Zion National Park is a beautiful expanse of mountains, streams and foresty seclusion outside of the small town of St. George, Utah. It’s also conveniently a 3 hour drive from Las Vegas, NV. This January I took a weekend getaway with my friend (and all-star hiking buddy) Brittanie and her husband Jamal. We set off on an early Friday afternoon for Las Vegas, but not to party. We used Sin City as home base between San Diego and Zion National Park.
Saturday morning we headed out around 5am to hit the trails as early as possible. The destination specifically was Angel’s Landing, a famous hike in Zion for its end point – a chain lined vertical climb to the peak of the park.
We knew the day before weather had called for “snow flurries,” but when we got there we realized there was a lot more snow than “flurries.” Nevertheless we trekked across the first bridge over the stream and ascended into the hills.
The first few switchbacks are pretty steep and the snow and ice slowed us down, but that’s ok. When hiking you’re never really in a hurry.
We made it through the canyon and to the switchbacks. I saw pictures of these before and this is one of the parts I was scared of. Turns out the switchbacks are short, yes steep, but not that hard at all! The hardest part was coming down after it got extremely icy and slippery. People were falling all over the place, including me! The whole way up we kept asking passersbys how the chains looked. Every one replied that is was slippery and sketchy and to be careful.
That is indeed what it was. Once we reached the top we talked with other hikers who were skipping the chains that day too due to snow and ice. Without snow chains on your hiking boots you would easily slip and potentially fall to your death (you’d be the seventh person to die in this section of the hike according to the many signs posted around the area).
From the lookout just before the chain, we spent some time soaking in the beauty of the park, and if you go I would recommend you do the same. Snow covered mountains are peaceful and serene. There’s no other feeling like that.
Since we couldn’t do the chains, and had only been hiking about an hour now, we decided to explore the West Rim Spring trail. The snow covered trail had fresh powder up to 2 feet in some areas and absolutely no one else on it with us. I can’t remember the last time I had been so cold/wet, alone and happy in nature. The trail said it was 3 miles, but it felt like we walked a lot more before we crossed a bridge and decided to turn back. At that point there were no more trail signs and no end to the trail in sight. The trail was varied with inclines and declines with narrow and wider pathways. I definitely recommend this trail no matter if you can make it to Angel’s Landing or not.
We turned around and started trekking out, but not before playing with icicles and making snow angels.
Like I said before, the descent back down was the hardest part because of how slippery and icy it was. By the afternoon so much snow had melted, been compacted by other hikers and frozen into ice patches that we had to hike slowly and carefully back down.
Once we made it back to the starting point we had already been hiking for 4 hour and burned 1,500 calories.
We had initially planned to walk to the Emerald Pools trail, but by the time we got down the mountain we had been hiking we were beat. Since we had to skip the chains, both Angel’s Landing and Emerald Pools as well as The Narrows are on the itinerary for our next visit to Zion National Park. Although it was snowy and cold on the winter day we went, I would still not recommend going in summer. It can be upward of 100 degrees in the summer and the trail isn’t shaded the whole time.
Next hiking trip, you ask? Joshua Tree National Park + the neighboring Painted/Ladder Canyon!