zion national park

zion came highly recommended. in fact at that communal dinner i had in santa fe, it was even recommended that i hike two trails specifically, one with three levels of waterfalls cascading off of steep walls, and one called angel’s landing where there’s a section of the hike only a few feet wide with sheer dropoffs on either side.

whereas with the grand canyon you start at the top, with zion, you start at the bottom and can actually drive through the narrow canyon, created by the virgin river, which due to all the recent rainful, was raging. however parking in the canyon is limited, so there’s a shuttle service from the super cute town just outside the park to the front gate.

then from that point there’s a shuttle that runs the entire length of the canyon, alongside the river. i got off at the stop for the emerald pools trailhead, hiked it one direction, then hiked up to the middle and upper pools. this is a view of the canyon on the way to the middle pool.

view of zion canyon

here i am standing at the egde of the middle pool. though you can see some bit of green algae along the edges of the water as it cascades down to the lower pool, at this time of year the water looks more olive than emerald.

justin at the edge of the middle pool on the emerald pools trails at zion national park

that was pretty easy and not all that spectacular, so i decided to kick things up a notch. i caught the shuttle up to the stop for the angel’s landing trailhead, which was advertised as “strenuous” with “long drop-offs and narrow trail. not for anyone fearful of heights.” it ascends 1488 feet from the canyon floor and the last half mile of the 2.5 mile trail “follows steep narrow ridge; chains have been added.” sign me up! i say.

this trail started ascending very quickly, with short, tight switchbacks. here’s a view looking down the canyon to the south.

view of zion canyon national park from angel's landing trail

finally, after an incredible series of 21 switchbacks stacked right on top of each other (known as walter’s wiggles), i emerged on top. or so i thought.

view of zion canyon national park from scout lookout

the following picture best expresses angel’s landing. that is the remaining half mile of the trail. a narrow ridge of rock, 1400 feet off the canyon floor, a portion of it ascending at a 45 degree angle with the goal beyond the highest ridge in the foreground. looking at it from this perspective, it’s hard to imagine it was even possible. my only consolation was seeing these tiny little people scrambling at various points along the ridge. if they could do it, so could i.

angel's landing trail at zion national park

and this is me at the top!

justin at the pinnacle of angel's landing at zion national park

finally here’s an unobstructed view from the pinnacle of angel’s landing.

view of zion national park from the pinnacle of angel's landing

surprisingly, going back down the ridge, one hand on chain, butt dragging along rock, was a lot easier than going up. i think it was around 7pm when i finally made it back to the entrance of the park. i decided rather than try to drive to salt lake city in the dark and miss out on the “countryside,” i found a hotel in hurricane for the night—a much easier task on a sunday—to rest after two straight days of strenuous hikes and to catch up on my blogging.

next leg: hurricane to lake tahoe to santa rosa

Update: I returned to Zion on October 5, 2007 and hiked The Narrows with Stephanie



That place looks like something from an English landscape painting or else a high-budget sci-fi film. By that I mean, really pretty.


Sheesh. I have many issues, not the least of which is balance, and there is no way, no possible way to get me to climb up that narrow path to the top. You’re a better man than I, and I’m sure that the trail up to that point would have been a challenge to the balance-impaired.

there’s something about the way the light strikes a medium-sized mountain when it’s far enough away, causing some sort of atmospheric blur effects—especially when driving through nevada—that makes everything look like CG.

and then i wondered, since so much computer graphics work is done on the west coast, perhaps they’re just emulating what they see and are used to.

dad, i thought of you when i was climbing up there. it’s really psychologically scary when you’re looking at it from a distance, but when i was scrambling up the ridge, sometimes using hands and feet, it actually wasn’t so bad.


You’ve followed many of the footsteps I took in ’98, and Angel’s Landing was one of the highlights for me. I’m glad you had the opportunity to experience it. See you on Monday!

[…] turn her dancing in Utah into a reason to visit some National Parks. I had a great time at Zion National Park as I was driving across the country, and wished I’d had more time to visit Bryce, Arches, and […]


that is so cool

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