Solitude in Zion: Not on Angel’s Landing

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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.

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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:

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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:

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And some folks on the top:

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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.

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The view from the top is dandy, but I don’t think anyone does this just to see the view.

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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.

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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.)

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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!)

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The view from the top of the rim:

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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?

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About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Hiking, Outdoors, Southwest hikes, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Solitude in Zion: Not on Angel’s Landing

  1. beautiful pics 😀 great story

  2. Linda R says:

    It’s been way too long since I visited Zion. Thanks for the vicarious trip.

  3. OurBoler says:

    Looks like a beautiful place, great pictures.

  4. Wow, I agree with you on crowds and narrow trails with chains ha!

  5. Gunta says:

    Beautiful images…. agree about not wanting the climb or the crowds. I remember Zion fondly back in its undiscovered days (70s) when there seemed to be just a handful of people around. Same for Moab and Arches.

  6. Wow, what an amazing place to walk. Your photos are stunning. Im guessing it gets quite hot here by midday?

  7. LuAnn says:

    We are not into hiking among the throngs either. Your photos are stunning. Thanks for this post.

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  9. Amber says:

    These are really wonderful pictures. The closest I’ve ever been to Zion is a video game add-on that was set there. In a dystopian, post-nuclear apocalypse future, though. So maybe slightly different 😛

  10. Jim Brennan says:

    Killer photos, you hooked me. Gotta go, I’m sold… great job, thanks.

  11. Jim Brennan says:

    Oh, and regarding the National Park service warnings, I hear ya. Read my post YIKES! on Rite2Run.wordpress blog about the same thing I found at Bright Angel in the Grand Canyon. I’m with you.

  12. znara says:

    This is a great entry! We have some similar signs in New England, like the warnings of sudden weather and hostile conditions at almost every trail head in the White Mountains. But we have one of those actually scary trails up Mt. Katahdin in Maine where there is no sign but you find yourself on an extremely difficult trail with metal bars and all your ” new friends” 🙂 watching you answer the call of nature.

    • westerner54 says:

      I’ve read about that portion of the Katahdin trail (it wasn’t on your blog, was it? can’t remember where I read it.) And I do remember a time in high school when a group of us decided on a whim to to climb Mt. Washington, and fog and rain and lightning came in and of course we were totally unprepared…good grief. Thanks for the nice comment!

      • znara says:

        I don’t think it was my blog. The last time I was at Katahdin was 2011 before we started with wordpress. Although the picture in the background right now is from that hike when we had just gotten past treeline. I’m glad you and your friends made it down safely. The signs are certainly warranted on Mt. Washington. Can you imagine being a designer for signs of possible impending death or serious pain 🙂

  13. BlazingWest says:

    Big time thanks for the photo story. Your stunning pics are for those who read the signs, and understand that they’re meant for me.

  14. Janet says:

    I’m with you, I’d be frozen in fear too. That’s why I don’t climb Half Dome in Yosemite. Your photos are awesome. It’s such a beautiful area.

  15. Gary Holmes says:

    Wow, we went to Zion, but the tourist Zion and never did anything like this. Great post.

  16. I was in Zion two weeks ago with my son and we hiked Angel’s Landing. Year’s ago we had hiked it all the way to where the chains began and decided it was too dangerous for small children. We came back for retribution 20 years later. I almost chickened out when confronted with the view of the narrow fin to the top, but I’m glad I hiked it. It was a spectacular experience–and the crowds not so dense as in your photos. Like you, too, I’ll take the path less traveled when I can.

    • westerner54 says:

      Good for you – both for hiking it and for not doing it 20 years ago with kids! I think the weeks around Easter (when we were there) are always the busiest of the year – I didn’t really pay attention to the calendar when planning this year’s trip.

  17. Haha, I think a blog theme on N.P. warning signs is in order! I have a shot from Hawaii when I hiked to Pu’u O’o. There is a skull and crossbones on the sign and a warning to stop and turn around or risk death by suffocation or lava. The one at the trialhead to Lava Falls is pretty good too. I love that overview shot of the canyon in the middle.

    • westerner54 says:

      Ha! I need to make sure and keep collecting warning signs, that’s for sure. You know, I thought it wouldn’t be hard to take good pictures of a place as spectacular as Zion, but I just couldn’t seem to do it. Your photos are the only ones I’ve seen that really show how stunning it is.

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  19. I haven’t hiked Angel’s Landing, and the crowds are part of the reason. When people who are not hikers and don’t know southern Utah liked I used to tell me that the only thing they hiked in Zion is Angel’s Landing, I know it’s not for me!!!!

    But the empty parts of southern Utah on BLM land…. that can be heaven!

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