Zion National Park has some of the best hikes of any of the US National Parks. Angels Landing and the Narrows are famous and both are worthwhile. Zion also boasts some amazing viewpoints that will leave you dizzy from the soaring heights and peaks.
Zion National Park is different from many other parks in that you don’t drive it. You take a trolley from the visitor center or from the small tourist town right outside the gates. The trolley drops you off at certain points of interest and at the beginning of the hikes.
The hikes are clearly outlined at the visitor center and you have a half dozen or so to choose from. They vary in difficulty and wetness. Some hikes actually require a permit, which is basically an excuse to extort more money from people. This is the first National Park that I have seen permits being required and I have been to 12 now.
I only had one day at Zion and I decided to do the hike to Angels Landing. This steep hike is pretty difficult and will take 4-5 hours to go round trip. The views along the way and certainly from the top at Scouts Lookout and at Angels Landing are of the entire river valley below. The views are simply breathtaking.
It is very hot in Zion National Park. The day I hiked it was between 101 and 105 degrees on the car gauge and while you’re hiking it had to be some 120 degrees. I was sweating like a fiend but loving every second of it.
They recommend you bring at least 2 liters of water. I second that recommendation and would actually suggest bringing at least 3 liters. The heat plus the steepness and the fact there is very little shade en route ensures you will be sweaty and thirsty no matter how experienced a hiker you are. Trust me on that one!
The path zigzags up the steep mountain and gives different perspectives of the valley as you ascend. At one point you have a flat area wherein you walk to the backside of the mountain and start zigzagging up again in smaller, steeper doses. This is the part that leads direct to Scouts Lookout. When you reach Scouts Lookout you think you have made it but really you are still an hour or so away from Angels Landing.
From Scouts Lookout to Angels Landing is a very narrow, steep and rocky path that has claimed the lives of 6 people since 2004. It can cause vertigo from the height, narrowness and steep drops offs on either side. The key is to just focus on the rocks and focus out the depths below. Much like when you are inching out to a bungee jump edge. Try not to psych yourself out and you’ll be fine.
The views of the valley are spectacular. You are very happy that you made the steep ascension. Some people stop at Scouts Landing because they are cramped, tired, thirsty or scared. It is worth the final walk out to Angels Landing if you can swing it. However, Scouts Landing does feature a ton of cute little chipmunks trying to get your food. They’ll come right up to you like pigeons in New York City. But much like New York City pigeons, they’re still essentially rodents and could carry disease so don’t touch them!
After a hike, take a drive through the park. It is straight through on one road and it goes through a variety of different types of areas. It also includes a several miles long tunnel, which is considered an engineering marvel. The only thing I suggest is to drive slowly. The hairpin turns don’t have much protection from a couple thousand-foot fall down a steep cliff. I had a couple of close calls in the top heavy Cadillac Escalade I was driving!
Zion is only about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas and I have every intention of heading back to Zion next time I am in Vegas to do the Narrows hike through the water. It is supposed to be amazing.
In fact, if you look at the website for Zion National Park, it will make suggestions on what to bring including plastic bags for human waste. Apparently, it’s frowned upon to shit in the river! They prefer you go in the bag and then carry it out but peeing is OK. My friend and I were laughing about that and that may have swayed the decision to do Angels Landing instead!
I can’t wait to go back to Zion and explore more of the great western parks. Glacier and Yosemite are next on my list!
Zion National Park
June 3, 2012 by 22 Comments