Angels Landing in Zion National Park was on our must do list during our October 2020 trip. It is one of Zion’s iconic hikes and we were ready for it!
We awoke fairly early and started on the hike before the first bus arrived, hoping for less of a crowd. Fortunately, our hike up was not overly crowded. We did come across a lot of people coming down who had started the hike before sunrise. Some had spent the night camped somewhere beyond the landing.
Our trek started from the Grotto Trailhead right by the Zion Lodge bus stop. We continued walking to the next bus stop and crossed the road to the trail. You will find Angels Landing Trailhead just across the bridge over the Virgin River. This is the same trail that takes you to Emerald Pools. Instead, follow the trail to the right for Angel’s Landing.
The trail is pretty a easy walk until you reach the first set of switch backs going up. Even then, the trail isn’t very technical until you get close to the landing. It is just steep with many switch backs. The scenery is very beautiful and the further up you ascend the prettier it gets.
Lower Refrigerator Canyon
After the tough ascent you will enter the mouth of lower Refrigerator Canyon. The walk through this narrow canyon is easy and shaded. You will notice a definite cooling here which is refreshing after hiking up in the sun.
After the short reprieve you will reach Walter’s Wiggles. This area is a steep incline consisting of 21 switchbacks. The switchbacks, built in 1926, are basically cut into the side of the canyon.
At the top of Walter’s Wiggles you will find Scouts Landing. Scouts Landing is the last stop before ascending the chains on the way to Angels Landing. This is where many people end their trail if they do not want to climb along the chains to Angels Landing. Considering the trail was not extremely busy, it was a surprise to find Scout’s Landing crowded. We took photos and found a spot and took a rest before continuing.
Angels Landing (attempt)
We debated on whether to go to Angels Landing. The climb at the chains did not bother us. There was quite a crowd though. Our concern wasn’t necessarily because of Covid and distancing but because of the danger of so many people climbing up at once.
First Set of Chains
We decide to climb up the first set of chains and then decide if we would go further. Once we made it to the top of the first set of chains we found it even more crowded and unfortunately there were a few people rather pushy. We took some photos and chatted with some folks who had just returned from the landing. They said they had arrived over an hour earlier and it became increasingly crowded the closer they were to the landing. These young guys mentioned that this type of crowding just isn’t safe and they were glad they were on their way down and not going up.
Climbing Down the Chains
So we decided we would head back down to Scout’s Landing. Right or wrong it seemed the right decision for us. I was surprised Steve decided to head down too, which is not like him, but I was glad he did.
It was interesting trying to climb down. It is a one way chain so if people are going down then people at the bottom need to wait and the same if people are climbing up.
The people in front of us hollered down to the people below that there was no room and they needed to wait for people to climb down so there would be room for them. So the people waited and about 15 of us headed down. As we were climbing down a group of 6 or so made their way to the chains and commented that they weren’t going to wait all day so they started climbing off to the side next to us without any chains. This is exactly why I don’t like crowds at these places. I actually think this displays a total disregard for others and represents the worst display I’ve seen hiking over the years.
Back on Down
The way down was uneventful, but just in the short time where we climbed up the chains and back down, Scout’s Landing had become quite crowded. We followed the same trail back and were amazed at how many more people were on the trail. I would say this was probably one of the busiest I had seen a trail in all of my hikes, and definitely on this trip.
Steve graduated from Ohio State and is a big Buckeye fan. He was chatting with some guys about the trek down the chains and the crowds. Somehow he found out they were Ohio State Alumni so they all posed for an O H I O photo on Scout’s Landing!
Although we did not make our Zion goal to the top of Angels Landing, we still really enjoyed this hike. Regardless of the crowds and heavy traffic, it was still a beautiful hike. If we were to do it again, we would definitely get up before the sun rises and start then to avoid the crowds. Starting the hike before the shuttle buses helped reduce the crowds but not enough.
Even though we did not get to hit our Zion bucket list item of climbing Angels Landing I feel we did the best thing for us. To our knowledge no one was hurt that day climbing to the landing and we probably would have been fine. I for one though, even though I don’t mind a good adventure or crazy hike, I do not like to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.