A renowned half day hike and scramble to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon.
If you savour your views then this is a must-do hike if, and only if, you have no fear of heights. Whilst the majority of the constructed trail is just an uphill slog, the last 1/4 mile is not for the squeamish. Chains will help you negotiate the trickiest obstacles and they’re not there for show. With 1000 feet drop offs here, you’ll need them. The ‘achievement factor’, though, gives this hike a real edge. The panorama that unfolds before you is only matched by the view from Observation Point that towers 1000 feet over Angel’s Landing on the opposite side of the canyon.
Aim to pick up an early shuttle (mandatory as no vehicles are allowed in the canyon) to be at the trailhead by 8.00, as it’s a long slog to the top in the heat and the trail can be very busy from around 10.00. Much of the initial 1.3 miles are on paved switchbacks, and from the Grotto shuttle stop it’s difficult to see any trail up the cliff face at all. The trail climbs gradually and then crosses a small bridge into Refrigerator Canyon which is in shade most of the day. From here it’s a short walk to the base of the lung-busting Walter’s Wiggles, 21 steep, tight switchbacks. At the top is Scout’s Lookout where you can terminate your hike if you don’t wish to continue to the final hair-raising leg to Angel’s Landing – and many people are happy to stop here and take in the fantastic views over the canyon and breathe in the pure air.
The steep ascent with the chains starts here. The first section isn’t too demanding and if you can negotiate the next section you’ll make it all the way – a narrow strip of rock with serious exposure on both sides, and (when I was last there) subject to buffeting updrafts from the canyon below. Once over this it’s back to the chains and a stiff 500 feet scramble to the top in 20 minutes where you’ll feel you’ve conquered a serious mountain summit. Now you can take in the 360 degree views of the canyon, and one of the finest views in North America, with the Virgin River a silver ribbon disappearing in the distance 1500 feet below you. Look up canyon and you’ll see Observation Point, perhaps a hike for another day. When it’s time to return be aware that other people may be coming up the chains. This is the tricky part as you’ll need to pass them using the same chain.
A number of people have fallen to their deaths on this hike so please take your time and keep your wits about you.