Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park
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Angels Landing is an iconic Zion hike and the trail draws thousands of hikers every day. Although the views from Angels Landing itself are incredible, it is the challenging, dangerous and utterly compelling final half mile of the hike that makes this trail remarkable. After navigating the winding West Rim switchbacks and the famous Walter’s Wiggles, the last part of the trail sees hikers scrambling along chains on a narrow rock ridge surrounded by a 1,400 foot drop on either side.
For those of you planning a trip to Zion National Park we wanted to share our experience and tips for hiking to Angels Landing.
July 2020 update: the chains sections of Angels Landing remains closed as operations are resumed in Zion National Park. It is still possible to hike the same trail to Scout Lookout but the last 1/4 mile to Angels Landing is not accessible. Scout Lookout is a great standalone hike and Canyon Overlook is another trail with incredible views – both trails are open as of July 2020.
Angels Landing Trail
Angels Landing is a popular trail in Zion National Park beside the town of Springdale, Utah. The park is home to the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world and they soar over the Virgin River and the Zion Canyon valley floor.
Angels Landing got its name in 1916, when, exploring the park with three friends, Fredrick Fisher declared that ‘only angels might land on it’ when seeing Angels Landing for the first time.
It is accessed by hiking a portion of the long-distance West Rim trail to Scout Lookout before making the final half mile climb on the challenging Angels Landing trail. The hike to Angels Landing includes the iconic Walter’s Wiggles, Refrigerator Canyon and Scout Lookout on the West Rim trail. The final half mile follows the Angels Landing trail along an impossibly narrow rock ledge with 1,400 foot drops on either side. The Angels Landing hike was our favorite in Zion National Park and one of the most beautiful we have ever hiked.
A combination of the adrenaline inducing trail and the spectacular views of the Zion Canyon from Angels Landing make it one of the best hikes in Zion National Park.
Angels Landing Trail Map
We have put together this map of the Angels Landing trail which includes the main parts of the trail.
How to Use this Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.
Where to stay in Zion National Park
Zion has both in park accommodation and out of park options in Springdale which is adjacent to the main south entrance to the park.
Springdale: given the shuttle system, it is just as easy and likely less expensive to stay adjacent to the park in the small town of Springdale. Springdale has other advantages including easier access to food options and more modern lodgings.
- Cable Mountain Lodge: great selection of family friendly rooms, excellent food and an outdoor pool overlooked by the Zion Watchman! Its location, adjacent to the Zion Visitors Center, means you can hop on the park shuttle bus and reach any of the trails within minutes. Our Zion favorite – check prices now!
- Flanigan’s Inn: just 10 minutes walk from the Zion entrance and located on a Springdale Shuttle stop, Flanigan’s Inn is a reasonably priced option with good sized clean rooms, a pool and a hot tub – check prices now!
In Zion: For us, there are two reasons we like to stay in the park: the first is if we want to camp. The second is for getting an early start on Angels Landing with the trail head which is within walking distance of Zion Lodge.
- Camping: There are two campsites, Watchman Campground and South Campground, within the park. Both campsites are located near the visitors center at the South entrance. At the Watchman sites are released for reservation on a 6 month rolling basis while in the South Campground it is on a 14 day rolling basis.
- Zion Lodge: located deep within the park the historic lodge offers a mix of cabins and hotel rooms. We’ve stayed in the Lodge and it’s a nice traditional option which really allows you to immerse yourself in the park. The lodge fills up well in advance and the rooms are basic and expensive – check prices here!
Hiking to Angels Landing
Angels Landing is a strenuous 5.4-mile hike with steep switch backs, a shaded canyon and an adrenaline inducing final ascent on the Hogsback, the impossibly narrow spine which leads up to Angels Landing.
The views of Zion Canyon are remarkable but the real reward comes from having conquered one of the most extraordinary and dangerous trails in the US.
Angels Landing tip: Angels Landing is not for the faint of heart. It should not be attempted by those who struggle with heights or younger kids (up to at least pre-teen depending on hiking competency). The final half mile of the trail from Scout Lookout includes exposed ledges, scrambling along chains and 1,400 foot drops on either side of the narrow ridge leading to Angels Landing. Huge crowds flock to the trail on busy days making it even more challenging. While the hike is manageable, it is dangerous and there have been fatalities on the trail.
