Tossing around some Utah vacation ideas for this summer? Zion National Park is one of the state’s most popular destinations. In fact, this beautiful destination ranked second among the most-visited national parks in the U.S. in 2021.
Part of Zion’s popularity is the range of trails and other outdoor attractions it has to offer. The park’s challenging hiking trails are a draw for many visitors. But there’s also plenty to do for those who don’t want to hit the trail during their visit.
Of course, if you’re up for a challenge, you’ll no doubt want to consider attempting the hike to Angels Landing. This difficult hike is perhaps best known for its final section before the summit. Here, hikers walk a narrow ridgeline with only a metal handrail on one side to help keep their balance. But this is far from the park’s only unique feature.
Before you get to the peak of Angels Landing, you’ll first need to take on Walter’s Wiggles. This challenging element is one that many guests don’t know about until they arrive. Planning a stay at the best vacation rentals Zion National Park has to offer? Keep reading to learn more about this landmark, how it got its name, and what hikers should know ahead of time.
What is Walter’s Wiggles?
Starting 1.8 miles into a 2.4-mile hike to the summit of Angels Landing, Walter’s Wiggles is a series of 21 steep switchbacks. Here, the trail zig-zags back and forth along paved ramps. This design allows hikers to make their way up the cliff face without the need for climbing gear.
Walter’s Wiggles isn’t a natural feature of this trail. Instead, they were carefully carved into the rocky face by workers during the early days of the park. These switchbacks were designed and implemented by Walter Ruesch. Ruesch was the first superintendent of Zion National Park. Looking for a way to get hikers up the steep face, he launched the creation of his namesake wiggles in 1926. They’ve been carrying hikers skyward ever since!
In the mid-1980s, erosion on the trail due to weather and increasing visitor numbers made the climb up Walter’s Wiggles and the West Rim Trail treacherous. The National Park Service launched a restoration project that included hauling 88 cubic yards of concrete up to Walter’s Wiggles by way of a helicopter to pave the rocky ramps.
Tips for Hiking Walter’s Wiggles
Hiking Walter’s Wiggles, like the rest of Angels Landing, isn’t for those not physically prepared for this difficult hike. Even if you’re an experienced hiker, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure that you’re prepared before hitting the trail.
Here are a few tips to help you safely tackle Walter’s Wiggles.
Get Familiar With the Lottery and Permit System
As of April 2022, visitors hoping to hike to Angels Landing will need a permit in order to do so. Getting a permit means entering one or both of the two available lotteries for your choice of date or dates. The first lottery opens several months ahead of the dates that it allots permits for, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you’d like to enter. There is a second lottery held each day to distribute permits for the following day as well.
Check out this guide to learn more about the Angels Landing lottery and permit system.
Like most of Angels Landing, Walter’s Wiggles are largely exposed. This, in addition to the steep climb, may cause your body to dehydrate much faster than you’re used to. Plan to pack more water than you normally would, and drink frequently during your hike.
Prepare for Higher Elevations
The high elevation of Zion and Angels Landing may cause those not used to it to feel dizzy or struggle to catch their breath. If you’re traveling to Zion from somewhere with a lower elevation, try to avoid hiking this trail on the first day of your visit. Instead, give your body at least a couple of days to get acclimated to the change in the air.
Choose the Best Vacation Rentals Zion National Park Has to Offer
The new lottery system has helped to reduce crowding on the trail. But if you are successful in getting a permit, you’ll still want to arrive at the park early in the day if you want to hike Angels Landing. This will allow you to hike the trail before the hottest part of the day, and ensure that you’re off the trail before sundown.
Staying at the best vacation rentals Zion National Park has to offer is a great way to do that. With a shuttle stop right on property, Watchman Villas makes it easy for guests to hop on the Springdale Shuttle to ride to the entrance to the park, and the start of the Zion Canyon Shuttle line. On busy days, this will save you the time and hassle of driving around town in search of parking and help you start your day stress-free.
Our Zion National Park villas also feature a full kitchen and dining area, where you can whip up a nutritious breakfast before hitting the trail. After a long day of hiking, soak in your en-suite tub to help get your muscles ready for even more adventures.
The Best Utah Vacation Ideas for 2022
Looking for the best Utah vacation ideas for 2022? While the new permit and lottery system may make hiking Angels Landing a little less spontaneous, it also means that if you are lucky enough to hike it, you’ll have a more enjoyable, crowd-free experience.
When you stay at our Zion National Park villas, you’ll enjoy quick and easy access to the park via the Springdale Shuttle system. This means no fighting to find parking, and more time to enjoy the park!
Didn’t get a permit for Angel’s Landing during your trip? Don’t fret! Instead, check out these awesome alternative trails to try!