Angel’s Landing in the Blazing Summer of Utah

Jackson Nielsen

The day was hot and dry, unlike the dripping humidity I was used to in my home state of Nebraska. The Utah desert rushed by in a blur of oranges and reds as I peered out the window of the free Zion shuttle bus that was taking my dad and I to the beginnings of one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States; Angel’s Landing. Located within Zion National Park in the southernmost reaches of Utah, these sprawling lands of red sand and high, rocky plateaus still took my breath away even though I had  been there for the better part of a week. “Angel’s Landing Trailhead” voiced the intercom system, indicating that we were at our stop. 

Beginning with numerous switch backs that took us higher and higher up with each turn, the 107 degree day left us drinking greedily from our water bottles. We opted to undertake this hike midday in order to avoid the early morning crowds of those adventurists trying to beat the heat. As we gained elevation, the sheer red rock cliffs rose up all around us but we were too preoccupied looking at where we were going to appreciate the scenery fully. With wet shirts and dangerously low water supplies, this father son duo reached the most infamous portion of the trail; the chains. The chains are the final section before hikers reach the summit of Angel’s Landing. With 5,000 foot drops to either side of the trail, the chains are put in place to give hikers a firm handhold so that they do not plummet to their death on the valley floor below. Me, being keen to the idea of adventure and whatever danger came with it, was not faced by the exposure being presented to us. My dad, on the other hand, was left with knots in his stomach as he made sure to have four points of contact whenever he could. 

Traversing the narrow sections and utilizing the chains to aid in our ascent of the steep parts, we finally reached the top. A wide, flat area, 5,770 feet above the ground below, this area was the perfect place to rest and take in the views of the canyon; something you might see in a Jurassic Park movie. My dad and I reveled in our sense of accomplishment at having completed this route under the baking midday sun. The human presence at the top was sparse, meaning that we could enjoy the views and the soft breeze in peace without the massive crowds that usually congregate to this hike in the cooler parts of the day.

Heading back to the shuttle pick-up point was just as eventful. Traversing the chains in reverse and descending the switchbacks, one after the other. After the few hours spent in the hot sun, it was a relief to feel the cool air conditioning of the bus as we escaped the hot, dry weather and made the return trip to the car.