One of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, Angels Landing is a breathtaking experience that thousands of hikers from all over the world visit every year, and with the last 0.5 miles involving drop offs over one thousand feet on either side of the trail, Angels Landing makes for an exhilarating, unforgettable hike! I do not recommend doing this hike with young children. If you are afraid of height, not an experienced hiker, and don’t have the proper shoes (no flip-flops), then do not do this hike. While it is an amazing hike, it can also be a dangerous one if you are not prepared.
Angels Landing Hike Details
Distance – 4.8 miles round trip
Approximate hiking time – 4 to 5 hours
Elevation at the trailhead – 4302 feet
Elevation at the top of Angels Landing – 5790 feet
Elevation gain – 1488 feet
Difficulty – Strenuous. The first mile is relatively easy. However, from Scout Lookout to the top of Angels Landing can be very dangerous. Over 1000 foot drops on either side of a narrow trail leading to the top. If any fear of heights, DO NOT GO.
Trail – first part is paved, the rest is over sandstone and sand
Amount of water recommended – At least 2 liters
Bathrooms – Located at the trailhead, and at Scout Lookout, about 2.0 miles from trailhead.
Season to hike – Normally from April 1st to October 30th, depending on the weather. Don’t attempt to hike at night, nor in rain or snow.
Permits – Park entrance fee is $25.
Pets allowed – Not on Angels Landing hike
How to get there:
From the North, you will be on Interstate 15 take the Toquerville/Hurricane exit and head east on Hwy 17. After driving on Hwy 17 for about 5.5 miles, you’ll come to the town of La Verkin. As you come into La Verkin, turn left onto 500 North, which is also Hwy 9. There will also be signs posted for Zion National Park at the intersection, that point to Hwy 9. As you follow it out of town, you will stay on Hwy 9 for about 21 miles, and it will lead all the way into Zion National Park. You’ll pass through the settlements of Virgin, Rockville, and Springdale, as you make you way to the Zion National Park entrance. From the South, you will exit Interstate 15 at the Hurricane exit which is also the junction for Hwy 9. Take Hwy 9 through Hurricane and up to La Verkin, turning right on 500 North (still Hwy 9) and follow it 21 miles to the Park entrance.
Hitting the Trail!
The trail begins by taking the Zion National Park shuttle to The Grotto Trailhead, which is the 6th stop on the shuttle. I would recommend starting this hike as early in the morning as possible. Zion National Park is extremely hot from April to September, and along the trail there is little shade with the exception of a small stretch. Bring plenty of water and apply sunscreen before starting. I would also recommend sunglasses and/or a wide brimmed hat. The strategy of going early will not only help you avoid the heat, but maybe more importantly, help you avoid the crowds. Hundreds, if not thousands of people attempt this hike each day during the spring and summer, and the going can be VERY slow on some parts of the trail. I will split this into four sections. Each section is very distinct from the others, and will be described in detail.
As you leave the shuttle area of the Grotto, you will cross over a foot bridge which spans the Virgin River. Take the trail that goes to the right from the foot bridge. The West Rim Trail is the official name of the trail that you will be on for the first 2 miles of the hike. The trail is sandy and well-marked, and shortly begins gaining elevation. As trail climbs, it will soon be a wider paved trail that takes you up some long switchbacks. There is plenty of room on this part of the trail to move to the side and take a breather if necessary. Take a minute to look down to where you started and you’ll see how you’ve ascended above most of the thick vegetation, and also the trail you’ve come up. Once you reach the top of the last switchback, you will have gotten a good workout and finished the first section of this hike. Give yourself a high-five!
After the last long switchback you’ll find yourself entering Refrigerator Canyon, which marks the second stage of this hike. It is short, relaxing and refreshing. Nestled between sheer rock walls that go for hundreds of feet above, you’ll enjoy the shade and a cool breeze, which is what makes Refrigerator Canyon such an appropriate name. It can be 95 degrees outside, but it is easily 20-25 degrees cooler here. Enjoy it, because this will be the last part of shade for the rest of the hike.
Back in 1926, at the end of Refrigerator Canyon, an aggressive construction effort by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was designed. A series of 21 switchbacks cut out of a sheer rock wall gains 500 feet in elevation, and marks the start of the third section of the hike. These 21 switchbacks are named Walter’s Wiggles, after the first name of the park’s superintendent who oversaw the construction. It was originally designed to make it possible for horses to ascend up to Scout Lookout from Refrigerator Canyon. It is a very effective way of scaling 500 vertical feet without realizing it. Upon reaching the top of Walter’s Wiggles, you’ll walk for a few minutes and come out to Scout Lookout, a flat, sandy open area where the West Rim Trail goes off to the left, and the trail to Angels Landing goes to the right. There are bathrooms at Scout Lookout, and is a good place to take a short break. It’s also the place where many hikers decide to turn back, because the final section of this hike is the most demanding part, if not the most demanding of almost any other hike you’ll ever do.
At this point, you’ve hiked two miles and the last, most challenging part awaits. As seen from the picture on the left, it involves climbing a narrow spine with drop offs of over 1200 feet on either side. This part of the hike is not for the faint of heart. You need to be attentive to each step you take, for one slip and there’s no coming back. There have been about ten deaths on Angels Landing, most have occurred just in the last ten years, so the danger is real. Don’t rush this part. Take your time and go at your own pace. While there are chains bolted into the rock and footsteps carved in the rock that aid in climbing, do not get complacent or distracted.
When I hiked this with five of my friends, they took a short break at Scout Lookout, and I continued up by myself, because I didn’t want any possible distraction from them. I wanted my full attention on navigating this final stretch. Now, I didn’t write that last part to scare you from going on this hike. I wrote it so you would know exactly what to expect. After successfully crossing the narrow rock fin to the top of Angels Landing, you will be treated to vista that will take your breath away. While it is not the tallest formation found in the park, it is positioned in the best possible spot, where you can enjoy views up and down the canyon. You can see the Virgin River flowing nearly 1500 feet below. Take a well-deserved rest, and snap plenty of photos. While enjoying your snack, you’ll find friendly chipmunk beggars, that come out of nowhere, looking for a handout. While it is tempting, the Park Service asks that you refrain from feeding these little guys. When you’re ready to head back down, you’ll find it a little easier than going up, however, by the time we started coming down, there were several people making their way up on the chains, and while it was just a handful of people, I’ve heard that the waits can tack on an extra hour and a half if it is crowded. Once again, be patient and courteous. Stay on the trail. Once you make your way back to Scout Lookout, it is smooth sailing back to the trailhead. Some people instead of hanging a left back to Walter’s Wiggles, they go straight on the West Rim Trail for a couple of miles to enjoy more views before coming back to the return trail. What seemed tiring climbing up just a couple of hours before, will be a breeze on the way down!
What to Bring
(Click on an item for more information)
For more great hiking trails like this one, click here.