Disclaimer: if you don’t like clambering up sandstone “steps” (they’re more like uneven slabs of slippery rock) with a 1400 foot drop on either side of you, and only a metal chain to hold on to, Angel’s Landing is probably not for you.
Yes, it was amazing to see the entire valley of Zion National Park laid out beneath you. Yes, the pictures you get just from being up there are absolutely gorgeous. Would I climb up to the top of that mountain again? Probably. It offers an adrenaline rush that before I did it, I had yet to experience.
But I won’t lie to you: I was completely and utterly terrified.
I’m a thrill seeker, for the most part. I love roller coasters, hiking in the mountains, riding horses, and downhill skiing. But I’m a little afraid of heights, and believe me, that little bit of fear really becomes a lot of fear when you’re climbing next to the edge of a cliff with no harness. I, honest to goodness, didn’t think it would really be as crazy as it was. I read the warnings beforehand that said IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF HEIGHTS DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE, and I thought I’d be fine. After all, I’d climbed to the top of mountains before, on trails. How was this different, except for the fact that it was a little higher, and it had stairs and you could hold on to chains?
It was a little more complicated than that.
The sandstone steps are really uneven, and like I said before, sometimes you have to climb them. By this I mean actually climb them with your hands and feet, like if you were rock climbing. Not just walk up some high steps, like I had previously thought. There’s also a lovely spot known colloquially as quitter’s point, where a lot of people end up turning back. At this spot, you can see the path before you, the steps and chain crossing over a knife edge mountain pass. And I really mean knife edge.
The 1000 foot drops I talked about are on either side of you, and the entire path is maybe 6 feet across, if that. There’s points where the trail is only wide enough for one person to climb. And did I mention that the entire time, people are making their way down from the summit, and you have to let them pass you while clinging to that chain for dear life? It’s insane. The sheer willpower required to summit that mountain is something that, frankly, I wasn’t sure I had in me.
But I did it. And the pictures you get from being up at the top are absolutely breathtaking. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or maybe more than once-in-a-lifetime, if I decide to do it again someday.
So here are my closing thoughts on hiking Angel’s Landing. Make sure to wear hiking shoes or boots, with excellent grip (I was glad I did). On top of everything, there’s loose sand all over the path and the footholds can be slippery. Keep going. If you stop in the middle of everything and look down, it can be really hard to start climbing again. I froze up a couple times.
And if you’re really serious about making this hike, remember to bring your camera.