Masterpiece Trails: Switchbacks to Heaven

Get the story behind Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah—and how to see it yourself.
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Get the story behind Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah—and how to see it yourself.

WORKERS CONSTRUCTED the sinuous, vertiginous, simply outrageous trail to the top of Angels Landing—a showpiece of early national parks trail building—in just two seasons, starting in 1925. Walter Ruesch, Zion’s first superintendent, planned and supervised construction of the 2.7-mile, 1,500-vertical-foot trek up the sandstone fin—he’s immortalized in the 21 tight switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles (previous page), his solution for the steep passage above Refrigerator Canyon. Climb them, and your only obstacle is a series of chains to hold onto while scrambling across a knife-edge ridge with 1,000-foot drops (right). Your reward? Some of the best views in the park on one of the country’s most spectacular trails. Trip dataContact (435) 772-3256; nps.gov/zion