Angel’s Landing, Zion: The most terrifying hike I’ve ever done

This might be the first trip I’ve ever taken where I’ll actually LOSE weight because I’ve been hiking like a mofo and I haven’t had much of an appetite since Central America. I’m travelling on a blogger trip with Trek America, which involves a great deal of camping and outdoorsy things. It is AMAZING and honestly, I don’t know if I would’ve given much thought to travelling this part of the United States otherwise.

The Virgin River, Zion

Hoorah, the Virgin River.
It’s been a rough go for sleep, though. We spent the first two nights camping in Zion National Park and temperatures were hovering around freezing. I wasn’t exactly prepared for that, so I spent two sleepless nights in a tent with 40 layers trying not to shiver to death. So I had about three hours of sleep before tackling the Angel’s Landing hike in Zion.

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing from the bottom.
Angel’s Landing is a straight-up hike through a limestone valley with peaks reaching up to 1800 metres. The first 90 minutes or so is a steady incline up a series of switchbacks, and then through narrow turns known as Walter’s Wiggles. Somehow, SOMEHOW (maybe it was that insane Hawaii hike that whipped me into shape?) I actually was the second person to the top, and didn’t find it too terribly difficult.

And then I got to Scout’s Lookout.

Looking onwards from Scout's Lookout

The view from Scout’s Lookout.
Scout’s Lookout is a nice and easy little plateau where you can hang out with dozens of other hikers, eat your lunch, take some photos, whatevs. But the REAL thrilling part of the hike begins immediately after: you’re literally SCRAMBLING and climbing up a cliff, clinging to anchored chains, with the hope that you won’t slip and fall thousands of feet into a ravine.

Sometimes the path is only a few feet wide, with nothing to cling too. Sometimes you have to maneuver around other people coming DOWN the path, so either you have to step to the side and let them get past, or get really close to a stranger as you hold onto the chain and walk around them. I grazed some gentleman’s bodies. Maybe it was a little intentional, I don’t know.

hiking to Angel's Landing

I’m not gonna lie – I was terrified. Beyond terrified. A few minutes in, I considered turning back. I have a deep fear of heights, but I really wanted to push myself and the climb didn’t look too threatening from Scout’s Lookout. I was sadly mistaken, because once you round that first little taste of the trail, the big scary stuff begins. I think our camera crew has a view shots of me screaming and cursing. They probably couldn’t use it in the video.

I took my time, though. You’ve gotta have some level of physical fitness to do the route – sometimes you’re using just your upper strength to pull yourself up with the chains. My hands were stinging. My legs were spaghetti noodles – I had to concentrate on one foot in front of the other or else I’d look around and realize just how stupidly high up I was climbing. It’s really hard to describe. I’ve never done a hike before where SO MUCH mental stamina was needed to get me through. It was completely my mind screaming at me to keep climbing.

And then: the summit!

Angel's Landing summit

I collapsed in a sweaty, terrified heap for a few minutes before joining my friends at the other end of Angel’s Landing. Some girls flashed the Mormon state their boobs and we sat and ate sandwiches and I tried not to cry a little but it was BEAUTIFUL.

Sitting atop Angel's Landing

So beautiful.

Have you ever hiked Angel’s Landing?

  • May 22 2015

    Never hiked Angel’s Landing but that sounds terrifying! Good for you for pushing through your fear; and also for not plummeting to your death. I visited Zion National Park at the beginning of April for the first time and LOVED it. Can’t wait to go back sometime in the uncertain future. :)

    • June 16 2015

      Thank ya Jessica! I can’t wait to get back either, there’s so much more to see

  • May 23 2015
    Melissa Cantrell

    I live right by Zion National Park, and people fall of the cliff and die every year. I always hear about people dying at Angel’s Landing, hence the name. Personally, I have a fear of heights. I refuse to go on that particular hike. It’s a great thing that you made the hike. You’re very brave.

    • June 16 2015

      Agh! I’m glad I didn’t know death was such a common thing, ha. How awful!

  • May 23 2015
    Rebekah Crabtree

    I went to Zion, grand canyon and Bryce about 2 years ago and went nuts. I think I jumped out of a moving car because I got so excited about Zion (it was going super slow). I’m so glad you got to see these beautiful areas. I never understand why everyone doesn’t drop what they’re doing to go to Zion. Angels landing was amazing- I’m not scared of heights and I still remember being a bit anxious while doing that.

