Friday, July 6, 2012

Road Trip Day 7: Zion National Park--Angel's Landing

The wind wasn’t near as bad last night, so we made it up at our designated time, caught the 7am shuttle, and headed up to the Grotto stop on the Canyon Highway. From this stop, we could access the west rim trail, which leads to Angel’s Landing, a 5.4-mile round-trip hike that is considered strenuous. After doing hidden canyon a couple of days before, I knew that strenuous meant uphill, so I was a little nervous, but on we went!                                     

A view of the longer switchbacks from above.
View from the first hill on the spine
 hike to Angel's Landing.
The first mile or so are long switch-backs that head up the side of the canyon wall. There are barriers, and the trail is wide, so if you’re afraid of heights it wasn’t bad. The views were awesome though and because we started so early in the morning, we were hiking in shade most of the way. After this grueling section, during which we managed to overtake many parties starting ahead of us(to my surprise…), you get some “flat” walking time, with just gentle up’s and downs, that leads back in between the canyon walls. After about a .5 mile stretch, you come across another set of switch-backs, which are short and steep. You ascend about 400 feet in a half-mile. This part was brutal, but because the switch-backs were so short, we powered through and made it to the top, walked about 200 yards, and learned that we were already at Scout’s Landing. This is often a turn-around point for people on this hike because the next 0.7 miles of this hike is sketchy at best, scrambling/rock climbing, with the assistance of chains in some areas. We also had to gain another 300 feet or so of elevation during this climb, so it definitely wasn’t for the faint of heart.
Southern View from Angel's Landing

Passing by some who let their families go ahead, Jen and I powered on, excited to get our amazing view at the top. We started on the first section (which we originally thought was part of the end…), and made our way up the sandstone with fair ease. Once on top, we realized that there were no people because we still had a long ways to go! It was definitely a daunting task, and although the pictures I post will attempt to show you what this looks like, unless you’re there and can see it in person, nothing will truly do this hike justice.
Northern View from Angel's Landing

We continued on, making good time and reaching the top with little incident. There were definitely some steep cliffs and this was not a hike for children, people without proper footwear, or for those who are afraid of heights. Many people had gone apart way up and turned around on the sheer ridges. I will say that the chains helped…a lot…but this is the type of climbing that I like. I’m better at the scrambling than the constant uphill cardio!

Western View from Angel's Landing
The spine of the monolith leading to Angel's
Landing...You have to climb this.
The view at the top was amazing, as promised. A full 360-degree view of Zion National Park. You couldn’t ask for better, really…we also met some really cool people up top from Seattle, Albuquerque, and Massachusetts…which we bonded with well enough to make a 5-person train to head back down. This was important because you can’t really pass people on this trail without having someone pull over for you to go around. When descending with a group, you can plan ahead, yell to people coming up, and determine the best way to maneuver down the side of the cliff.
Sheer drop-off's leading to Angel's Landing

At the end, Jen and I made the round-trip in just under 3 hours, with a 15-20 minute snack break at the top. It was getting warm and more tourists were heading up the hill, so it was a good time to get the hell outta dodge!

Me on the hike down...overlooking the valley
We took the half-mile trail back to Zion Lodge and then headed up the 1.2 mile r/t trail to the Lower Emerald Pools. We decided that this was more for exercise than anything…it wasn’t anything spectacular, or a must-see. I think for those who don’t have the capacity for the big hikes or have small children with them, this was a great “easy” hike to take. For us, it was more exercise…and a time spender.
Lower Emerald Pools

We then headed back to the campground, cleaned up, and took a drive back through the park to take pictures that we didn’t take on our way in. It was a nice, relaxing ride, and a good way to spend the afternoon. We then headed into Springdale (it was the 4th of July, so we needed beer and a place to celebrate). What we learned is that in Utah, you have to have a special license (as an establishment) to serve beer without food. We weren’t hungry, so we made the most of the time, shopped a little, found beer at a coffee shop, and hung out until we were hungry enough to eat. We had a great dinner at Switchback Jack’s (again), where we had huge beers…and then went back to the campground. We hung out for a while and turned in at a reasonable time. Maybe a lame fourth of July, but we drank what we could and focused on the fact that we had a great hike that morning as our celebration!

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