- Hike Length: 5.4 miles round trip
- Hike Time: 4 to 6 hours. The trial has bottlenecks along the chained section and high crowds can significantly increase the hike time.
- Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
- Hike Difficulty: Angels Landing is classed as strenuous by the National Parks Service. The trail is challenging with considerable elevation gain and exposed sections with huge drop offs after reaching Scout Lookout.
- Zion Shuttle stop: The Grotto (stop 6 on the Zion Shuttle)
Angels Landing tip: on our last visit to Zion we took our 2-year-old and 9 month old along. After making it to Scout Lookout I continued to Angels Landing while Elaine ventured a little further on the West rim with the kids until I returned to Scout Lookout.
The hike to Angels Landings starts at the Grotto, stop 6 on the Zion Shuttle, and follows the West Rim Trail for the first 2 miles to Scout Lookout before branching off to the Angels Landing trail which is the last 0.5 mile stretch of the hike.
After crossing the Virgin River the trail splits into the West Rim trail and the Kayenta Trail. The Kayenta trail leads to the Emerald Pools while the West Rim leads to Scout Lookout and the spur trail to Angels Landing. The iconic Angels Landing rock comes into view almost immediately, jutting over Zion Canyon.
The West Rim switchbacks
As the trail starts to climb up toward the lengthy West Rim switchbacks the views of the park below start to really open up. There are some beautiful viewpoints along this section of the trail before entering Refrigerator canyon.
Angels Landing tip: There are exposed rock ledges on this part of the trail but the path is wide.
After the switchbacks the trail levels out and leads into a narrow canyon known as Refrigerator Canyon, aptly named due to the cool breeze and shaded paths in the canyon.
Angels Landing tip: Refrigerator Canyon offers the only shade on the entire Angels Landing Hike so it’s a nice break after the climb up the switchbacks
Refrigerator Canyon leads to one of the most iconic sections of the Angels Landing hike, Walter’s Wiggles. Walter’s Wiggle are a series of 21 short but steep switchbacks. The switchbacks were completed in 1926 in order to provide easy access to the Angels Landing and West Rim trails. They were named after Zion’s first Superintendent, Walter Ruesch, who was responsible for their construction. The dizzying switchbacks are a relentless test of stamina and an incredible part of the trail.
After reaching the top of Walter’s Wiggles you will arrive at Scout Lookout. There are some great views of the Canyon from the lookout: Big Bend, the recent rockfall which closed Weeping Rock, the Virgin River and the incredible rock formations surrounding Zion Canyon are all visible from Scout Lookout.
The spine of Angels Landing looms in the distance, enticing hikers to continue on the trail.
Angel Landing tip: If your hiking group is a mix of Scout Lookout and Angel Landing hikers, a good plan is to assume it will take an extra 1 to 1.5 hours to hike to Angels Landing and make it back to Scout Lookout. If you want to make the descent together then venture further out on the West Rim trail while you wait. On our most recent visit to Zion Elaine continued along the West Rim with our young kids while I made the final approach to Angels Landing and we met up to hike back to the Grotto together after about 90 minutes.
Hogsback / The Spine
After Scout Lookout it is a relatively straightforward hike across the saddle until you reach Hogsback. Hogsback is the steep, narrow section with chains which has massive drops on either side and is often referred to as the spine. At some points it is just a few feet wide.
Angels Landing tip: you really need to be comfortable with heights and exposed edges as one wrong step here could be fatal.
After the initial scramble up from Scout Landing, hikers are introduced to the Angels Landing chains and exposed ledges.
The trail narrows and becomes a single track which weaves from one side of the spine to the other as hikers make their way up to Angels Landing.
I hiked this section very early in the morning and the quiet trail made for an incredible experience. On my descent, the trail was busier and the chain sections were really busy. It was much slower coming down as a result.
The Angels Landing Chains
Chains have been bolted into the rock to assist hikers in navigating the steep sandstone rock on the Hogsback spine safely. As well as being strenuous, the chains are often one of the most time-consuming parts of the trail: at most points on the chains only a single hiker can safely navigate and this creates bottlenecks.
Angels Landing tip: the sandstone is really slippery when wet so the trail should be avoided after rain. If you are hiking in winter, we highly recommend throwing a pair of YakTrax in your day bag. YakTrax are hiking spikes that you clip onto your hiking trainers or boots and give you extra grip on wet or icy ground. We used ours on all our winter hikes in Utah and found them amazing.