    • June 16 2015

      Hahaha, I agreed! This whole trip was a huge eye-opener, actually. There’s so much more of the USA I want to see now.

  • May 23 2015

    I would love to do this hike, absolutely stunning (and I love a bit of challenge when it comes to hiking)

  • May 24 2015

    My idea of a “hike” is taking a leisurely stroll through a city park. Don’t think I’d have the stamina to do something this intense, but that view is pretty amazing.

    • June 16 2015

      Hahaha, I don’t know where the energy came from. i spent about 90% of my trip being beyond exhausted.

  • May 26 2015
    April Kendell

    Incredible experience Candice! I like the image of you collapsed into a sweaty and terrified heap! haha

  • June 01 2015
    Anna Miller

    Well let me tell you, I excitedly climbed the switch backs to get to the infamous peak. Then Scouts Lookout. Piece of cake so far. Had done Inca Trail previous summer. How hard can this be? Whoa are those people over there balanced on those 45 degree flat rocks, clinging to chains as they continued the climb? No time to get nervous, just join the group and start the scramble to the top. But some posts that hold the chains have pulled out of the rock. Was someone holding on when this happened? Ok, now I am reaching another emotional state, and not nirvanna. There was constant wind and bodies working their way bqck down. I refused to ever have any of my 10 digits off the chains, so everybody had to lean into my 63 inch rigid frame and somehow shape thereself around me.
    My dear companion was leading the way. At one time she called out if I was ok, my reply was “don’t talk to me”. I kept telling myself, “one step, one chain at a time”. We reached a bend and once I could not see what was coming up I actually, for a micro second thought ” wtf just let go and fall, this is too much for anyone to endure” Instead I said I had to go back. My best friend said she was ready to head back also. So now I somehow made the 180 degree turn back and molding into everyone’s body working their way up, still never letting go of those chains.
    Finally Scouts Lookout again. Collapse on rock, knees still shaking.
    So do I regret not making it to the peak? Not at all. I did what I could do and will never, ever think of going back for another attempt. Actually for someone in their 69th yr I am thankful of the adventures I succeed at, and refuse to mourn the failures. Anna

    • June 02 2015
      Dini Balych

      I’m the friend that accompanied Anna and I felt everything she did only it hit me after it hit her. I don’t look back on this hike as a failure, but as a testament to our capabilities at our age and also the ability to know what we can achieve.

      • June 02 2015
        Anna Miller

        Amen to that sister

      • June 04 2015

        That’s for sure! If it had been a windy day for me as well, I probably would have turned back. Looking back on it now I’m not so sure how I did it, and on just a few hours of sleep. I must be nuts.

    • June 04 2015

      I would NEVER call turning back a “failure” — that hike was seriously the most emotionally draining thing I have EVER done in my life! Kudos for even trying. When i rounded that first corner of the section after Scouts Lookout, I nearly fainted. I think it’s the first hike I’ve ever done where the mental aspect of it all was more important than the physical part. Whew.

  • June 02 2015

    I haven’t hiked that part but I was in Zion, Bryce Canyon and a few other parks around there. A lot of hiking for sure and the freezing temperatures overnight for camping were no joke!

    • June 04 2015

      I was SO UNPREPARED for that! Lol. I left all my good, warm clothes in Canada because you know…it’s the DESERT.

  • June 14 2015

    I just moved to St George, Utah and finally did this hike today while my dad was visiting. I never thought I had a fear of heights until today! It was by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done. We did Observation Point the previous day which goes up even higher but it doesn’t have any precarious scrambling and doesn’t require any mental stamina. Both hikes were very rewarding.

    • June 16 2015

      That’s awesome! You’re so lucky to live there. I don’t think I’ve heard of Observation Point, actually. Gotta get back there.

  • December 01 2015

    I turned around on my first attempt, due to crowds. I finally went back this year and climbed it after a very early start to beat the crowds. Totally worth it – Zion is one of my favorite National Parks :)

    • December 03 2015

      Oh I’m glad you went back! SO worth it!

  • May 19 2016
    chanell carrill

    hi candice! my boyfriend and i are planning to do this hike at the end of the month. For me, the way down is usually harder/scarier for me with hikes. How was the way down for you?

    • June 01 2016

      Agh, Chanell, you’ve prob already done this hike but I can confirm the way down is harder than the way up!

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