Last summer, Drew and I made a spur of the moment trip to Zion National Park to hike Angels Landing and the Narrows. Because we were booking last minute, we lucked out and scored a cancellation room at the only in-park accommodation, Zion Lodge. This made our trip even better because we were able to spend more time in the park without having to fight traffic in and out of the park each day.
Drew was most excited for Angels Landing. I’m not a huge fan of heights, so I was a little apprehensive about the hike. The hike is 5 miles round trip with an elevation change of 1500 feet. When we went, temperatures were in the 100s, so we got an early start to try and beat the heat. The hike starts along a river and slowly works its way up a canyon wall through a number of switchbacks. Then you hit a second group of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. There are 21 short switchbacks here where you gain elevation quickly.
At the top you’ll reach Scout Lookout which has a great view of the park. From here, follow the trail along the ridge to Angels Landing, using chains for assistance. Truth be told, I started the last half mile out to Angels Landing, but my fear of heights made me a shaky mess and I decided to turn back and wait for Drew at Scout Lookout. While I’m disappointed I didn’t finish the last bit of the hike to Angels Landing overlook, the thousand foot dropoffs on both sides of the trail intimidated me.
Regardless of completion, we both really enjoyed the hike and would recommend it to anyone who wants to truly experience Zion.
To prepare for the Narrows hike, we rented canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a wooden walking stick from Zion Outfitter. We opted to do the bottom-up out-and-back hike and got an early start to ensure we had ample daylight and to avoid crowds.
The Narrows hike can vary depending on how far you want to go. We opted to do ~10 miles (5 miles in and 5 miles back). The water was cold, but it felt refreshing since it was over 100 degrees in Zion.
Though Drew and I are avid hikers, we found that the Narrows hike was drastically different than any hike we’ve ever encountered. As much as we enjoyed hiking through the water, we also realized it required use of stabilizing muscles and a bit more endurance than we anticipated. Be mindful that the farther you go into the Narrows, the farther you will have to walk back and that your body will be a bit more tired on the return hike.
Additionally, the water can reach heights as high as your waist, chest, or chin. We went as deep as our waists and came across a section near the end of our hike that would have been at Drew’s chest and possibly at my chin and decided we weren’t up for getting that wet and turned around.
To this day, the Narrows hike is my favorite hike that I’ve ever done. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it and I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.
Zion Hiking Tips
- Hydrate. We went in summer and it was a scorcher with temperatures in the 100s each day. We made sure to hydrate before hikes (including sipping Pedialyte to ensure we had enough electrolytes) and brought more water than we normally would for our hikes.
- Bring snacks. Angels Landing took ~4 hours round trip and we spent 5-6 hours hiking the Narrows. We had hearty meals for breakfast and dinner, but supplemented our hikes with salty snacks like granola bars, almonds, and cashews.
- Start early. The early bird catches the worm…or at least beats the crowds and has the trails to themselves. Not only will you get to enjoy the trails in solitude, but you’ll also beat the heat.
- Bring a dry bag. As mentioned, there are parts of the Narrows hike that were waist or chest deep. If you have a dry bag, you won’t have to worry about your camera, phone, car keys, etc. getting wet. It’s good peace of mind if you happen to slip and fall in, too.