Zion National Park, Part 1 - Watchmans Trail and Angel's Landing
Updated: May 14, 2020
Sorry for the lengthy posts. I am going to try to reduce the length for you and me. Let me know what you think. I took out more of the detailed stuff regarding just us.
After we arrived and got settled in, we headed up to the ranger station to ask about the Jr. ranger program and advice on which hikes are Lila appropriate. There is one hike here that Jen and Lila really want to do that I didn’t think was a good idea for Lila. Have you heard of Angel’s Landing…. The trail narrows down to near feet on each side of a chain that is bolted into the rock on the trail and if you slip you fall over 1000’ to your death. Hmm…. Sounds like a great idea! Maybe if you have to get that Instagram picture in! ;) Me…not so much! (Sky diving was enough for me) I have heard the view from Scout’s landing right before the treacherous spot is pretty amazing so I most likely will be stopping there with Lila. Anyways, we got to the visitor center and went to the information desk where Lila asked Ranger Drew, who is this 6’7”, broad shouldered guy, if there is a Jr. Ranger program at Zion. Ranger Drew got down on his knees to talk to Lila the whole time about the Jr. Ranger program and everything about Zion from a kids perspective (not her parents). He did a great job of conversing with Lila about all the questions she had and what trails he liked most. We asked him if Angel’s Landing would be ok for her and he was adamant that she was way too young to be on the trail to Angel’s landing. He said she could do the Western Rim Trail which includes the first 3/4 of Angel’s Landing trail with Walters Wiggles and the rest of the Western Rim Trail which is just as beautiful and amazing plus it is paved for the 1st 5 miles. He also gave us great pointers for the Narrows river hike and a few others.
After eating breakfast at the trailer and getting our morning coffee in, we headed to the Watchman Trail which is a 2.7 mile trail with an ascent of 369’. This trail is on the East side of the park so it was shady in most parts for the beginning of the hike which is good for our fair skinned hikers. Overall, it was a great beginner hike and we were able get great views over the visitor center and the town of Springdale below the park entrance.
When we got home to a cool 86° with the AC already on for the cats, Lila worked on school work and read for 40 minutes, Jen went on a walk and made some work calls, and I finished my last blog from Caliente. I didn’t realize how much time this would take, but it pretty fun to record our adventures (almost like a journal) I decided today that I can’t let days go by and catch up because I forget so much and it takes so long to get caught up so the plan is to write 30 minutes each night about what happen that day. (Not doing to well on this yet, it is Sunday and I am behind.)
We woke up to find that the cats had jumped on the counter to retrieve the hamburger drippings out of the pan. Not good!
Since the weather called for possible thunderstorms, we decided we should not go on the Narrows hike yet so we can avoid any possible flash flood conditions. Today, we are going to hike to Angel’s landing but at the Scout’s lookout area, Lila and I are going to turn left and go on the West Rim Trail and Jen might go to the end of Angel’s Landing. The trail is on the West side of the park so the sun hits it in the morning and shade starts coming around 3pm. (Thanks for the advice, Eric!) We are going to hang out at home (trailer) until then and work on Lila’s school work, Jen’s work and the stuff for my work that I need to catch up on from the other night. We did get the thunderstorms about noon and by 1pm it was clear skies and dry again.
After lunch, we loaded up the truck and headed up to the park for our hike to Angel’s Landing. The park was pretty full but there were a few spots left in the parking lot even though the signs all the way through Springdale said the park was full. We checked the Ranger Station for any weather warnings and took the shuttle bus into the park. Lila already seemed worn out (not a good sign).
The trail started out for the first 1/4 mile or so fairly flat but that changed pretty quick. We kept looking for Walter’s Wiggle and we thought we had spotted it, although it didn’t seem quite right (based on the photos we had seen).
Once we got going on what we thought was the wiggles we quickly found out why they called this a strenuous hike….wow! Let’s just say that if you are not in decent shape this hike might not be the best choice for you. In less than 2 miles you gain 850 feet in elevation.
About 1 mile in the trail flattened off and went through this cool (temperature wise) canyon aptly named Refrigerator Canyon between Angel’s Landing and another huge peak
then came the official WIGGLES!! (.2 miles and 250' elevation change) What an amazing and hard path, but the reward was well worth it!
After that, we walked Jen to the beginning of the trail and Lila and I gave Jen a final ;) hug and kiss before she attempted Angel’s Landing. We decided that it was best for Lila to not go out on this trail yet because even though she is a great hiker she still tends to play around a bit more than we would like to see especially since there are a couple points on this last half mile that are shear cliffs. We did go up the first 30-40’ then Jen continued on while Lila and I ate the rest of our carrots and bell peppers and watched some very nervous hikers continue on. Once the trail cleared out, we climbed back down to the Scout’s landing area and enjoyed the views and talked.
About 30 minutes into waiting for Jen, we saw a storm brewing to the East of us and thought Jen better hurry up then we heard the thunder. :( About 15 minutes later, the storm was getting closer and closer and the wind picked up and started throwing the fine sand from the ground into our eyes and we really started thinking Jen better get back before she is blown off there. Fortunately, about 5 minutes later, Jen came walking around the corner and we decided to head down, but not before Lila had to use the potty again. Eww!
I have determined that I am not a big fan of these steep hikes and not for the up hill part, but the downhill is brutal on my feet slamming into the front of my boots. Lila agrees, she has the same problem.
Together, we walked back down the hill keeping Lila on the inside as much as possible because she tends to run sometimes and there is no forgiving on these corners.
Once we got down to the bottom of the wiggles and through Refrigerator Canyon the storm caught up to us and you could hear the lightning cracking through the dry air and we got rained on but not very hard.
With the trail complete, we headed home for some dinner and a good nights sleep to start over again at 6am tomorrow.
Side Note, and politics aside:
I just want to say that the CCC- Civilian Conservation Corp program that built all these trails across most of our National Parks did an amazing job. Some of the young men in the early 1930’s that worked on these trails had to be pretty fearless to be building some of these trails right into the cliff sides. Every park we have been to always has one or more structures or trails that were built by the CCC. In Zion's case, I think it was all built by the CCC.