Take your time on this hike, it is a steady 2 1/2 mile climb with an elevation gain of about 1,488 feet. The meandering trail from the parking lot quickly turns into a series of steep switchbacks that ascends swiftly to the West Rim Trail. If you are unprepared you may find yourself short of breath or even light-headed before you pass this one-mile section. When you reach the end of this series of switchbacks, there is a bit more elevation gain before you get a break in Refrigerator Canyon. The beginning of Refrigerator Canyon offers sweeping views of the park below as well as a relaxing, level trail until you reach Walter’s Wiggles. This will be a welcome break, so take your time and enjoy it.
The next part of the trail is known as Walter’s Wiggles and is a series of short, yet steep switchbacks. These look a bit daunting, but you’ll be at the top in no time. Each of the 21 wiggles is approximately 75-100 feet long and the final wiggle leaves you at Scout Lookout. This wide sandy area has plenty of room to relax and enjoy the view, follow the trail up a little further, up a few “stairs” and you will see a railing on the left. This is a perfect place to stop for pictures of Zion Canyon below and to gaze upon the final part of the hike, the Fin, and decide whether to push on another 1/2 mile to the top or head back to the trailhead. There are also solar toilets located on Scout’s Lookout; however I have hiked this trail twice and they have been inoperable both times.
If you decide to make Scout Lookout the end of your journey, go just a bit further to a plateau, where you will see a single small tree to your left about halfway between Scout’s Lookout and the ridge. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch if you do not plan on traversing the ridge; it’s also the perfect place to sit back, relax and take in the view. Just be careful not to get too close to the edge.
For the thrill-seekers, the final 1/2 mile of the trail has a lot of exposure on both sides, so be sure your shoes grip very well. The drop is approximately 1200 feet on one side and 800 feet on the other, so if you are not prepared mentally and physically – do not attempt this portion of the hike.
If it’s cold, wear gloves with a little rubber on the palm so you can get a firm grip on the chains that guide you to the top. If it has rained recently, and the trail is open, you’ll want to make sure your shoes have an especially good grip as a thin layer of sand may be found atop some rocks and will make even the most cautious of hikers slip.
Once you reach the top of Angel’s Landing you will be awarded sweeping views of the canyon in all directions, the Virgin River below and the Great White Throne to your left. Other notable landmarks include Big Bend, the Organ, Cathedral Mountain, Cable Mountain and Observation Point so be sure to bring along a map and a camera!
The trail is paved until you reach Scout’s Lookout, then it’s sand and rocks to the summit. You will need to do some scrambling over rocks to the summit and will have extreme exposure on both sides. I do not recommend this hike if you are hiking with small children, have a fear of heights, or vertigo. Due to exposure at high elevation, do not attempt hiking this trail in any inclement weather, or when high winds are present.
Be careful, have fun and I’ll see you at the trailhead!