Extreme Hiking in Zion National Park: Surviving Angel’s Landing and The Narrows
From 1200 feet up to flash flood riverbeds, Zion National Park is full of extreme hiking conditions that have been known to kill. You wanted extreme, right? While a couple hikes do have a dangerous track record, Zion also has many hikes and canyons to explore at all fitness levels, making it still one of the most visited parks in the country.
The jagged cliffs and hallowed out canyons of the area are the result of 250 million years and multiple changes in the ecosystem. During this dramatic change, a shallow sea, swamplands, desert and intense sand dunes engulfed the area that is now southwest Utah and northern Arizona. These geological formations later resulted in the dramatic landscapes that we now see throughout Zion National Park.
Two of Zion’s most popular and dangerous hikes, Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, are prime examples of the evolving landscape and allow visitors the opportunity to explore through hands on experiences. These thrilling hikes will challenge any outdoor enthusiast and create once in a lifetime memories.
One of the most severe hikes in the park is Angel’s Landing and it demands a seasoned and patient hiker. At 1,208 feet tall, the hike is almost as tall as the Empire State Building and offers some of the best sweeping views of Zion. The 2.4 mile, five hour hike takes visitors through many parts of the park, including the beginner friendly West Rim Trail, shady and cold Refrigerator Canyon, zigzagged Wiggles and finally Scouts Lookout. The wiggles area is probably the most strenuous part of the hike; with 21 sharp cut backs at a steep incline. Finally, the last half-mile is the most dangerous part of the climb with steep drop offs and very small walking paths.
In recent years, several people have actually fallen to their deaths from unsteady footing on the trail. To make sure you don’t become another statistics, take several precautions before heading up the trail. The best time to hike Angel’s Landing is from March through October, with mornings during spring and fall being the most ideal times. Hikers are encouraged to wear shoes with solid grips and use the chains to help pull them up. Children should not attempt the hike and teenagers should be watched carefully and slowly guided up the hike to assure complete safety.
Another extreme hike is The Narrows, a hike that is 60% in the Virgin River and will, at times, have hikers waddling and swimming through the water. The blunt sandstone grottos, sky-high canyon walls, garden oasis like vegetation, and unique natural springs make this hike truly unforgettable.
While the best time to hike the Narrows is late summer and early fall, the hike is open year around unless the water levels get too high. Even the most experienced hikers can fall into a chest high hole. Even if it is hot outside, make sure you are wearing proper wet suits and waterproof shoes for safety. Hypothermia and flash floods are big concerns and have actually taken more lives than the sky high Angel’s Landing hike. Plan well in advance and take proper equipment to make sure you enjoy your hike through The Narrows is as enjoyable and safe as possible.
While these two hikes are dangerous, don’t let your fears overcome the opportunity to experience something unique. These hikes will not only test your adrenaline levels but also immerse you into the natural beauty of America.
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