As memorable as the cables on Half Dome, the final 'chokepoint' on the trail up Angel's Landing is along the summit crest. Anchored cable chains provide more stability on the steep vertical ground in this section. Forego this area when conditions are wet. Forego this area if you have a fear of heights.
If you are afraid of heights, Angel's Landing might not be for you. The final section of the hike is a chained section over the very spine of the peak. There are 1500 foot steep drop-offs on each side but worse are the people coming down who are getting an even hairier view than you. Them clutching the chains, white-knuckled does little for your own self-confidence. Don't look down and forge straight up. It's worth it!
Some of you that don't have a fear of heights may think I am being a bit too cautious. However, I must tell you to please be careful when hiking in Zion. There are some steep drop offs, and a fall from one of these would definitely be harmful, if not fatal. Just use common sense, and you will be fine.
While the East entrance road is gorgeous, delays may be experienced due to a tunnel (built in 1920's) too narrow for more than one large vehicle at a time.
RVs or vehicles larger than 7"10" wide and/or 11" 4" high must pay an addtional $15 entry fee (good for a return trip) for traffic control needed to allow passage. Rangers on either side of the tunnel will stop traffic while the vehicle passes through the tunnel. A lot of RVs in one day can result in long traffic delays during the busy season.
Contact the park for more info on tunnel restrictions if driving RVs, and reference the link below.
When hiking on Zion's many trails you will undoubtedly run across some of its less forgiving plant species. Within the park grows a few notable dangerous ones.
The first and most obvious is The Prickly Pear Cactus which has pear shaped "leaves" that have up to 1 inch (2.2 cm) long spines that are very sharp. They flower with yellow or purple flowers and can be quite inviting.
The next plant to watch out for is Poison Ivy. I did not encounter any of this plant variety but it is listed as one of the species that live in the park so it is important to be aware of that fact.
The last plant which I found to be the most common to run into was the Yucca Plant. It looks similar to a dwarfed palm tree It has long extremely tough leaves with very sharp spines at their ends. The leaves just so happen to be about 4 feet (1.2 m) off the ground in general and very easily poke into you if you are not watching out for them.
We visited in early March,and I must say the weather was absolutely beautiful in the Park.
But.. some trails can be covered with snow and ice in winter. Loose sand or peebles are slippery. Be careful on cliff edges when using cameras or binoculars.
If you visit in the winter be aware that some trails may be closed due to falling ice. This ice can be very dangerous, falling from great heights. Temperatures can be very high in the summer (105 degrees) so carry lots of drinking water if hiking. Avoid drainages after thunderstorms as flash floods can suddenly take place, sweeping you to your death.
The summer months in Zion mean two things. Warmer temperatures and more thunderstorms are likely. The average daily high temperature is over 90 degrees in June-September. The number of Thunderstorms spikes during July and August to more than 14 per month. They are usually expected in the afternoon and can occur almost without warning.
The danger involved is greatest in the case of flash flooding. For visitors hiking the narrows these flash floods can easily take your life. The small streams can come thundering down the narrow canyons with hundreds of logs and other debris and take you with them. The narrows provide little room for refuge from these floods so one must be extremely aware of any loud noises when hiking up the river.
Hiking in Zion Canyon in the Virgin River can be a unique and very rewarding experience. However, hiking in such a canyon can be very treacherous. Please always talk to rangers about the water levels and other dangers before heading to either the short or long versions of the Narrows hike.
Water levels/floods: The river is fed from streams and creeks hundreds of miles away. Even if the weather is clear the day you want to hike, a rain storm a day before a hundred miles upstream could trigger a flash flood that scrapes the canyon walls, with lots of debris inside. There are portions of the canyon, especially the Narrows section, where there is no high ground and no where to escape a flood. Watch the weather carefully and heed the ranger's recommendations on water levels.
Rocks: The river is filled with rocks of varying sizes. They are also slippery with mosses and worn smooth with water. Be careful while walking. My hiking partner turned an ankle partway through our trek and limped the whole rest of the way. A staff is a good bet to help keep your balance.
Do not take these warnings lightly... nearly every year people are injured or killed in the canyon which is very preventable. The year I did the whole hike 3 Californians had been killed just 2 weeks before I arrived. It is not meant to scare you away, but as with anything in Mother Nature, take heed and precautions.
On winter nights, temperatures often hover at just above freezing, causing snow and ice to form. For some scientific reason I'm not aware of, icicles like to form on metal. The handrails on this set of steps leading to Weeping Rock are not only cold to the touch, but slippery against your hands. Add to that the water spraying off Weeping Rock and you've got a virtual slip-n-slide going here. One word of caution: be careful on your early morning hikes.
Zion National Park is home of seveal poisonous snake species, including the feared rattlesnake. Any traveler should be careful to avoid being bitten, and especially make sure that you don't put your hands in places you can't see. A rattlesnake bite can be fatal. At the same time, don't let your fear of rattlers inhibit your ability to enjoy Zion. Rattlesnakes are more afraid of you than you are them, and they won't attack unless provoked. They can't out run you and they (usually) aren't smarter than you, so even if you spot one you're not really in danger -- just keep your distance.
This rattlesnake was safe to approach because his fangs were otherwise engaged and likely empty of vemon. Additionally, no rattler worth his salt would give up this hard-won dinner (yum, squirrel!) for a taste of me!
This warning is for any long steep hike, exposed to the sun all day. Bring water! I have attached some photos of people attempting Angel's Landing with little more than a 12 ounce bottle of water! One thing to keep in mind, the day I took these photo's it was 80 degrees out!
I don't know what these people are thinking but not only are they putting themselves in jeopardy, they risk the lives of rescuers and/or pulling rescuers away from possibly a more serious situation.
The women in the first picture have no daypack, and each holding just a 12 ounce bottle of water. The man and women again, one bottle of water each, no daypack and on top of that no shirt.
Last and the biggest offender, a man and woman with twin girls about 9-10 years old. Father is carrying only one 12 ounce bottle of water! For his family. Unbelievable!
Rarely to I encounter issues to the extent on my last visit. Usually a walk over to a loud group in the campground continuing after the 10pm quiet time with a polite request and reminder of the quiet hours does the trick. This last trip I was camping in the group camp ground area and things were out of control until 3am. I searched for a number to call on the internet and in the visitor guide provided by the park. The park guide does have an emergency number of course, 911 but also states 435-772-3322. Well thinking this wasn't a real emergency, I had to put up with it.
I complained the next morning as the park host drove around at 8am checking in with late arrivals. The park host told me the 435-772-3322 number is the one I should have called.
The park service should make mention of this in the guide!
So now you know it is ok to call that number for such occurrences.
If you have a genuine fear of heights, there will be some things in Zion that will simply not be fun for you. I recommend reading the description of hikes before you go as many come with the note "Long drop-offs and narrow trail. Not for anyone fearful of heights". Listen to them as they really mean it. The mother of all narrow hikes is the Angel's Landing hike which has portions were the trail is 3 feet (1 meter) wide with steep drop-offs on both sides. The good part is that on these hikes you can always find chains to hold on to.
Get into the park as soon as possible it gets really crowded by about 10-11am. If you are driving through it you will get ffrustrated if you don't leave early. There are many slow driving lookie loos who won't pull over for other traffic.