Zion National Park, Utah
Often included in lists featuring the “most dangerous” or “most spectacular” hikes in the U.S., the Angels Landing hike is not for the faint of heart. Any fear of height you may have will need to be overcome to successfully complete this unique, exhilarating and undeniably memorable hike in Zion National Park, Utah
Hiking Angels Landing – Not One For The Faint-Hearted
Although it’s often described as both mentally and physically challenging, one of the world’s great thrill hikes, hiking Angels Landing can actually be done by anyone with an average fitness level. While it’s definitely a serious ascent, the difficulties of this hike lie in the mental realm rather than the physical.
Located in the heart of Zion Canyon, the centerpiece and most-visited area in Utah’s Zion National Park, Angels Landing is a towering rock formation that rises 1,488 feet (454 meters) above the valley floor.
It’s an imposing sight from below, which, right before starting your Angels Landing hike, can make you wonder what on Earth you’re getting yourself into. I can tell you, though, that the rewards for overcoming your possible acrophobia are huge.
Angels Landing Hike in Zion National Park
The Angels Landing trailhead is across the road from the Grotto shuttle stop and picnic area in Zion Canyon. To get to Angels Landing, you have to follow the West Rim Trail for a couple of miles.
The first part of the Angels Landing trail—the West Rim Trail—is just like many other hiking trails, winding its way up a cliffside and offering fine views of Zion Canyon. I’d classify this section as moderate.
The last part of the West Rim Trail before you arrive at Scout Lookout is a short but steep section of 21 switchbacks. This is known as Walters Wiggles, one of the engineering wonders in Zion National Park, where you’ll quickly ascend a cliff wall.
After Scout Lookout awaits the renowned excitement that makes hiking Angels Landing so famous. This is where the trail ascends a very narrow ridge, with places where you’ll walk on a razor’s edge that’s only 4-5 feet wide.
Sheer drop-offs of 1,000 feet or more on both sides, often mere feet from the trail, make this one of the potentially most dangerous trails in the U.S.
Are You Sure You Want to Continue?
This is also why Scout Lookout, which offers a great view of the Angels Landing trail above, is where some hikers decide to turn back. You have a clear view of the lines of hikers going up, down or waiting in line.
Various Angels Landing chains, carved steps and guardrails offer at least something to hold onto as you slowly and carefully make your way to the top. The last half-mile of the trail is so narrow that it’s often quite difficult, or even impossible, to pass other people.
Considering that this is an out-and-back hike, people will be moving in opposite directions on the ridge, which often creates long jams and waiting times.
The Angels Landing hike is not particularly long, but just because of its popularity and challenging trail conditions, it can take several hours to complete the round-trip.
A Spectacular Angels Landing View: The Ultimate Reward
At trail’s end, the summit of Angels Landing, you’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world. You’ll be standing at the very top of a giant rock formation, high above the Zion Canyon floor.
For me personally, the panoramic Angels Landing view is one of the most spectacular and rewarding vistas I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Especially because I actually do have a fear of heights, managing to make it up to Angels Landing felt like a huge accomplishment. The reward was magnificent!
Additionally, I also encourage everyone to take your time at the top, savor the scenery and enjoy the views. The 360-degree panorama takes in major landmarks in Zion Canyon, including Observation Point (which is another phenomenal day hike in Zion National Park), the Great White Throne, the entrance to the Narrows and Red Arch Mountain.
Once atop Angels Landing, you’re really only halfway through the challenge. You still have to make your way down the steep knife-edge ridge, which could actually be more difficult than going up.
So, I recommend taking the time to rest up, have some water and food. You’ll need both mental focus and physical endurance to get back down!
Tips for Hiking Angels Landing
Due to the obvious challenges presented by the Angels Landing hike, there are a number of things you should take into consideration. Keeping the following tips in mind will ensure an enjoyable hike as well as your safe and sound return to the trailhead.
- Make sure you have proper hiking footwear. The trail is generally in excellent condition, but the steep climb at the end requires good traction and solid shoes. Please don’t hike in flip-flops! Hiking poles may be useful on steep sections like Walters Wiggles, but are useless on the narrow ridge.
- Bring water and food. It can get hot in Zion Canyon; its critical to stay hydrated and fueled up.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen. On an Angels Landing hike, you’re exposed at virtually all times. There’s very little shade.
- Know your hiking ability. Don’t attempt this hike if you’re not sure you’ll be able to finish it. Turning around on the ridge is difficult and may endanger other hikers. If you have a serious fear of heights, you might want to turn around at Scout Lookout (the Angels Landing view is beautiful there, too!).
- Stay on the trail! Don’t be stupid and go off-trail for a “better” photo. Carelessness can result in severe injuries or even death on this trail.
- Don’t take small children or pets. Pets are prohibited on the Angels Landing trail, while hiking with small kids is strongly discouraged.
