I am deathly afraid of height.
It is due to this that I go on mountain ridge hikes, cliff side climbs, and sky diving. You get more enjoyment out of the thrill of overwriting your fear. It is with this mentality that I went up the Yosemite’s Half Dome last year, and what led me to Zion’s Angels Landing this year. I have read about Angels Landing before, many articles warned that if you have a fear of height, you should probably skip this trail… perfect.
Jolin and I met up at the Denver Aiport and flew to St. George Airport together. From there it was a nice 2 hours drive to Zion National Park. I live on the East Coast and this was my first trip to Utah and the expansive landscape was breathtaking!
We started the Angels Landing hike bright and early as suggested by the TripAdvisors community. The trail round trip is around 5 miles, our goal is to reach the last mile at the base of the summit before the afternoon crowd arrives. We got to the trail head by the packed park shutter and started our hike around 10am.
The weather was surprisingly cool for June in Utah; and while the sun was out, there was decent cloud coverage so we were able to get away with hat and liberal application of sun screens. We traveled pretty light, although I overpacked on water on this hike, hoping to not have a repeat of my Half Dome out of water incident.
For the first mile and a half we just walked on paved road that snaked around two mountains.
We went through carved tunnels, switchbacks, and overlooks. We were in good spirit, stopping often to take photos, freaking out at each out cropping we had to step onto. The trail got more precarious as we got higher but it happened at a gradual pace, so we were eased into the situations and my fear of height never fully kicked in.
After a mile or so, we started hiking on mountain ridges and this was when things started to get interesting. We started having to scramble up rocks with hands and feet and we had to trust our shoes’ traction a lot. Thankfully the rocks were very corse and traction was never an issue on this hike (I highly recommend the Merrell Moab Ventilator, btw!). I cannot imagine what hiking this trail after a rain would be like, I would be terrified.
Jolin and I took a lunch break at the foot of the Angels Landing summit known as Scout’s Lookout. A lot of hikers turn back from here because things are about to get real! From this point forward we exclusively hiked along cliffs, clutching onto chain rails along the way. This is when a pair of gloves would come in handy.
The last mile of the summit was intense, I could see how hikers would freeze along the trail. Whenever the way got too sketchy, I just focused on other hikers or my footings and tried to ignore the thousand foot drop next to me.
The last mile of Angels Landing was also amazing, we were hiking next to a cliff the entire time. It looked steep but there were a lot of chain rails in place so it felt safe the entire hike, not to mention by this point I had gotten used to the heigh so at no point did I feel like I was in danger, nor did my fear of height fully kicked in.
The summit was a narrow ridge which flattens out into a platform. There we found many hikers resting and taking in the beautiful view of the valley. After exploring the Angels Landing summit for half an hour, Jolin and I turned back to retrace our steps. By this time the rain cloud started to roll in and thankfully we made it off Angels Landing before it started drizzling. We found a nice cave to tuck into and had a moment to just enjoy the atmosphere while waiting for the rain to pass.
Angels Landing of Zion National Park is one of my favorite hikes in the U.S. so far. While the beginning mile was a grind, the rest of the trail was engaging and featured a good variety of terrans. We lucked out because the temperature was mild and the crowd was not heavy, you do want to plan accordingly for this hike because both weather and crowd could become an issue.
While it may be true that people with a tremedous fear of height would be best to avoid this trail, I can now speak from experience that it is totally doable for people with a semi-serious fear of height. This trail eases you into the situation, slowly escalating the challenge and never surprises you. This trail is also popular, so if at any point you feel like you are about to get overwhlemed, just focus on the hikers in front of you and follow in their steps. If you want to challenge your fear of height and conquer it, this trail may be what you are looking for.