Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Picture it: you're gasping for air, your best friend is looking at you with sheer pain and terror in her face as you begin to scale a sliver-like stretch of mountain side, while grabbing a thick chain hand over hand, wondering if the metal washers holding the chain steady are ready to burst at any moment.
**Mental note: Please consult a therapist about why this experience actually did not frighten me at all...
Since I first saw a photo atop Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, I have craved venturing to this place to hike, standing on that mountain overlooking Utah's most pristine wilderness. Zion National Park is located in Springdale, about a four hour drive from Salt Lake City Airport and an hour drive from St. George Regional airport. As this trip was coupled with my move to Austin, myself and my best friend Maryann took the scenic route to drive to the beautiful Utah.
Although we only spent 24-hours here, I will never say "HAGS" to Zion. It truly was an unforgettable experience and I have about 12 other spots I am dying to see. Here is my brief, yet prosperous advice on the experience (humble brag but not really because dehydration is real kids).
Where Do I Stay?
When a national park is located exotically as this one, it can be a challenge to find a place to lay your head. I booked this hotel probably 4 months in advance, which is really not like me at all. However, I can foresee rates spiking at peak times of year like the ever popular summer.
Look no further than the Majestic View Lodge in Springdale. For as moderate as the pricing was, I was highly impressed by this hotel for the value.
The Majestic View Lodge had some amazing things to offer, including large mountain clad rooms, a large swimming pool, a restaurant, free coffee & water, as well as an entire convenient store that had all the necessary things for hiking. After checking in and purchasing sunscreen for the next day's hike, we headed to our rooms to simply sleep after a 9 hour drive.
The best feature of this hotel? The shuttle system located across the street. Unless you are camping in the park (which also looks amazing) you will most likely be needing to shuttle into the park from your respective hotel. The Majestic View Lodge is stop #9 along the path to Zion, and drops you off at the front entrance of the park. More on shuttles further down the page, but this gives you quick access into the park!
If you are looking to stay closer or just have money to burn (jealous) The Bumbleberry Inn gives off gorgeous boutique vibes, The Driftwood Lodge is not low key at all gorgeous, & the Springhill Suites by Marriott looks like a magazine. Our stop on the shuttle was the furthest from these three hotels, but also had us a seat on the bus #smallwin.
Give Me the Rundown on the Shuttle
When planning my trip to Zion, my first goal was that we stayed close to the park as we had to get on the road quickly to make it to Austin by Saturday (highly advise against a 19 hour road trip, but that's another story). All of the hotels listed above are less than 20 minutes from the park and are easily accessible to a shuttle that will pick you up directly from your respective hotel.
When conducting my research, I additionally came across the National Park Service's webpage which actually had a fabulous representation of the shuttle route as well as the shuttle schedule. I recommend boarding the first shuttle to the park, around 6:00am if you're an early riser. We ended up waiting in line for quite some time to get into the park as it is was high season (summer) and right after 4th of July. Consider a spring or fall trip is my short response to that!
What Do I Wear?
SUNSCREEN IS THE ANSWER.
Did you think I was going to suggest cute workout clothes? Well you thought wrong, but I also just got this set today and it would probably look way cuter in these photos then sporting what I first grabbed out of my car closet.
Wear LOTS of sunscreen my friends. I want to say "you can't tell by these photos" but you really can if you zoom in close enough to my arm which looks to be the color of my first car: a cherry red Saturn Vue. Please wear 50spf minimum, the sun is POWERFUL especially in the summer months and reapply consistently.
How Long Does this Hike Take?
Excellent question, as I clearly had no idea when I embarked on this adventure. Do not know if I am alone here, but I'll get these bucket list items on my radar and nothing can stop me from doing them, no matter how little research I do or how little time I have. When it is happening, it is happening.
The hike to Angel's Landing is about 5 miles round trip with a little over 5,000 ft of elevation gain. Well let me tell you folks, I have done 13 mile hikes that are a light walk compared to this one. The elevation gain is all in the beginning half of the hike (hence an early start time) and will involve multiple breaks of questioning whether or not you should continue. At one point we reached a clearing and were giddy thinking this was it. A nice passerby informed us that in fact this was not it and that we were "halfway there!" to which we sighed and questioned all sanity. Do not fret, as the way back is mostly downhill and will take you a much shorter amount of time. Allot at least 3-4 hours for the full hike.
So...Water is a Thing?
Dumbest question I have ever asked myself. If I could shake a photo, it would be this one of smiling Kath realizing she no longer has water for the hike down. FUN STORY, I thought Maryann was being airlifted out of Zion National Park after descending down the mountain at a rapid pace knowing that I was going to dehydrate if I didn't get water as soon as possible. I pulled a woman aside who painted me a picture of 127 hours Maryann with the park ranger in place to take her to the nearest facility.
I am happy to report that she was in fact okay and the woman had misinformed me of her condition. Moral of the story, if you have Camelback I would recommend that plus water bottles in a hydroflask of some kind. Be a smart hiker!
What is the Difficulty Level?
To preface, there were little kids just tagging along up this hill with us as we ascended which I kind of find amazing. This hike was pretty difficult, but not impossible. Maryann grew up at sea level her entire life and had it up the hill, just take more breaks! There will definitely be switchbacks uphill, change in terrain, & chains you will utilize to climb parts of the mountain as a forewarning before committing to the climb. However, the rocks are not slippery due to their geological properties (SCIENCE).
But in the same breath, literally 9 people have died doing this hike so just be careful on the chain parts (meaning when you are gripping chains while climbing to the top) but don't be scared!
Famous last words, but seriously it is so rewarding once you reach the top!
What Does My Packing List Look Like?
If you aren't bringing a camelback, I have raved about my small Amazon backpack I bought for my Thailand trip almost two years ago, and I would recommend bringing the same for this trip.
Your pack should include:
-WATER. All the Water.
-Trail Snacks (I have a relationship with Lara Bars which i have linked the best flavor & fruit/nut mix I make myself)
-Sunglasses and a hat. Your head can get sunburnt too kiddos
-Rosewater (personal favorite of mine, so refreshing on your face after sweating and being inthe sun)
There are truly no words to justify this experience & I cannot wait to get back to Zion to do the narrows when there is no low key flash flooding warnings (the park rangers pretty much pointed to imminent doom if you get caught up in one, fun fact).
Visiting Zion? Comment or email below if you have further questions!