Tag Archive | Angels Landing hike

SW National Parks Trip: Landscape Arch at Arches NP

After Delicate Arch, we went up to another trail head to take a short hike – 1.6 miles round trip – to Landscape Arch. The hike takes you past several fins, which are the intermediate rock formations between a slab of rock and an arch. The stone begins as a solid slab of sandstone, and then over time cracks form in the block of stone. Water erodes the rocks, eventually forming fins and arches. The last stage in the process is when the arch collapses. Of course, this process takes millions of years, but since 1970, 43 arches in Arches National Park have collapsed.

Fins of Sandstone - Which one do you think will become an Arch?

Fins of Sandstone – Which one do you think will become an Arch?

Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park – but very fragile.  In fact, it is thought to be the longest arch in the world; measuring 290.1 feet in 2004.  In 1991, after several days of unseasonably heavy rains, a large piece of rock, approximately 60 feet long, fell from Landscape Arch and landed below. No one was injured or killed, but the Park Service closed the trail below to prevent the potential for future incidents.  Landscape Arch could last another million years, but it could come crashing down at any time.

Landscape Arch is on the Devil’s Garden Trail, which is the longest maintained trail in the park.  It is 7.2 miles round trip, and it passes by eight named arches, with many more visible in the distance.  If you want, you can hike past Landscape Arch and do a loop on a primitive trail past several more arches.

We set out on a paved path that goes up and down some hills along the way.  At the very beginning, you are sheltered from the wind, but early in the hike you step into an area that acts as a wind tunnel if there is any sort of breeze.  Unfortunately for us, this area also has quite a bit of loose sand.  The wind was really blowing the day we were there, so we both got sandblasting face washes at a couple of points.  To add further insult to injury, we both had our hats blown off a couple of times. I guess this is why hikers wear those hats with the chinstrap strings.

Jon hits the Devil’s Garden Trail – always walking ahead…

Jon hits the Devil’s Garden Trail – always walking ahead…

A little further up the trail, you reach a fork in the trail that will take you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.  I would have liked to have taken the detour, but we weren’t sure how far away they were and we were already going to be hiking almost five miles for the day as it was.  Next time, I will definitely go see them though!

The view from the Devil’s Garden Trail

The view from the Devil’s Garden Trail

As you get closer to Landscape Arch, the trail turns to soft sand; it made for more difficult hiking for the last little bit.  And the loose sand kicked up quite a bit in the wind too.  But when we got to the viewpoint, I was impressed with the Arch.

Landscape Arch – The World’s Longest Natural Arch

Landscape Arch – The World’s Longest Natural Arch

We also saw Partition Arch which is right next to Landscape Arch, and spent a little while just taking in the view.  Even though you can no longer hike up underneath Landscape Arch, it is still really impressive.  And knowing that in my lifetime, I will never see an arch that is longer than this one… well, that’s pretty neat too.

Partition Arch – the one next door to Landscape Arch

Partition Arch – the one next door to Landscape Arch

Have you ever hiked to Landscape Arch?  Did you see the other arches on the trail?

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SW National Parks Trip: Zion’s Angels Landing

Between March and October, visitors to the Zion Canyon section of Zion National Park are not permitted to drive into the Canyon. You can park at the visitor’s center, and get on one of several propane fueled shuttle buses that ferry visitors in the Canyon. This was implemented in the 1990s in an attempt to cut down on pollution and the effects of so many vehicles in this fragile ecosystem. The buses come along frequently, and were often standing room only. We took a bus out to the Grotto stop, which is where the Angels Landing hike begins.

Who Could Resist this Little Guy on the Angel’s Landing Trail?

Who Could Resist this Little Guy on the Angel’s Landing Trail?

I had read about Angels Landing before we left on the trip and wanted to challenge my fear of heights. It is one of the most strenuous hikes in the park, with a round trip length of 5.4 miles up a mountain on switchbacks to the top, where you are rewarded with an amazing view of the canyon below. We hiked up an unpaved trail, which then becomes paved as the trail gets steeper.  Then we hiked through Refrigerator Canyon, which is a shady area which often has a nice cooling breeze.  The breeze was lovely when we got there, after getting hot and sweaty in the sun on the way up.

