STAIRWAY TO ANGELS LANDING: HIKING THE WALTER’S WIGGLES SWITCHBACKS
Walter’s Wiggles is a series of 21 steep switchbacks on the hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Hiking Walter’s Wiggles is an experience you (and your knees) won’t likely forget, but take it from East Zion Adventures — the views at the top are undeniably worth it!
Be prepared to get your heart (and thighs and calves) pumping as you tackle these 21 switchbacks. Walter’s Wiggles begins about 1.8 miles into the Angels Landing hike, and has a steep elevation gain of 250 feet (from 5100 feet to 5350 feet) in a relatively short distance. The switchbacks are the last hurdle before reaching Scout Lookout at the turnoff from West Rim Trail to the Angels Landing summit. This is also the turnaround point for those unwilling to tackle the chained section to the top. There’s no shame in not reaching the summit of Angels Landing. You’ll still have an impressive view of Zion Canyon below, and bragging rights about conquering the challenging switchbacks.
Walter’s Wiggles to Angels Landing
The wiggles were the brainchild of Walter Ruesch, Zion National Park’s first superintendent, in 1926. Ruesch was no engineer, but the switchbacks, carved out of solid rock on a sheer cliff, were considered to be an engineering marvel.
This section of the West Rim trail, from Refrigerator Canyon to Angels Landing, underwent major repairs in 1985 in order to be repaved with concrete that would prevent future erosion and reduce the impact of Zion National Park’s ever-increasing visitor count. The project required 258 helicopter flights to haul 88 cubic yards of concrete to the site, and mules and maintenance crews to actually haul it up to the switchbacks. So the next time you’re hiking Angels Landing, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the hard work that went into improving Walter’s Wiggles and the West Rim Trail – and be glad you’re not hauling concrete!
Whether you’re experiencing Walter’s Wiggles through a gorgeous photo or bravely hiking up the switchbacks, this section of Angels Landing is sure to take your breath away. It’s definitely a hike for the bucket list!
Tips for tackling Walter’s Wiggles:
- Keep in mind the effects this high-altitude hike can have on those not used to high elevations
- Take plenty of water and snacks to fuel your hike
- Don’t forget your phone or camera
- Plan at least 3 to 5 hours for the total Angels Landing hike, and go at your own pace
Note: The chained section of Angels Landing is currently closed to reduce crowding.
Featured photo: Mark Wade