Angel’s Landing- The Scariest Hike of My Life!!!
Angel’s Landing is known for being one of the most strenuous hikes! It is a 5 mile round trip hike in Zion National Park, Utah that starts at the Grotto Trailhead. The first 2 miles are on a well maintained, paved path that gradually gets more vertical as you go along. The last half mile is over narrow rock that has almost a 1500 foot cliff on BOTH sides! Since 2004, there have been 6 people who have fallen to their deaths while hiking Angel’s Landing.
You may be asking yourself, “WHY even bother hiking Angel’s Landing?!”
I was trying to find something outdoors and adventurous for our trip to Zion National Park. While researching, I read that Angel’s Landing is one of the best views in Zion National Park. The more I read into it, the more curious I became. I started watching videos about it.
That’s the point I became NERVOUS! See, I’m VERY scared of heights. (This coming from a person who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!) I watched videos of others on the hike, trying to prepare myself (like I did when I climbed Ek Balam) for what I thought I would be doing. I shared the video with Chris and he was definitely NOT in on the hike! We called one of his best friends who lives in Utah and had done the hike more than once. His friend rated the hike a 4 out of 10. We invited him along and with plans made, we were about to partake in ONE OF THE SCARIEST hikes of our life!
The morning of the hike I was very nervous!
We woke up at 530AM ready to head from Brian Head down to Zion National Park. I was SO nervous. Like, I was nauseas thinking about the hike. I had talked to some people who had done the hike and thought it was easy. Others, spoke of how it was very scary.
We took the shuttle to the Grotto picnic area. Getting out of the shuttle, I noticed the bathroom right in front of me and wondered if I should hide out there to calm my nerves. BUT, I didn’t!
We start our climb up the trail towards Angel’s Landing.
As we walk over the bridge to the beginning of the trailhead to Angel’s Landing, I see many other enthusiastic people of ALL ages! I think to myself, this can’t be that bad! I mean, there’s a few girls here that are all wearing dresses! There’s a pregnant woman and another with a very young baby. We talk about life as we make our climb. Chris makes me laugh asking if the sand is red because it is in the hot sun all day. (Like a sunburn! haha)
As we make our way down the path, it goes from sand to a steep, paved path that zig zags towards the top. I had to stop 3-4 times for a couple of minutes to catch my breath. (Now remember, I do Zumba or work out almost every day. We had already hiked 40+ miles easy that week. Plus, this was a higher elevation than I was used to!) I felt like my heart was racing 200 beats per minute. I was dizzy. Was I that nervous?
We make it to the area that has the warning sign about previous deaths!
I catch my breath, put on my GoPro to have as evidence if I fall (just kidding!), and start the strenuous climb to the top of Angel’s Landing! I hear a couple of guys tell Chris how rough their climb was and high five him.
That last half of a mile (as seen on my video below!) is definitely strenuous and SCARY! There were times when I felt like Spiderman climbing up the vertical walls with only a chain to keep me from falling. Other times, there were 1,500 foot cliffs on both side with NO chain at all! Going up was difficult at times, mostly because I was so scared of heights. I kept my focus and made it to the top!
But, then I find out it’s NOT the top! We have to go up more!!!
What I think is the top is just a resting area. It was pretty. At this point, some of the other climbers said they weren’t going any farther. I thought to myself, “I didn’t make it this far to not go ALL the way!” I was going to CONQUER this mountain of a rock! It was going DOWN! Well, not that last part…at least not with anyone on it! I wondered how many of the rocks had fallen off the side of the cliffs in recent years. I tried to take some deep breaths before getting back at it again. Unfortunately, someone felt the need to light up a cigarette. So, no fresh air for me! I prematurely began my ascent with Chris right behind me telling me to hold onto the chain.
The very last portion of the hike to the top of Angel’s Landing was still almost vertical at times.
The ascension continued. I didn’t think about the climb back down. NOT ONCE. I made it to the top and felt such joy that I had accomplished something I was so scared of! The view was stunning! There were some dare devil hikers who would stand on the smaller, yet taller rocks, for a photo opportunity. Other brave hikers went to the edge of the cliffs.
Chris and I stayed right in the middle and we ate our lunch while enjoying the view. Well, that’s a lie. The truth is, we had begun to think about the hike back DOWN. I drank some water, ate a sandwich, and took a few pictures from the top. Chris’s nervous feelings were starting to set in and he couldn’t eat! I offered to carry the backpack down.
I knew as soon as we started our way down Angel’s Landing that it was going to be difficult!