- Use a small backpack. You’ll need your hands to be free to climb to the Angels Landing summit. So, make sure you don’t limit your manoeuvrability by wearing a large backpack or carrying hiking poles. Consider a hydration pack rather than regular water bottles.
- Start early! Hiking Angels Landing is extremely popular. To beat the crowds, keep your hike as safe as possible and have the best possible experience, I recommend starting your hike at dawn.
- Adhere to trail etiquette. Hikers have to pass and cross each other on the last 0.5 miles of the hike, so it’s important to be patient and courteous. Up and down traffic is on the same, sometimes very narrow trail. Remember that unwritten hiking rule that uphill traffic has the right of way.
- Watch the weather. Don’t do the Angels Landing hike when the weather forecast isn’t looking good. Rain, snow and ice may create life-threatening conditions on the trail, while lightning strikes during summer thunderstorms are potentially very dangerous as well.
Hiking Angels Landing FAQs
Where is Angels Landing?
Angels Landing is in the heart of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, southwestern Utah. It’s a massive rock formation that towers above the Virgin River, at the river’s Big Bend.
Where is the Angels Landing Trailhead?
The Angels Landing hike is a combination of the West Rim Trail and the Angels Landing Trail. Access to the West Rim Trail is from the Grotto shuttle bus stop and picnic area, which is clearly indicated. You can get to this trail by crossing a bridge across the Virgin River, on the opposite side of the road from The Grotto.
You can get to The Grotto via the free Zion Canyon shuttle bus in the busy season. (Personal car traffic is only allowed in winter, but that’s not the recommended time to hike Angels Landing.)
What is the Best Time to Hike Angels Landing?
Hiking Angels Landing is strongly discouraged in winter. Because some sections are very steep, narrow and extremely exposed, winter weather can create dangerous conditions.
Both rain and snow can make the trail slippery. You don’t want to lose your footing here! Bad trail conditions can also cause trail closures in winter.
The hiking season in Zion National Park is from spring through fall. Summer is extremely popular, but can bring high temperatures and thunderstorms. Therefore, I recommend hiking Angels Landing in either spring or fall.
How Long is the Angels Landing Hike?
The round-trip distance of the Angels Landing hike is 5.4 miles (or 8.7 kilometers). This is an out-and-back hike, so it’s 2.7 miles up and the same 2.7 miles back down.
How Long Does it Take to Hike Angels Landing?
Despite the Angels Landing Trail not being particularly long, completing this hike can take several hours. The above-mentioned narrowness of the trail, combined with heavy foot traffic, often causes (long) delays on the ridge.
This is not a hike you should attempt if you have limited time. It’s impossible to rush this, since you’re sharing the trail with dozens, often hundreds, of other people.
Between Scout Lookout and the top, you’re hiking at the pace of the slowest hiker (and often much slower because you’ll need to take regular breaks to let other people get up or down).
The National Park Service website has an estimated Angels Landing hike time of 4 hours. This greatly depends on the number of other hikers, though. If you start really early, it’s possible to do this in less than 3 hours.
How High is Angels Landing?
The summit of Angels Landing is 5,990 feet (1,765 meters) above sea level.
What is the Angels Landing Elevation Gain?
From the trailhead on the Virgin River’s bank at the bottom of Zion Canyon to the very top of Angels Landing, you’ll climb 1,488 vertical feet (453 meters). Remember that, when standing at the top, that’s the height you’ll be above the valley floor below—straight down. It’s a majestic sight and feeling.
Are Water and Restrooms Available on the Way?
You can top up your water bottles at The Grotto, which also has restrooms. There are no other water sources on the trail itself, but there is a restroom at Scout Lookout. Note that the Scout Lookout restroom can have pretty long lines due to the popularity of that location (people leaving for or returning from the ridge section).
Where Can I Find an Angels Landing Trail Map?
The official website of Zion National Park has a map of Zion Canyon, which clearly shows the way to Angels Landing. The trailhead is at The Grotto, shuttle bus stop number 6 on that map.
How Many People Have Died on Angels Landing?
Here’s a statistic that proves how real the dangers of an Angels Landing hike are: since 2004, there have been no fewer than eight Angels Landing deaths that were the result of an accident. (That number is even higher when suspicious deaths are included, too.)
In 2019 alone, two people have died while hiking Angels Landing, the last of whom was killed as recently as November. So, once again, I urge you to be careful on the Angels Landing trail, be courteous and patient, don’t hike in bad weather, and stay on the trail.
Hopefully, this Angels Landing hike guide can help you plan your adventure in Zion National Park. Take the provided tips into account to ensure a safe and memorable experience and, above all, have fun!
If you are planning to go hiking in the USA, this is, without doubt, one of the world’s greatest hiking experiences and one you will remember forever.
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