Zion - Finally!
Hard to believe, but it really is true. I had the summit of Angels Landing all to myself. I’d love to claim that I did some great strategizing to record this coup, but I’d be lying. It was pure luck. I hiked it on a Saturday no less, in the middle of the day! I suppose it helped that it was the first weekend in December as opposed to the middle of summer.
Signs of winter coming to the canyon
My wife had to be in Las Vegas for a business meeting on a Sunday. I convinced her that we should fly out a few days early so we could spend a day in Zion National Park. Neither of us had been to Zion before, but I had wanted to go for years. So we flew into Vegas on Friday evening and made the drive over to St. George, UT to spend the night.
Leading up to the trip I did some research on the park so we could make the most of our day. As I knew we would only have about four to six hours in the park, I didn’t get my hopes up too high for getting in any serious hiking. I desperately wanted to hike, but I was being realistic. I sort of looked upon the trip as a reconnaissance mission. Take my one day to get a good lay of the land so when I returned for a longer trip I’d be all prepared.
We were going very late in the season, so I had no idea how busy the park would be. I knew summer traffic was very high, but with us arriving the first weekend in December I had my hopes that there wouldn’t be a traffic jam.
A Short Morning in Zion
Sunrise in Zion
A frozen Riverside Walk
I woke my wife up early on Saturday morning so we could get in as long a day as possible. On the way into the park we stopped at a small grocery store to get some picnic supplies. The shop keeper was very helpful, going over a map of the park and offering suggestions on how best to spend our limited time.
We drove right into the canyon and there was little or no traffic. I had read about The Narrows so I wanted to take at least a short hike on the Riverside Walk. We parked at the Temple of Sinawava but we weren’t able to hike very far as ice had formed on the trail and it was closed off. It was a pretty chilly morning and I was surprised to see so much ice and snow in the park. We also hiked up to Weeping Rock, which was frozen solid.
Around noon we went to a picnic area to enjoy the picnic supplies we had picked up earlier in the morning. As my wife didn’t have any other hiking she particularly wanted to do I convinced her to let me try and hike up Angels Landing. She knew how badly I wanted to try it, so being the wonderful angel that she is, she agreed.
During my research, I read the horror stories about Angels Landing. The crowded trail, long lines and the staging of hikers to the summit! But the park wasn’t very busy this day, so I knew the trail wouldn’t be too crowded. I expected the summit to be busy, but nothing like on a summer afternoon. But at this point I decided that crowds were irrelevant. I had one afternoon in Zion and I was going to make the best of it. So I headed for the trail to Angels Landing. What a great day it would be.
This would be my first time hiking in a canyon and it was a wonderful experience. Much different than what I am used to in the Smokies and Rockies, where I do most of my hiking.
The start of the hike was a mystery to me. I kept looking up that steep wall at the start of the hike and wondered where in the world the trail was. Refrigerator Canyon was a treat. The canyon scenery was beautiful and the closer the canyon walls closed in the better.
Looking down at the trail, near the exit of Refrigerator Canyon
Looking out of Refrigerator Canyon
Looking down Walters Wiggles
After getting up Walters Wiggles and reaching Scout Lookout I soon realized how much exposure there was on the ridge to the summit. But hiking up the narrow ridge was the best part of the hike. Fun, would be the correct description.
The chains that the park service has put in place I'm sure definitely add some comfort for many. I know there are strong opinions for and against the chains, but I honestly can’t remember if I used them or not. I suppose I did at times. I actually used them more as a route finding tool. I remember a couple of times trying to determine which way to go, and following the chains was the easiest thing to do. Although with how narrow the summit ridge is, I would think it would be pretty difficult to get lost.
The view from Angels Landing
When I approached the summit there was a group of four that was just leaving. So after a just a few moments, I had the summit to myself. I was amazed, and quite happy that no one else was there. The summit is spectacular and I imagine sharing it with a large summer crowd would take away some of the enjoyment. I spent about 15 minutes on the summit and hustled back down the trail to meet up with my wife, who had spent her time hiking to the Emerald Pools.
The way down!
Alone on a Summit
I’ll admit it. When it comes to mountain summits, I can be a bit selfish. When I get to the summit, deep down I’m hoping that no one else will be there. Just me, and whoever I happen to be hiking with. To share a summit with a crowd is not my preferred wilderness experience. I prefer the place all to myself. (And from most of what I have read on SP, I know a good number of people share this sentiment.)
But I am a realist and there are certain hikes and summits that are going to be busy all the time! I realize and accept this. Angels Landing in Zion National Park appears to be one of those places. Just like Longs Peak in RMNP and Mt. LeConte in GSMNP, I know that a solo summit experience is very unlikely. But with how beautiful these places are, I guess they're busy for a reason.