If you’ve read any of my other posts about Utah then y’all know how much fun we had out there! Zion National Park just might be my favorite place in the whole world.
PSA: You probably shouldn’t believe that it’s my favorite, I’m fairly certain I said that when I was drinkin’ all the Irish coffee and learning the jig in Ireland or those nights we slept under the stars in Morocco or that time we flew in a helicopter over the Hawaiian island of Kauai. You get the idea – literally, everything is always my favorite!
But nonetheless, Utah holds up (I prove that in these pictures)! And Zion is an outdoors lovers playground.
So if you came here to play, then this should definitely be on your must-do list! Angels Landing is one of the best hikes in Zion National Park!
Zion Angels Landing Trail
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Written by: Stephanie
This strenuous five-mile hike begins at the Grotto Trailhead and follows the river for a bit before rapidly (seriously, not joking) climbing in elevation to top out around 1,500 feet.
But survive (literally, people FALL. OFF. AND. DIE) and you’ll be rewarded with the most epic views in Zion.
Hiking Angels Landing in Utah is a once in a lifetime experience that you definitely won’t regret!
Angels Landing quick tips
- Distance: Just about 2.5 miles from the trailhead to the summit of Angels Landing, 5 miles round trip
- Length of time to complete: 3-6 hours
- Elevation of Angels Landing: 1,500 feet
- Difficulty: A doozy
- Popularity: Incredibly popular
- Permits necessary: No permits are needed
- Trailhead: The Grotto Trailhead, stop 6 on the shuttle route
How long is the Angels Landing hike?
From the trail head to the top and back down is just shy of 5-miles. But! It’s not an easy 5 miles.
Hike Angels Landing they said, it’ll be fun they said…
All jokes aside, it is fun, but it’ll feel like instead of 5 miles you’ve just hiked 5,142 miles. Be prepared for your legs and possibly knees to feel like jello! It is a tough hike, but anyone in moderately decent shape can make it to Scout’s Lookout (which I explain later is the point at which the hike becomes horrifically terrifying or the thrill of your life – whatever your perspective is).
If you’re not afraid of heights then definitely continue on past Scout’s Lookout and summit Angels Landing! And if so, you go, glen coco!
How long does it take to hike Angels Landing?
Hike time kinda depends on:
a) how fast you’re moving
b) how bad the crowd is.
Angels Landing is wildly popular and by late morning/lunchtime will be jam-packed with other people making the journey up as well.
As of right now, the hike does not require a permit, but I suspect that will change fairly soon. It’s too dangerous to be that busy.
Take safety, yours and others around you, very seriously – people do fall and die, most recently a 13-year-old lost her life out there.
We were there in May (this is one of the best times to visit Zion) and went out on one of the first buses, around 7 am or so. We were able to get up to Scout’s Lookout (both of us) and the summit (Pete flying solo) without any trouble, but coming down from the summit was getting a little hairy.
Pete was telling me that as he was coming down he’d have to wait for people coming up to get past him. There is only one chain with two way traffic. I’d say though that start to finish, with all the crowds, took us about 6 hours.
If this is the first you’ve ever heard of Angels Landing I’ll explain it a little better. The first two miles of the hike is along the river and snaking up through relentless switchbacks. The hiking up to this point is tough, for sure, but not dangerous.
After what feels like one too many switchbacks you’ll arrive at Scout’s Lookout. This is a huge landing on top of the rock formation where everyone stops to take a break or form support groups for people scared of heights.
From Scout’s Lookout, the last half mile is pretty much straight up in the air on very narrow ridges with 1,500-foot drop-offs on one or both sides. The only thing to hold on to is a chain that has been bolted into the rocks. But everyone else is also holding onto it.
So, moral of the story – go out early and try to hike up to Scout’s Lookout quickly.
Angels Landing elevation
Like I’ve said before the elevation gain is right around 1,500 feet. The trail is only 2.5 miles one way so that elevation gain comes very quickly. Right around a mile or so into the hike you’ll reach a set of switchbacks, this first set is not Walter’s Wiggles. These switchbacks have a slower elevation gain and there are only about 7 of them, but they’re long and pretty grueling. Shortly after that set, you’ll come upon Walter’s Wiggles and these are 21 short, but very steep switchbacks. You can pretty much count on gaining in elevation as soon as you start the first switchback.
How hard is the Angels Landing hike?
No guide about Angels Landing would be complete without one or more stern warnings about the dangers. The hike is extremely difficult, but anyone in fairly good shape should be able to get to Scout’s Lookout. We also saw a couple of young children on the hike as well. And one very irresponsible father took his FOUR-YEAR-OLD CHILD up to the summit. The kid was so short he couldn’t even reach the chains. How dumb can one be? If you are very anxious or terrified of heights then don’t even attempt to go further than Scout’s Lookout. Anything past that is basically the epicenter of panic city.
There is no shame in stopping at Scout’s Lookout, either. If you make it that far YOU ARE STILL A BADASS! I always knew I was scared of heights, but I had no idea how deep that fear ran until I was eyeing down the summit of Angels Landing. I went back and forth with whether or not I wanted to go and ultimately I decided not to. My worst fear (second to bugs) would be freaking out, death gripping chains, and having to turn around and fight too many people to get to safety again.
That’s a no for me, dawg.
