Saturday, July 10, 2010 (Hike to Scout Lookout & Angels Landing)

When we announced we would be in Zion National Park this summer, my former bro-in-law told us a trail named Angels Landing was “mandatory hiking.” As we rode the shuttle busses the last two days, the pre-recorded announcements kept repeating that the trail was an “exciting adventure.” We determined there were actually two connecting trails: a 2 mile walk up a paved path to Scout Lookout and a further ¾ mile hike to Angels Landing. The ranger we talked to advised us that if we wanted to attempt the trail, the kids would be fine going to Scouts, and one of us might want to attempt the steeper climb to Angels. So although we went to bed anticipating a day of hiking the leisurely Emerald Pools trail, we woke up deciding we couldn’t leave Zion without at least making an effort of Scout & Angels.

Had we made the decision earlier, we would have been on the path before 8 am to miss the hottest part of the day. Here was our biggest mistake. We made the decision late, so when we started out at 11 am, we decided just to take it slowly. We filled our water bottles, packed a lunch, and started up the trail.

The first mountain on the left is Angel’s Landing.  Scout Lookout is out of view

If yesterday’s hike through The Narrows was a fun and happy walk, the two miles to Scout were the opposite – soooooo miserably hot. We decided we would each use a water bottle walking up, and then we’d split two others coming down. It was not nearly enough, and before the end of the first mile, we joined other pitiful hikers huddling under rock overhangs and corners in an effort to cool off. We were hot and slow. We moved forward, though, first through the long and uphill portion, next through the disappointingly named Refrigerator Canyon, and finally through Walter’s Wiggles – a series of 21 steep switchbacks to finish the final ascent.

The first section of trail:  a long uphill climb


Huddling for shade

Refrigerator Canyon

A view from Walter’s Wiggles: The back side of the canyon

Hiking the Wiggles

I think it took two hours to hike the two miles to Scout Lookout. Once there, we found a cluster of trees where weary climbers sat eating snacks or waiting for companions to finish the longer hike to Angels.  We ate lunch and watched people start up Angels Landing and disappear over a hill or start up and come back down.

DSC03257 DSC03260

Julia rests at Scout Lookout      A chipmunk explores some Boy Scout packs

To appreciate this section of trail, you have to forget everything you’ve ever known about casual hiking safety. It is simply unbelievable that this trail is a trail. It is ¾ of a mile long and almost all a steep uphill climb. The mountain is maybe 20 feet wide but in some places only 3 or 4 feet wide. There are no guardrails. There is not a clearly marked path. In many places, there are chains strung between two poles hikers may use to steady or pull themselves up. On both sides of the trail, the mountain drops off 800-1200 feet.

Chain-assists for Angels Landing

As we sat and munched on apples and grapes, I was amazed that the groups coming down from the hike included whole families and a group of young Boy Scouts. One climber told me she’s seen people climb it while carrying their babies in backpacks.  If these folks were doing it, it must look worse than it is, right? Mike went first while I waited with the girls. The first portion is steep and involves chains.  He scrambled up that mountaintop and explored the area leading up to a catwalk that takes you over to the second peak. He assumed we were waiting, so he came back to give me a turn.

Mike tackles the first climb toward Angels Landing

A view from the narrow rock “catwalk” leading to the final ascent

A different look at the rock bridge and the final climb


A typical trail edge

I planned to stop when I didn’t feel comfortable anymore.  I assumed that would happen quickly, but it didn’t.  I actually made it across the infamous 4 foot wide “catwalk” before I knew I’d passed it.  By then, there was only a steep ascent to the top, so I sent word back to Mike that he should start the girls walking back because I was headed for the top.

It’s called Angels Landing because one of the earlier explorers decided only angels could land there. I’m wishing they did. Any self-respecting angel would have been waiting at the top with a bottle of Gatorade.

Here is an abbreviated video of the hike up. A few of notes:

1. The hike up only felt tricky at the end, so the going up section is pretty short.

2. I thought I was doing pretty well, so I have no idea why I look and sound like *%$# when I reach the top. I think I was more overheated than I thought. We’ve actually deleted a whole section where I look slightly delirious and just start rambling on about water rations and strategy like a Survivor contestant. Mike’s keeping that in case he needs a good laugh.

3. Whoa. Going up was pretty easy, but going down was crazy. Like, hanging onto chains and scooting down on my backside crazy.  A totally different feeling and much more scary.

4. The excitement of making it to the top, combined with my obviously dehydrated self, led to my missing the fact that Mike put Julia’s camera in my pack at the last minute. When I came down the mountain, I had only video and we didn’t get any still photos of the top view. Oops.

5. Watching the video freaks me out a little. It definitely looks worse on film than it was in real life.

6. Keeping that in mind, this video is still Rated P: It may be inappropriate for my parents to watch.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

We’re leaving Zion with the impression that it feels the most wild of all the parks we’ve visited.  More so than in other parks, the most fantastic things to do and see involve accepting various levels of risk.  Yesterday in The Narrows it was the potential for flash flood.  Today on the hike to Scout Lookout and Angels Landing it was the possibility of falling off a mountain.  Nobody tells you not to do it, but the responsibility is on you to keep yourself and your family safe.  I respect that policy.  Even so, while I started the hike to Angels knowing I’d turn back if I thought I couldn’t handle it, I was slightly horrified that there were young kids climbing up the trail (I’d told my kids they weren’t even allowed to ask about it once we reached Scout).  Other parents appeared fine with it, though, so I suppose you have to assume they know themselves and their own children enough to know whether this is a good situation for them.

A look into Zion Canyon from part of the climb

IMG_0571We can now say we’ve seen Zion from top to bottom. Tomorrow we move on to the Grand Canyon.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS

4 Responses to “Saturday, July 10, 2010 (Hike to Scout Lookout & Angels Landing)”

  1. pefty says:


  2. Mindy says:

    OK, I remember looking up at Angles Landing form th bottom and thinking those people were CRAZY! Now I know they they were! Glad you made it up and down safely. Thanks for the birds eye view for those of us that are “Chickens”

  3. Laura says:

    Yay, so glad you both got to do it! 🙂

  4. Laura Wyandt says:

    I give you LOTS of credit, making it up Angel’s Landing. The height factor would have done me in, especially some of those TINY passes!! Congrats!

Leave a Reply