in the area.
And for those with a fear of heights - don't look down.