By this time, it was afternoon and many people were coming up as we were making our descent. Some people were patient and waited for us to get down the difficult areas. Others, tried to go around people.
The problem with going down is that you can SEE how far you can fall from! I was MUCH slower going down. My backpack was pushing me forward, away from the rock, at an angle that made me uncomfortable. I explained to Chris that I didn’t feel strong enough to carry it and he offered to take it from me at the clearing.
Not too far from the top, Chris and I were separated.
There were a lot of people and I was trying to let some climbers go ahead so I could take my time. Chris was no longer in sight. I was so nervous looking down. There was a girl close to the edge that I saw lose her balance and about fall off the side. I froze. I couldn’t move. Luckily, I was in an area where I could sit for a moment to gather my thoughts. Instead, the fear of heights was consuming my thoughts! Where is Chris? Why is he not coming back for me? He had been by my side this whole journey as my supportive hiking companion. Every few moments, when there were no hikers to rush me along, I would make my way down Angel’s Landing.
There became a point where I was too scared of the narrow, rocky path with 1,500 foot cliffs on both sides.
I began to think to myself. I can just sleep on this flat rock tonight. But, what if it falls like so many of the other rock chunks I had seen fall from the mountains that week? I wipe away tears from my eyes, glad I had worn sunglasses to cover up my fear.
People passed going up and down as I tried to be brave. Two girls about my age walk past me and ask if I’m ok. I start to nod my head but instead find myself shaking it saying, “no!” They ask if one could go in front and one behind me to make me feel more comfortable. I agree, thankful that if I make a clumsy mistake and fall, that someone would know.
My new hiking companions make small talk with me.
I knew what the 2 girls were doing. They were trying to distract me from the fear of heights that was consuming my thoughts. The girls were from St. George and had taken their cousin, who was visiting, to the park. They asked where I was from and I mentioned to them that Tennessee doesn’t have mountains quite like Angel’s Landing! They asked if I had ever hiked the Grand Canyon. Because of the fear of heights getting the best of me, I told them no and at that point it would never be happening! I couldn’t wait to be on firm, low ground!
There were times I had to cross paths with other people who were holding onto the chain, afraid to let go.
At one point, there was a MUCH older (BRAVE!) woman that looked to be in her 70s on her way up. She was scared and didn’t want to let go of the chain, either. I begin to think about how much harder it is to go down and want her to turn around. In all honesty, I also think that she has had a LONG life, much longer than me! I don’t want to let go of the chain! Since she is hugging the rock on her way up, she finds a place to move to the top of me, allowing us to pass each other.
There were times that I said, “I just can’t do this!”
Each time I thought I couldn’t do it, the 2 girls and their cousin, who had been ahead, motivated me to move forward. Other people on their way up respected that we were coming down (for the most part!) and helped us to find the safest and easiest path down. Did I mention there are areas with NO rails?! And 1,500 foot cliffs on EACH side?!
I turn the curve that would be my last and see one of the happiest moments in my life! Not just a solid ground, but my smiling Chris waving at me as he relaxed at THE clearing. I thanked the 2 girls and their cousin for all their help. Without them, I may have had to ask for a parachute to get down! To this day, I am very thankful that people I had never met, helped me cope with one of my biggest fears! I may never see them again, but I hope they have some satisfaction in knowing how much it meant to me.
I was SO glad to be on lower ground!
Then, I head over to my husband and sling the backpack at him to carry down as he apologized for leaving me. He too, was scared, and found himself with a couple and their children. They had talked to him the whole way down about how they had done the hike before, including in the snow!!!
The hike up Angel’s Landing is one of the scariest and most trying moments of my life!
Finally, I did it. I can say I hiked Angel’s Landing and I have a video to prove it! However, I don’t have a shirt for bragging rights.
Chris and I have done some daring things since the beginning of our relationship: climbed Ek Balam, hiked to the top of one of the most dangerous, active volcanoes, climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa (that Chris was afraid would fall over with him in it!), went on the world’s longest zip line over water, and even went sky diving, just to name a few. The hike up Angel’s Landing has been the hardest for me. Mostly, the coming down part! We have decided to avoid hikes like that for a while, if not forever! 🙂
Watch my video of my hike up Angel’s Landing.
For anyone thinking about hiking Angel’s Landing: watch my video. If it doesn’t bother you, then you may be ok! Feel free to post any questions or comments below!
Mind shift Backpack! Great hiking backpack for photographers!
Merrell Women’s Kimsey Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
Merrell Men’s Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot