Skip Angel’s Landing. Yup, that’s what I said. SKIP IT. This is a first for me… recommending that you NOT do a hike!
Angels’ Landing was the hike we most wanted to do in the park. It promised to take us 453m up to the peak of a narrow ridge line, holding onto chains where the drop offs on either side give thrilling exposure. We thought it would be super fun to walk on a fin of rock, suspended over the canyon floor, far below.
The trail up to the base of Angels’ Landing, up the 21 iconic, steep, man-made, stone-walled switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, was nothing more than a highway. It was like walking along the sidewalk of an outdoor shopping mall, the press of humanity was that great (admittedly, it was a Saturday). And then there were the people that loved to share their music with the world, whose presence added to the cloying, claustrophobic atmosphere. Our hope was that most were heading to the viewpoint and not doing the tough part, for that was what we’d been led to believe would happen.
As we arrived up top, we looked over to the chain area and saw a paralyzed lineup of people collecting in a crowd at its base, and a non-moving line up of people, nose to shoulder, all the way up the ridge, like leaf cutter ants, frozen in a moment of time on the buttress root of a rainforest tree.
We were up at the lookout by 10am and it was already a GONG SHOW! The lookout, the trail and the chains were so over run with people! With people trying to test their fear limits, doing Angels’ Landing is nothing more than a cloying, mind-numbing traffic jam of an experience. Add to that a spattering of people frozen by fear, their companions trying to talk them through it, hundreds of people full of nervous chatter and giggling, then people trying to take charge of the chaos and bring some order to the situation and you have, in short, a nightmare. (Bill’s looking over my shoulder here and saying, “Why don’t you tell people how you really feel!”)
Find a good ridge line somewhere else to find the majesty, the humbling sense of awe and that on-top-of-the-world feeling that a walk on a mountain’s back can give you. All mountain ranges have them. Many canyons have them. Our advice is to find it somewhere else, not at Zion.
We got closer and watched as a large man turned and absolutely roared from his perch on the chains about 10m up, “Everybody stop! No more people come up! We have a traffic jam up here. I said, STOP!”
Ugh. It gives me shivers just remembering it here, writing it to share with you. You see, there isn’t a set of chains going up and a set going down. Apparently, the last stretch that is a 20 minute climb was taking people 3 hours at this point because the people on their way up, and those on their way down, have to pass each other.
Within about 30 seconds of taking in this chaos, we turned heel and pretty much ran out of there. We turned in the opposite direction to follow some of the multi-day West Rim Trail that left the area. Within about 500m we were away from the chaos, seeing very few people.
We found a place with an excellent view of the narrows below. We perched ourselves on a tranquil ledge of rock, across the canyon from the Hidden Canyon and Observation Point hikes we’d done the day before, to have our lunch and take a breather from the chaos.
Sitting there, far from the din of the maddening crowd, looking down at the ravens playing in the thermals below our feet, taking in the immensity of the space and the majesty of the canyon… well, that redeemed the experience and made the day.