The narrow section of the spine the trail widens as hikers scramble up towards the summit of Angels landing.
After conquering the Hogsback, the final part of the trail is known as the Landing where hikers are rewarded with breath taking views over Angels Landing. Angels Landing is at 5,790 feet elevation and the panoramic views of Zion Canyon are incredible.
Is Angels Landing Safe?
There is no doubt that Angels Landing is a difficult trail that requires extreme care, especially on the final half mile ascent to the Landing.
At some points the Hogsback spine narrows to a few feet, and at times, hikers have to pull themselves up parts of the trial and stand aside for passing hikers. There is a 1,000 foot drop into the canyon on either side of the spine so one wrong step can be fatal.
However, the hike is very manageable when conditions are good and hikers take extreme care on the trail. Thousands of hikers successfully complete the hike to Angels Landing every day. That is not to say it is not without its dangers. There have been deaths recorded on the trail: the National Parks Service have noted 9 accidental deaths on Angels Landing.
Hiking Angels Landing with kids
Angels Landings is one of the most difficult hikes in Zion National Park and should only be attempted with older kids (probably at least teenage years) who are competent hikers and have no issues with heights. However, kids of all ages can make it as far as Scout Lookout.
Angels Landing tip: we took our 2 year old and 9 month old to Zion on our most recent trip. I did the Angels Landing hike: Elaine and the kids accompanied me to Scout Lookout and they explored a little of the West Rim while I went up and back to Angels Landing. We wouldn’t recommend attempting the full Angels Landing trail with kids in a hiking backpack.
Tips for Hiking Angels Landing
- Start the hike as early as possible: Many hikers gravitate to Angels Landing when visiting Zion and, with other strenuous trails like Observation Point closed due to rockfall, the Angels Landing trail can get exceptionally busy. High crowds result in bottlenecks along the chained section and, in our experience, make the trail more challenging. It can be terrifying to watch another hiker struggle with the exposed ledges or take a slip on the trial. The best way to avoid this is to hike to Angels Landing first thing in the morning.The easiest way to avoid the crowds is to aim for the first Zion and arrive at the Grotto as early as possible. Alternatively, stay in Zion Lodge and walk to the Angels Landing Trail before the shuttles start. This is what I did.
Angels Landing tip: On our last visit, I started the Angels Landing hike around 2 hours before sunrise so most of the hike up Scout Lookout was in the dark. It was an incredible and surreal experience.
- Be patient: the chains section is very challenging and there isn’t much room to pass other hikers. Give others a chance to navigate a section and take your turn.
- Water: bring at least 1 liter of water per person and 2 liters in the summer months. There is a water fill up station by the Grotto picnic tables.
- Hiking after rain: the final push to Angels Landing can be slippery after rain.
- Ice: Angels Landing is treacherous when icy. Make sure to wear good hiking boots and use Yaktrax
- Summer accessories: sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun
- Winter accessories: layers of clothing, a warm hat and a good jacket. The trails can be icy in places in Zion in Winter so invest in good hiking shoes/boots and Yaktrax ice grips for added grip.
- Restrooms: there are bathrooms located at both the Grotto and Scout Lookout. The Scout Lookout restrooms should be saved for an emergency!
- Avoid if you have a fear of heights: avoid Angels Landing if you have any kind of fear of heights. It’s impossible not to catch a glimpse of the 1,000 foot drops to the Canyon floor.
Alternative Hikes in Zion National Park
Zion National Park is home to some iconic hikes and we love exploring its trails. Some great hikes in addition to Angels Landing are:
- Canyon Overlook: Located in the east of the park, Canyon Overlook leads hikers 1,000 feet above the Zion canyon floor. It is a 1 mile moderate hike with little elevation gain. The Canyon Overlook Trail has one of the most spectacular views in Zion National Park.
- The Narrows: the iconic Zion Narrows follows the Virgin River into a narrow slot canyon. It is a difficult 9.4 mile out and back hike depending on how far you venture. The trail begins at the end of the Riverside Walk.
- Riverside Walk: Riverside Walk is a peaceful hike along a relatively flat paved trail which runs adjacent to the Virgin River. It starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the final stop on the Zion Shuttle and the start of the trail leads up the canyon past the tall weeping walls, lush vegetation and the occasional waterfall!
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