Some of the Beautiful Sandstone on the Angels Landing Trail

Some of the Beautiful Sandstone on the Angels Landing Trail

Then we got to Walter’s Wiggles, which are a series of steep, paved switchbacks cut into the rock.   Walter’s Wiggles are a series of 21 steep switchbacks that are named after the first superintendent of Zion National Park, who helped engineer the switchbacks.  To be honest, I don’t remember there being 21 of them!  After tackling Walter’s Wiggles, we made it to Scout Lookout, a beautiful area at the top of the rock.

Walter’s Wiggles from Above

Walter’s Wiggles from Above

Here, at Scout Lookout, you have to decide whether you are going to continue the last half mile out to Angels Landing. The last round trip mile of the hike, for those who are not faint of heart, is a part-hike, part-scramble up a slick rock slope, across a narrow ridge of rock, onto Angels Landing. There are chains embedded in the rock to help you out, but it is still a narrow, exposed section of rock with drops of 1400 feet. In case you weren’t already nervous, the Park Service has this sign posted…

Just so you know what you are getting into…

Just so you know what you are getting into…

And in case you were still gung-ho about doing it? They have this one posted, telling you how many brave visitors have fallen to their untimely deaths here lately…

In case you need a more direct warning…

In case you need a more direct warning…

So, why did I want to try it? A couple of bloggers had written about hiking Angels Landing, young women like me who are fit but not super athletes, and they had both said that the hike was less scary than they had been expecting. So maybe it wasn’t so bad. After all, there were lots of people up there making the attempt the afternoon that we were there.  Thousands hike Angels Landing each year, and live to tell about it.  Many love the experience!

You get this spectacular view from Scout Lookout

You get this spectacular view from Scout Lookout

We started out up the cliff, holding onto the ropes and putting our feet into the depressions of those who had gone before us. Based on the steps that have been worn into the sandstone over time, most of the adventurers were much taller than me, because there were some large spaces between steps. I got about 20 feet up the cliff, and then decided abruptly that this was not for me. I was getting really nervous, and this was just the beginning. I didn’t want to have a panic attack and find myself stuck on an exposed cliff. Not to mention, there would be lots of waiting in line to go up or down because of the numbers of people there that day.

The First Part of the Last Push to Angels Landing. I got to about where the guy is sliding down on his butt…

The First Part of the Last Push to Angels Landing. I got to about where the guy is sliding down on his butt…

My fear of heights was not going to be conquered; at least not that day. I scrambled down and Jon came with me. He later told me that he could see it clearly on my face at the exact moment that I decided I was not up for the challenge – a look of doubt had washed over me and he knew I was going to turn around. He didn’t give me a hard time about changing my mind, but I knew he was disappointed because he did want to go to the top.

After basking at Scout Lookout for a little while longer and talking to a woman – she had done the hike before and said that it just got worse from there – I felt better about my decision to not go. So, I didn’t succeed on this hike, but hey, sometimes that’s the way it is. Sometimes you find out what your limits are. Sometimes you find out that there are things that you just aren’t good at – things that just aren’t for you. And that’s ok. I can do lots of scary things – ride a bucking horse, speak in front of crowds, be brutally honest with a problem employee, but hiking Angels Landing is not one of them. That doesn’t mean that I will stop trying, stop testing my boundaries, stop challenging myself. And who knows, maybe one day I will hike Angels Landing.

You can see the trail we came up, snaking its way around the center of the picture

You can see the trail we came up, snaking its way around the center of the picture

After turning back from Angels Landing, we hiked back down to the bottom and then walked the 0.5 mile Grotto Trail to the historic Zion Lodge for a late lunch.  It is an easy path that runs parallel to the road – and was a nice relaxing walk after our strenuous hike.  Salads (with ham and chicken chunks on mine) a fruit cup and some beer made for a perfect afternoon break on the patio at the Lodge.  Hey, maybe defeat isn’t looking so bad…

Have you ever hiked Angels Landing?  Have you ever decided not to?