I’ve been hearing stories about Zion since before I started this adventure, so it has always been on my ‘must see’ list. I arrive at the east entrance nice and early to find people everywhere. I drive the width of the park, through ‘The Tunnel’ and get the low down at the visitor’s center. The campground is is almost full even at 11am, so I throw up my tent, inhale lunch and set out for Angel’s Landing.
Zion has a really great setup where you park at the visitor’s center or the nearby town of Springdale and catch a free bus anywhere you want to go. The canyon is so small and popular this is really the only way to deal with the number of people, and it works really really well. A bus shows up every few minutes and makes about ten stops on the way up the canyon, then the same on the return loop. Driving up the canyon in a bus is also a great way to look around and really soak in the views, while listening to commentary about what you can see.
I’ve heard how crazy of a hike Angel’s Landing is, so I’m well prepared with a couple of liters of water, snacks, hiking boots & my waterproof shell. I get a bit confused and think I’m going the wrong way when I see family groups, small children and people in jeans and city shoes.
It turns out the first four and a half miles are relatively family friendly. I do need to clarify that – it’s nice and wide, well trafficked and well maintained and it’s also steep. Ridiculously steep. Right from the get-go the switchbacks start and they don’t let up until I break out onto a landing, apparently where most people stop and turn around. I’m impressed when a hiker overtakes me on the steep incline, something that doesn’t happen very often.
I’m of course going to the very top and so begin the final half mile which is equally as steep, about 20 feet wide and with at least a thousand foot vertical drop on both sides. Chains have been placed into the rock, which come in very handy on more than a few occasions.
I consider myself very confident with my footing, even at these heights.
I’m still holding on
The busy trail makes the going slow as we have to stop for people coming down and co-ordinate who gets to hold on and who has to let go and find their own way. It’s clear the children and non-hikers have all turned around before now and I’m moving up with only dedicated hikers. Every step the view gets better and better, and my eyes bulge further and further from my head.
Of course I walk all the way out to the very highest end point of the ridge and am rewarded with an amazing view up and down Zion Canyon. Even more impressive is the view of the ridge I have just hiked up – it looks more narrow now that I thought. I sit and enjoy the sun for an hour, munching on my snacks and chatting to all the hikers coming and going.
I meet Mike, the hiker who overtook me earlier and we quickly discover we are both living the same kind of life. Mike quit his engineering job a couple of years ago and has been traveling around ever since, seeing the world. His latest adventures have him living out of his car across America and by now he has seen almost all the National Parks. You can check out his travel website at www.mypinkyup.com, the name of which comes from his permanently damaged little finger courtesy of some muggers in Columbia.
Mike and I are both excited to hike the biggest, baddest, bestest trail Zion has to offer and eagerly sign up for the next morning.
Signing five different waivers about the dangers only makes us more excited….