Hiking Scout Lookout and Angels Landing, Zion National Park
Scout Lookout and Angels Landing boast some of the most picturesque views of Zion Canyon in the whole park. With sweeping 360 degree vistas, you can easily understand why this is one of the more popular hikes in the park. There are no permits required for this trail, and in the summer, you can see lines of hikers dotting the cliffside. We hiked the trail in the middle of January during a short three-day road trip. While the crowds weren’t as bad as they are in the summer months, there were still a fair amount of other hikers when we started at 1:30 pm.
The trail starts at the West Rim Trailhead across from the Grotto. Because the Zion Scenic Drive to the trailhead is open to cars in the off-season, December through February (the rest of the year you have to take a shuttle into the park), the trailhead parking can fill up fast. On the day we hiked, they closed the road just past the Zion Lodge around noon, which meant we had to park there and add another mile to get to the trailhead.
Once you get to the West Rim Trailhead, cross the Virgin River footbridge, hang a right, and follow the river upstream for about a half a mile until it begins to ascend up a paved path. It gradually gets steeper and turns into the first set of switchbacks that are etched into the cliff. It is amazing to think of how they built that trail!
After a few of these switchbacks, the trail enters Refrigerator Canyon, named for being mostly shaded and relatively cool year-round. After a gradual grade through the hanging canyon, the trail soon turns and starts up the famous Walters Wiggles. These are a series of 20 short switchbacks that bring you up the rock face. The switchbacks are named after Walter Ruesch, who was Zion’s first superintendent. He was determined to create a trail up to Angels Landing, and after seeing what he accomplished, you’d be surprised to hear that he didn’t have any prior engineering experience.
On the day that we hiked, a lot of these switchbacks were covered in ice. It would have been wise to have crampons like a few other hikers we passed, but we made our way carefully and despite a few “oh shit” moments, didn’t end up on our butts or flailing down the side of the cliff.
At the top of the Wiggles, you will be rewarded with beautiful views of the canyon and Angels Landing is so close it might as well hit you in the face. You can stop here and enjoy the scenery from Scout Lookout, or if you’re up for an adventure, continue on for another .6 miles to the top of Angels Landing. Because of all the ice on the trail the day we hiked, we decided we valued our lives too much to attempt making it to the top of Angels Landing. With sections that are only a couple of feet wide, and a lot of people that looked like they had no business hiking to the top in Tevas, we safely enjoyed the view from Scout Lookout.
We can’t wait to go back though, and hopefully, make it all the way to the top. We’ll just make sure that there is no chance of ice and get a really early start to avoid the crowds of hikers all vying for that deadly picture perfect selfie at the top.
Have you hiked Angels Landing in Zion? What was your experience? Leave a comment below!