Are you headed into Zion National Park and looking for that iconic view you see posted all over Instagram? Are you not sure what trail to take? Everyone always talks about Angels Landing and seems to forget about Observation Point. So which trail is better? Hopefully at the end of this post you will be able to make that decision for yourself.
Angels Landing is one of the most popular trails in Zion, but is not for the faint of heart. If you are afraid of heights it is not the trail for you. The trail starts at the bridge across the street from the Grotto picnic area. It is five (5) miles round trip and fairly flat at the very beginning. The trail follows a series of switch backs (over 20 in total) leading towards Scouts Lookout. The last half mile is where it gets interesting. The trail follows the steep ridge to the saddle at the end of the trail. There are chain railings that line one side of the trail for the majority of the time, but on either side is a sheer drop off. You will need a backpack to carry any water or other items you may require to keep your hands free to hold on to the chains. At the very beginning of the trail there is a warning sign that lists the number of people who have died on this trail. If you have questionable balance or there are inclement weather conditions forecasted for your hike I would not attempt this trail. When the rocks get wet it becomes very treacherous.
If you want to avoid the crowds you should try and attempt this trail early in the morning. I started a bit before sunrise and was back down before it started to get hot. It took me about three (3) hours roundtrip, but they say to plan for 4-5 hours. I went in September and found myself alone at the summit, but by the time I started down there were lines of people following one another at the chain section. Once on the chains you are at the mercy of the people in front of you. You can only go as fast as the slowest person because there isn’t any room to get around them.
If you are an adrenaline junkie like me, you will love this trail. Just make sure to get an early start so you can avoid all the people on the last half mile up.
If you go to Zion in the summer remember that is their monsoon season. Flash floods and evening thunderstorms are very common. It also gets very hot in the middle of the day in the canyon (upwards of 100°F or 38°C). Check the weather and plan accordingly. Pack plenty of water and snacks (you can never go wrong with lots of snacks!)
People often overlook Observation Point and go with the more popular Angles Landing. This is a longer trail, eight (8) miles round trip, but you do not have to worry about the chains or steep cliffs. The trail starts at the weeping rock trailhead and follows the East Rim trail up and out of the canyon. You ascend nearly 2000 feet (610 Meters) above the canyon and are able to look down on just about every attraction in the canyon including Angels Landing.
This trail tends to be less crowed than Angels Landing, but I would still recommend getting an early start to avoid the majority of the people. This trail took me 1.5 hours to summit; I spent about 1 hour at the top, and 45 minutes to get down. (I may or may not have left the rest of my group in the dust, it took them approximately 4 hours total with time spent at the top). They say to plan for 4-6 hours of hiking time.
March – November private vehicles are not allowed in Zion Canyon. You are at the mercy of the free park shuttles. During the summer months (mid May to the end of September) the first shuttle leaves the visitor center at 6AM and then every 15 minutes. You can check the shuttle schedule HERE
Entrance fees – $35 per vehicle, (noncommercial up to 15 people) valid for seven (7) consecutive days
If you plan to visit more than one park for the year I would recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass. The cost is $80 and it’s valid for one year from the month of purchase for entry into any American National Park. Info HERE
No matter what trail you choose, make sure to stop at Bumbleberry Gift Shop and Bakery right after leaving the visitor center and try their Bumbleberry ice cream! It’s DELICIOUS!!!! (This is not a plug, it’s just that good!)
Read more on Katie’s Blog here!