Day two of our 48 (ish) hours in Zion was jam packed! With only two full days to explore the park, we decided to take on two of the iconic Zion experiences on our second day. First up? Angel’s Landing.
This hike is not for the faint of heart. It is short (by our standards anyway), at around 5 miles round trip, but challenging in its elevation gain (and loss). 2.5 miles climbing up, up, up and 2.5 miles back down. Combine that with sections requiring a series of chains to assist you up some steep and exposed sections and well….. its a heart pounding experience from start to finish! (Side note – I hate being near the edge of cliffs, drop-offs, and what have you. HATE. IT. Yet there I was, huffing my way to the top of Angel’s Landing. “If everyone
jumped off a climbed a series of questionable chains to the top of a cliff, would you?” Yes, apparently. See also: Half Dome)
To start, take the Zion Park shuttle to the Grotto stop. Head across the bridge over the Virgin River, turn right, and away you go!
The trail climbs steadily, over a series of switchbacks with sweeping overlooks of the rock formations and canyons as you gain elevation. At approximately 2 miles you’ll reach a trail intersection. Take a right here, and head to the famous chains portion of the program.
Steady your balance and choose your foot placement wisely. Hang on to the chains for support and start climbing! Unless you have a truly crippling fear of heights or significant problems with balance, this part truly isn’t as bad as it seems. If you do? Hike up to the trail intersection and take in the views! They are beautiful from there as well.
The chains section is less than a half mile, but will take a fair amount of time to traverse. Be prepared for descending hikers as well; though it seems quite precarious, passing each other safely is fairly easy.
We started our Angel’s Landing hike at around 8:00 AM, and it took us just under 3 hours, with plenty of photo breaks. After descending safely to the canyon floor it was time to hop the shuttle bus once more, and head to our next stop: The Narrows.
The Narrows is the narrowest portion of Zion Canyon. There are two options to hike it:
- Bottom up – a day hike starting from the Temple of Sinawava. Hike the paved riverside walk to the beginning of the Narrows, or continue on into the Virgin River and walk in the water as far in as you wish. When done, turn around and head back.
- Top Down – permit required – 16 mile trek starting at Chamberlain’s Ranch that can be done in one long day, or as a 2 day backpack with an overnight camp in the gorge. This requires a shuttle – there are several gear outfitters that provide gear rentals and shuttle service.
**Before heading into the Narrows, check the weather forecast very carefully. DO NOT head into the water if there is a chance of rain. Water levels rise quickly in the narrow canyon causing flash floods that can be deadly.**
We obviously didn’t have enough time for the top down version, so we headed out for an out and back day hike. Sadly, we couldn’t drive the van up there so we couldn’t say we were “living in a van DOWN BY THE RIVER” (Funny, right?? no? Chris Farley? come ON!)
We had sunny skies and warm temperatures, so the water wasn’t too terribly cold. We wore our trail running sneakers which were fine (I’m used to running trail races with wet feet, so tromping up a river in warm temps wasn’t a big deal). Many people had canyoneering boots, which are available at local gear outfitters for rent (one option is here).
Do not expect solitude on this hike. The narrows is one of the most well known and popular attractions in Zion National Park, so many of your fellow park-goers will be joining you as you slosh your way up against the current as you cling to your friends in a desperate attempt not to get
swept away swept 2 feet downstream on your ass with an
The “hike” will take you back and forth across the water, as well as straight up the middle. You will be fighting the current, which can be pretty swift in some places. Trekking poles or a walking stick may be helpful to maintain balance (grasping your husband’s arm with a death grip may also suffice in a pinch).
We waded in until the walls started to close in on us and then splashed our way back out. Bonus – the further in you go, the more solitude you will find, so keep on going! The looming canyon walls and blue/green water were eerie and beautiful. If you are heading to Zion, don’t skip out on the Narrows. It is truly a sight to be seen!
After all of that adventuring, we were tired and thirsty! We walked from Watchman Campground just outside the park’s South entrance to Zion Brewery from some food and beers to toast two fantastic days in one of our country’s amazing National Parks. Cheers to you, Zion!
Know before you go (planning resources)
- Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country (Wow Series)
- Zion National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)
- National Park Service – Zion National Park
- Citrus Milo Angel’s Landing guide
- Citrus Milo Narrows guide
- The Outbound – Narrows Guide
- Equipment rentals (dry suits/pants, neoprene canyoneering shoes, walking sticks) **I have no experience with any of these companies and their listing is not an endorsement for their services. This is simply a list of a few convenient outfitters near the park**
- Depending on your hiking experience and the temperatures/timing of your hike, you may not need any of this. We opted to use trail running sneakers which were fine for the mid June air and water temps. In colder months, this won’t be adequate.