With so many beautiful National Parks in the West of the USA it can be hard to pick favorites. And all of them are great in their own right. Still hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park is a once in a lifetime experience. It should be present on every bucketlist out there and here is why.
By Mark Schoenmakers
We wake up as early as 7:00 am as today we have a full program. We will drive from St George to Zion to do the Angels Landing Hike. We will then drive to Bryce Canyon and eventually will crash down in Page. It seems madness but we have all the opportunity to make full use of the day. We expected more motivational problems with waking up at this specific time but we feel pretty good and we are smoothly getting up and running ahead of schedule. We take our coffees in a plastic cup from the Hotel and fill the Coolbox in our 4×4 drive with Ice at the local supermarket before we leave St George.
It’s a one hour drive to Springdale and we aim to do it in 90 minutes. Probably want to make some photo’s along the way right?
We intend to hike Angels Landing as soon as we arrive so making sure we have at least a 6 inch Subway sandwich in our stomach is the least we can do. As always our eyes are bigger than our bellies and we end up with footlongs. Obviously we didn’t get past 6 inches but at least we have a back-up plan for after our hike in case we can’t find a nice place to lunch. Even though I can predict none of us will even touch a limp sandwich in folyo that has been lying in melting ice for 5 hours. We sure have no problems bending our less intelligent decisions into thoughtful decisions that are a thing of beauty and genius. I guess it’s our marketing and sales backgrounds that kick in.
We arrive in the early morning just after sunrise at Zion National Park’s Grotto Picnic Area. We know we are early because some shops are still closed and I almost need to take my first hike just to get to a toilet.
When I return we see some people with water hiking Adidas shoes. All in the same color. They look like a professional sports team if their shapes, sizes and age weren’t enough of a clear indication they are a whole other species. All the time wasted in the Netherlands to find Hiking Shoes that I liked, Hiking Shoes that I didn’t find too expensive (and that fitted on my horrible flat feet) seemed to be for nothing as I could have just went and rented waterproof blue yellow Adidas Hiking shoes and join their team.
Anyway, what’s done is done, and I am pretty sure it would take something away from feeling like Indiana Jones if we were wearing Cristiano Ronaldo colored hiking shoes anyway. Besides, there are tarantulas in this Park. I am pretty sure they like colors (evil laugh).
We have got the National Park Pass but this is the first stop where we have to show it. It’s even simpler than we thought, we get our map and directions and have to wait for the bus to get us to the Trailhead. We have to get out at stop 6. The Grotto, which isn’t the obvioust of obviousts but most in the bus are doing the same hike. Apart from the Ronaldo shoe club who are going to hike the narrows. Makes sense now. We actually have seats in the bus which is good and bad. It’s good to be able to sit, it’s bad to have ass in your face from the standing tourists in the insanely packed bus. Lucky for us nobody farts and we get out alive.
We arrive at the trailhead and I need to get my equipment ready. I want to be able to quickly reach to my GoPro Hero 4, and my gorilla pod outfitted Panasonic Lumix. We pass a little bridge and I am already acting like the semi-pro photographer and looking for angles to make the bridge look cool. I guess it’s an overreaction on my enthusiasm as Judith is a bit annoyed claiming it’s a long day, a long hike and the most beautiful sights are yet to come. I disagree for a bit but we move on and again she’s right.
It doesn’t take long for us to get a glimpse of the North Fork of the Virgin River, the same river that cut through 2,000 feet of sandstone to create Zion Canyon. This paved section of trail meanders slowly upward, approaching the vertical canyon walls that tower above the canyon floor. Even though the views from the top will probably be awesome, the view from the bottom makes us feel small and witnessing the river makes me want to hike there and feel the water. But we move on. After 20 minutes we are positioned in the shadow of the mountain and this part of the hike isn’t that hard. We can actually save on our water supplies for later. We start with four 0.5L bothles of water each and expect to need them. It’s August remember, and even though it’s called Angels Landing it’s a Devils Hike.
After the shadow part we get our first view over the valley. It’s fantastic and already worth it. Since 2004, six people have died falling from cliffs on this route. For many, this is the stopping point.
But for us, it’s simply a place of rest. The hard part is coming now. Plus we are on the sunny side. There isn’t a cloud in the area and we have clear blue skies. To be really honest it’s getting pretty hot. I can imagine that if any Angel landed here it must have been Icarus as we are getting pretty close to the sun and temperatures are rising to melting wings degree celcius.
The upcoming hike isn’t that long but it takes as much time as the previous part. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone and you probably should have a mediocre fitness level at worst. Trip and let go of the cables and you join the 6. We proceed carefully as we aren’t married yet and I don’t have in writing that I can keep her stuff. All kidding aside I am just a little bit worried because I know she can be fearless and I just want to be close in case of. The trail looks pretty dangerous and to be honest I could hardly understand how come only 6 people died so far. I could imagine 6 casualties a year no problems.
We are followed by a Belgian family, daughter, father, mother. They are behind us on the trail and we can understand every word. It’s almost like a comedy and not just because of their accent. The daughter and father keep feeding the mother false information about how steep, small, scary it’s going to be, how far it is to the top and more. Her response after every new shock is priceless.
Then finally we are there. This is where the photosessions begin. But we don’t blame anyone and start our own. This is our first National Park on our roadtrip to the US and we are just in awe. If we had to fly home tomorrow it would have already been worth it. How will we top this. We creep to the edge while sitting down and after investigating the safety of it all. We take a sip of water and enjoy.
This was our first Blogpost, so what did you think? More photo’s, less photo’s? Any tips are welcome.
How did it get it’s name
Angels Landing was named a century ago by Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister so in awe of the massive sandstone cliff that he surmised that only angels might land on it. The name stuck, and the trail was built in the 1920s. Now, the five-mile round-trip route gets thousands of visitors from all over the world each year.
Zion National Park
Size: 593,3 km²
Wildlife species: About 67 mammals, 29 reptiles, 7 amphibians, 9 fish, 207 birds, including the endangered California condor and threatened Mexican spotted owl
Plant species: More than 1,000
Noteworthy Features: Deep sandstone canyons, high plateaus, tree-covered slopes, and hanging gardens. There is an elevation change of about 5,000 feet from the highest point (Horse Ranch Mountain, at 8,726 feet) to the lowest (Coal Pits Wash, 3,666 feet). Home to one of the most dangerous trails in the National Park System, Angels Landing.