Majestic Zion. I can understand why people come here as their first stop and never get to the other national parks nearby. Zion National Park is beautiful with steep mountain cliffs and a few rolling hills of sliprock, all leading down to narrow canyons and a river wth lush banks of green. We could spend a week here and still not see everything. Miles and miles of hiking trails and scenic views, Zion has something for everyone and every fitness level.
Since we only have two full days here, and the afternoons get pretty hot (35-40 degrees C) we opted for two of the more well known hikes, one each morning. Today was Angels Landing. Just under 9km, this hike is considered one of the most strenuous in the park, not just because of its steep uphill climb but also because the last half mile before the summit is along a steep, narrow rdge with long drop-offs on either side. Not for those afraid of heights.
We got to the park around 8am, parked at the Visitor’s Center and took the shuttle (most of the park is only accessible by shuttle to reduce traffic in the park) to our starting point, The Grotto. The first half of the hike was pretty steep and strenuous, but it was when we hit the first lookout point that things got real. The next 30-40 minutes were spent scrambling over rugged terrain, up steep rock edges with only grooves or natural steps to hoist up with, and all along a narrow ridge where one false step (or strong gust of wind) could send us over the edge…or at the very least give us a good fright. In some places there were poles linked with chains as a handrail, which I’m sure are there for legal reasons, although I’m not sure they actually add to the safety of the hike other than a psychological safety net for hikers. I’m not a huge fan of heights (in fact I get weak in the knees so made a point not to look down when close to the edge) and found myself holding onto that metal chain every step of the way, and found my knees start to feel like jello when I had to let go to let other hikers pass by in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, I made it all the way to the summit, and it was worth every perilous step. And to make the hike even that much more thrilling and memorable, in addition to the panoramic views of Zion’s mountains and valley below, we were also treated to a lightning and thunder storm that passed by us to the south. Again, probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done – climbed up a mountain’s edge to the summit where there was lightning – but it was gratifying, thrilling and something I will always remember.