Hiking Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

 

Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the United States and Angel's Landing is easily one of my favorite day hikes. The park is beautiful and has landscapes that cannot be seen elsewhere in the U.S.

Angel's Landing provides both stunning views and an adrenaline rush. The last half mile of the hike has unbelievable dropoffs and chains to hold onto to keep from falling hundreds of feet below to the valley.

However, most of the trail, which goes up through Zion Canyon in the Colorado Plateau can be done by those afraid of heights. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about hiking Angel's Landing in Zion National Park and how to make it a complete success.

Short Summary of the Angel's Landing Trail

Angel's Landing is a 5-mile, 5-hour, roundtrip hike that goes along the West Rim Trail and through Refrigerator Canyon before arriving at the section of the trail that leads to legendary Angel's Landing.

The first two miles of the trail is along a well-paved path that follows the West Rim Trail. The first mile is relatively easy and flat but it is in the sun.

After one mile, the trail turns into Refrigerator Canyon, which provides shade and a cool breeze. This section of trail is steep and culminates at Walter's Wiggles, which are twenty-one sharp switchbacks. This will take you along to Scout Lookout, where there is a picnic area and restrooms, but no drinking water. 

If you are afraid of heights, you will want to stop here. However, if you feel like an adrenaline rush continue along the trail for the final half mile. This section has drop-offs on both sides. Eight hundred feet on one side and twelve hundred feet on the other.

The narrow trail has chains for use as handholds. You may have to backtrack at times on this part of the trail, as some parts are too narrow for people going up and people going down to pass at the same time.

I was extremely nervous going up this last half mile and desperately held onto the metal chains for dear life. Anyone who is afraid of heights should think twice.

Once you arrive at the lookout at the top of Angel's Landing, you will be presented with magnificent views Zion National Park and it will all be worth it in the end.

angels landing 3

For many, this won't seem like all that difficult or scary, but this was my first big hike and I made the mistake of not wearing the hiking shoes with traction on this particular day. Running shoes was not a good idea.

To this date, Angel's landing is still one of my favorite hikes of all time.

When to Go to Zion National Park

The best time to go is between March and October. If hiking in the summer months, get an early start to avoid the sun and heat.

During the winter, the trail can get icy and be dangerous. Never hike during a thunderstorm since lightning is a real danger and the rain can make the trail slippery. If there are strong winds, do not attempt the last half mile.

Angel's Landing begins at the Grotto Trailhead in Zion Canyon. Between April 1st and October 30th, cars are not allowed into Zion Canyon due to the high volume of visitors.

If visiting during this time, park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and take one of the shuttles to the Grotto stop. From November to March, the shuttles are not operating and you can drive to the Grotto Trailhead.

angels landing 2

What to Bring to Zion

Make sure to bring plenty of water, especially if hiking during the summer. Drinking water is available at the Grotto Trailhead, but not along the trail. It helped that we brought camelbacks full of water.

Scout Landing makes a good place for a picnic lunch or snack. Most of the hike is in the sun, so pack a hat and sunscreen. If ascending the last half mile of the trail, take only a small, comfortable hiking backpack so your hands will be free to grip the chains. Gloves will come in handy as well.

Lastly, don't forget to wear the right footwear with comfortable and stable hiking boots/shoes. I learned my lesson after this hike and always make sure to pack the right footwear from here on out.

FINAL WARNING... If You Are Afraid of Heights

If you are afraid of heights, you can still do the hike and omit the last half mile. I hiked Angel's Landing trailhead and had no issues throughout the first 5 hours.

While not as stunning, Scout Landing also has great views of Zion National Park. If you want to extend the hike, you can continue along the West Rim Trail from Scout Landing. 

It was a challenge for me at first, but one that I am glad I did. I never felt like I would fall or that it was overly dangerous, but that is not to say it wasn't scary! 

Even if you choose not to do the last part, it is worth it to do the hike! 

Conclusion

Angel's Landing Trail in Zion National Park is a strenuous hike with a handsome reward. Precautions need to be taken to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable hike.

Once you have ascended 1488 feet from the Grotto Trailhead and reached the top of Angel's Landing, you will be able to see some of the most famous landmarks in Zion National Park, including the Virgin River below, Big Bend, and Cathedral Mountain.

One of the great things about Angel’s Landing is that the sheer drop-offs are only at the very end, so adrenaline junkies and those with acrophobia can enjoy most of the hike together.

So plan your trip and get hiking!

 

Bio: Nate is an avid hiker and writes on his travels at https://www.liveoutdoorsy.com. Currently, he lives in Colombia with his wife where they teach Spanish online at https://www.spanishlandschool.com.

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Nate Alger

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Great hike, Nate!  I'm not sure I could have made it those last few hundred meters because I dislike walking along sheer drops, especially when they're on both sides!

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Dr.FumbleFinger I hear you! It was not an easy one for me and I was quite nervous doing the last few hundred meters. Others did it with ease, but I was holding on for dear life. 

Nate Alger

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