‘A safer Angels Landing’: Developer of Above Zion project opens guided trail hike near Kolob Reservoir

VIRGIN — Angels Leading Ledgewalk, a via ferrata inspired trail that takes hikers on a climbing adventure through a dramatic canyon cut by Kolob Creek, is now open for guided tours.

Janel Bassett, 63, maneuvers along Angels Leading Ledgewalk’s via ferrata route above the canyon cut by Kolob Creek, Utah, Aug. 5, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

The trail is located on private property a few miles south of the Kolob General Store, which is on Kolob Terrace Road approximately 22 miles northwest of Virgin. From the store to the trailhead, it’s about a 10-minute drive on a dirt road. The trail starts off on level ground and then courses north to where hikers clip on to a safety cable and begin the route.

From there, the trail weaves through ponderosa pines and other evergreens and features a stunning view of a waterfall.

Ian Crowe told St. George News that Angels Leading Ledgewalk has been in development for about two years. Crowe is the Above Zion developer who is working to refine his 1,700-acre campground project proposed on Kolob Mountain immediately north of where Kolob Creek borders the northwest section of Zion National Park.

Crowe describes Angels Leading Ledgewalk as a “safer Angels Landing,” referring to the popular trail in Zion National Park.

Similar to Angels Landing, Angels Leading Ledgewalk takes hikers up and down steep cliffsides that lead to incredible vistas, but as opposed to the chains found on the last quarter mile of the most dramatic – and perilous – section of Angels Landing that hikers can hold for security, Angels Leading Ledgewalk is a type of “via ferrata” route, where hikers wear harnesses and are hooked to a safety cable for the majority of the hike.

Maree Crowe sits at an overlook point on the Angels Leading Ledgewalk just a few miles south of Kolob Reservoir, Utah, Aug. 5, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

Via ferrata is an Italian term that means “iron path.” These types of routes employ metal rungs or ladders for hikers to climb or descend while remaining hooked to a safety cable by two lanyards that safeguard against a fall.

Crowe said the design of the trail also prevents large crowds of people being on the trail or having to pass others on a narrow path – both circumstances that are regularly seen on Angels Landing.

“This is a loop to where you’re not having to pass people, and you can space people out, so it’s also a little more friendly to the COVID situation.”

Crowe said Angels Leading is part of a larger plan that he hopes will offer people the chance to experience hidden gems on Kolob Mountain that have long been blocked off by private property.

“We’re just trying to provide a good experience on private land that you would never see unless we opened that up,” he said, adding that since they’ve started, there haven’t been any safety issues.

Hikers climb the via ferrata route on the Angels Leading Ledgewalk, located just a few miles south of Kolob Reservoir, Utah, Aug. 5, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

While at first glance, the trail might seem intimidating, Jared Wright, a guide for the trail, told St. George News this is a trail most anyone can do, from ages 8 to 80.

“If you’ve done the Narrows or Angels Landing, you can definitely do this.”

In addition to guiding, Wright also worked on part of the trail and said that the rungs are all drilled about a foot into the rock.

“We used pretty standard glue-in techniques similar to rock climbing bolts,” he said. “You basically use a hammer drill, drill into the rock about a foot and then in two places fill it with glue.”

After pushing in the rungs, the extra glue oozes out and then is peeled off to “leave a nice natural finish.”

Besides the safety cable and the use of two lanyards for extra security, guides also bring along a rope and other belay devices in the case that a hiker gets into a situation that stops them in their tracks.

Looking down from Angels Leading Ledgewalk to where Kolob Creek flows toward Zion National Park, Utah, Aug. 5, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“We can actually attach a rope to them and get above them and somewhat pull them up to help them through that situation,” he said.

Wright added that he is confident that with the safety measures they have in place, anyone who can hike 1 or 2 miles and has the ability to climb a ladder – “even if it’s not in the most graceful way” – will be able to get through Angels Leading.

Janel Bassett, a 63-year-old resident of Springdale who hiked the trail on Wednesday morning, told St. George News that the adventure was a fantastic experience.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” she said.

The hike takes about 2 1/2 hours to complete. Guides will provide equipment, which includes a helmet and harness. Hikers should wear closed-toe shoes.

Wright said they plan to run tours until Oct. 1. A grand opening is expected to take place at the beginning of the 2021 season.

Group sizes can be up to 10 people per guide, and the guided hike costs $110 per person. For a single person, it will cost $330. Anyone interested should call 801-550-1761.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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