The National Parks are certainly not lax about warning the public about the dangers that we will encounter within their borders – even cactus! – and Zion is no exception. Warnings about falling from cliffs seem to pop up every time you turn around.
Not surprisingly we all become a bit blase in the face of these constant alarms. There is at least one hike, however, where the warnings are truly deserved. At the bottom of the hike up Angel’s Landing, there is a small brown sign with small letters: “strenuous climb, narrow route with cliff exposures, hazardous during storms, darkness and ice/snow conditions”. Not even one exclamation point! It’s as if a designer advised the park service on the value of tasteful understatement in their warning signs.
Not that I really think a sign would make much difference; the hike up Angel’s Landing seems to become more crowded every year. It really surprises me that this trail has not become one that requires a permit, but that hasn’t happened so far. Here’s an example of the crowd starting up this scary trail:
As for me, I don’t need a warning sign to tell me that this hike is not for me. The first time we hiked the West Rim Trail I was more than happy to sit at Scout’s Landing and wait for Bill to climb to the end. And one time was plenty for him: climbing a narrow fin of rock a thousand feet in the air with hundreds of your new best friends is just not his idea of a wilderness experience.
Here is a view of Angel’s Landing from further along the West Rim Trail:
And some folks on the top:
The Park Service has put up chains along the route to “help” the hikers. I can all too easily imagine myself frozen in fear while clutching one of these chains, and causing one heck of a massive traffic jam while we wait for the helicopter rescue.
The view from the top is dandy, but I don’t think anyone does this just to see the view.
The hike beyond Scout’s Landing is definitely more up my alley. As is always the case, the crowds thin out dramatically, and you can once again feel that you’re out in the wilds instead of standing in line at an amusement park.
About 3/4 of a mile after Scout’s Landing, you can hike over to a point that looks down on Walter’s Wiggles. The wiggles are a series of 21 tight switchbacks that lead up to Scout’s Landing, and they are quite an engineering feat.
After 4.7 miles and 2500 feet from the valley floor you reach Cabin Spring, which makes a good destination for a long day hike, or you could camp at one of the backcountry campsites near the spring. We did that a few years ago, and it was a great trip.
Cabin Spring is on top of this mesa. (You can see the spring dripping down the cliff side in this photo.)
The trail is cut into the side of the cliff. I’m just fine with a drop-off as long as the trail is nice and wide like this one is. (But it’s no accident that I’m not hiking on the edge!)
The view from the top of the rim:
And our campsite. See the Duraflame log on the ground in the background? Someone with more brawn than brains hauled that up there. And then didn’t even use it. I mean, it’s illegal to have a fire there anyway, but if you’re gonna haul the thing up, wouldn’t you at least light it? And a fake log? Really?