Leaving Moab, Utah we were pretty much on a nature high from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and heading to the next big one we had been hearing about from everyone who has been there… Zion National Park. The pictures we researched looked amazing and at a glance it seems like there are many varied hikes; at most of the parks we’ve visited, including Zion, the entrance fee is valid for 7 days and for good reason! You could easily spend seven days hiking, climbing, cycling and exploring these places, and still be left wanting.
Before we could go to Zion, though, we had to set up our base camp, which in this case turned out to be a couchsurfing host in Cedar City. We had a 289 mile drive to do, on the I-70 W, and I-15 S; got into town at around 7pm and then learned that our couch host was not in town… but his roommates were. Turns out they are 4 students sharing a house who all host couchsurfers together, so if the main host isn’t there it’s not a problem, because someone will be there to receive you. Two guys we met just briefly, but the basement “living room” we were sleeping in (super comfortable bed!) was right by Kim’s room, so we spent some time hanging out with him, chatting and getting some good hiking suggestions. He confirmed our suspicion that the Angel’s Landing hike was one of the coolest things in Zion so that was sorted. He also shared some interesting stories about his mission-time as part of the Mormon religion, which sadly included him getting physically kicked off a bus in France, but I’m sure overseas travel is beneficial for any teenager doing a religious mission despite aggression like that. Unfortunately we never got to meet our primary host.
As it took us a while to get to Zion from Cedar City and Kiernan was feeling a bit under the weather, we decided to do only one hike in the park, but… we would make that hike bloody well count! Angel’s Landing it was! The hike has quite a reputation, because it really is extremely steep and exposed in some places, with the last half mile (of the 2,4 mile one way) hike being up sheer rock and you hang on by chains hammered into the cliff side often connected by poles. People have fallen off there and died and they warn that if you have a fear of heights to choose a different hike. Obviously this is the first and only hike we wanted to do 🙂
The hike is 5 miles round trip and according to various sources it will take about 4 – 5 hours to hike. The first 2,5 miles are really steep, up the mountainside and a lot of people choose to do only this part of the hike, because the last half mile is the scary bit 🙂 Kiernan hopped from rock to rock barely touching the chains, like a mountain goat… and barefoot! The only way I made it up was to look at either my hands or the rock right in front of my face, otherwise the height and sheer drop down would make me dizzy! It did take about 2 and half hours to get up there; part of the slow climb up involves waiting for groups of people on the chain trail since most of it can only accommodate people in single file. And then you climb… and climb some more… and when you think you’re nearly there, you see the next rise, but when you get to the summit, you know! The view is amazing – it feels like you can see over every mountain. You’re higher than anything else and get the best view of the sweeping expanse of the park from multiple angles. It was a spectacular view, and after the rise it’s easy to see why someone once figured if angles were to touch down in Zion, this scenic cliff outcropping would be where they would descend.
When my mind was completely overwhelmed, and I couldn’t take the volume of space in anymore, I started focusing on the rock we were standing on – there are rock squirrels literally flying from crag to crag. Awesome.
Then the climb down 🙂 It went so much faster than the laborious trek up, even the hang-down-the-chain and scurry-down-on-your-backside parts. We took the shuttle back to the visitor center and had a nice stroll to the bike before heading back to Cedar City.