By Michael Lanza
Just a few weeks ago, en route to a family backpacking trip down Paria Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border, we had a few hours to kill in Zion National Park—a great place to kill a few hours. So we took a late-afternoon, family stroll on one of the most beloved and thrilling dayhikes in the National Park System, Angels Landing. Besides having beautiful weather, gorgeous light for the incomparable views of Zion Canyon, and few other hikers at that time of day, the outing marked a fun, little family anniversary: nine years since the first time we hiked Angels with our son, when he was five.
Nate was the youngest person we saw among the crowds on Angels Landing that first time he summited, with my wife and me, so he was a source of amusement to many hikers we passed (and no doubt a source of concern for others, given the exposure on the upper section of the Angels Landing Trail—where I shadowed Nate every step of the way). On this recent hike, Nate, now 14, and our daughter, Alex, 12 (who was three and not quite ready for Angels nine years ago), delighted in the steep, exposed scrambling to the summit. I got the above shot of Nate shortly before we reached the top.
Put the five-mile, 1,500-vertical-foot hike up Angels Landing high on your list of priorities when visiting Zion—as long as you don’t have a problem with heights. I recommend heading up in mid- to late afternoon if you’re confident of finishing the hike in three to four hours, because most of the hundreds of hikers who venture up there daily are coming down by then, the trail is shaded (it bakes in hot sun in the morning), and the early-evening light on Zion Canyon is glorious.
This weekend marks the start of National Parks Week, celebrating America’s best idea. See all of my stories about Zion National Park and all of my stories about national park adventures and my stories about family adventures at The Big Outside, plus my popular story “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids,” “My Top 10 Family Adventures,” and my “10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Safe Outdoors.”