Angels Landing Trailhead
You can pick up the trail at the Grotto Trailhead which is stop number 6 on the shuttle route. During the busy seasons, no cars are allowed into the park but there are plenty of shuttles that run both ways – into and out of the park. We found that we never had to wait more than 10-15 minutes for a shuttle, even during the peak visiting hours.
There are 9 shuttle stops in Zion which begin at the visitor’s center and end at stop 9, obviously. The last stop is the beautiful Temple of Sinawava, the Riverside Walk, and the entrance to the other wildly popular hike – the Narrows! The full shuttle route from the visitor’s center to the Temple of Sinawava takes about 40 minutes. And if I remember correctly it took about 20-25 minutes to get to stop 6.
At the shuttle stop, you’ll find some bathrooms if you need, then cross the picnic area and road and begin your hike!
Zion Angels Landing Trail
When you begin your hike, you’ll be following the West Rim Trail along the river and the bottom of the canyon. This is very easy as the trail is wide, flat, well paved, and marked.
Afterward, you’ll then hit the first series of switchbacks that bring you into Refrigerator Canyon. Note: These are NOT Walter’s Wiggles – you, unfortunately, have a long way to go yet. Even though this isn’t the Wiggles, this set of switchbacks are pretty tough. They’re SO long and you have some elevation gain. There is no shame in stopping for “photo opportunities” at the bends. It is beautiful scenery and you’ll appreciate the break.
Coming out of Refrigerator Canyon prepare yourself for more abuse as you climb up Walter’s Wiggles.
Walter’s Wiggles is a set of 21 unforgiving switchbacks that rapidly gain elevation. As you can likely guess, this is the turn around point for a lot of people who think it is too difficult. Survive Walter’s Wiggles and you’ll be rewarded with epic views from Scout’s Lookout.
I always give my honest opinion on things, but I was prepared for something much more oppressive. Yes, they’re hard and tight (hey-o!) and kind of what you’ll think they’ll be and you’ll need to stop and catch your breath sometimes, but count down from 21 as you a climb and it goes really quickly. That being said – I am writing this after I hiked them and my perspective probably changed! haha
When we were planning out our itinerary for Zion, I knew for sure I was going to wait at Scout’s Lookout while Pete completed the rest of the hike. I kept telling him that I’d have to see the summit and how scary the chains looked to consider going up before I made up my mind. But let’s be real – this girl was NOT going up to the top of Angels Landing. Nope. No way. Not happening.
Scout’s Lookout is just over 2 miles into the hike and sits at an elevation of 1,070 feet. Everywhere you turn there are epic views of the canyon and the Virgin River. You can even get a glimpse of the ridge that all the crazies walk across to summit.
So, I gave Pete a hug and a kiss, said you do you boo, parked myself against one of the rocks and eventually formed a women’s support group with 8 or 9 other wives and girlfriends. We all sat around and ate snacks, awwww’d at hoards of fearless chipmunks (don’t feed them! people do and they’re kinda rude because of it), and waited about an hour to an hour and a half while our guys stupidly climbed to the top.
Hiking Angels Landing is a phenomenal experience and I’m so proud of both of us for committing to it and following through! *fist bump*
Angels Landing Trail Tips:
Dress in layers:
We hiked Angels Landing in the middle of May and the weather was just perfect. Not too hot but not too cold either. I already suggested hiking early in the morning so if you’re like me and always cold, you’ll probably want some sort of lightweight hoodie to get you up to the first set of switchbacks. Or, if you don’t mind being a little chilly just forego the hoodie. You reach the switchbacks so quickly that it isn’t that big of a deal. And once you start climbing you heat up rapidly. I just wore a pair of my favorite yoga leggings, a top, and a light hoodie. Pete had on a t-shirt and some shorts.
As with any hike, good shoes can make or break it. We did the dumb novice thing and bought new hiking shoes about a month before we went to Zion, but shockingly – neither one of us needed to break them in! They were both right out of the box super comfy. I have this pair of Merrells and Pete has this pair of Oboz.
Every time you go out on a hike you should have a backpack with you! I use this daypack from Osprey but made Pete carry the bag for Angels Landing. We ended up using his Camelback because it stores a water bladder easier than mine. Inside the backpack, you’ll want to fill the bladder with enough water to last for 4-5 hours. Also throw in some snacks, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a camera (Utah was my GoPro’s first time out of the box!), and kleenex! Our noses were really runny so that ended up being super gross.
Take your time:
There is a slight sense of urgency when hiking, especially if you’re going all the way to the top. But slow down a little bit and actually enjoy what you’re doing. This is one of the most epic hikes in the world and you should take the time to remember it all! Also, bring your patience. Especially if you’re getting a later start or are hiking in the summer. Everyone else is out doing the same thing as you, so be kind to everybody! Which shouldn’t be hard, I find the hiking community is very friendly to one another.
Like I mentioned, you’ll want to wake up early and try to get on one of the first few shuttles. It’ll probably be mostly full of other people hiking the trail as well. It’s just a better overall experience if you are finished with the hike by lunchtime. I explained a little bit about the park shuttles already. If you do get there early you can probably park your car in one of the parking lots at Zion, otherwise, if you don’t want to mess with that just pick up one of the Springdale shuttles that will take you to the entrance of Zion. There are stops all along the major road in Springdale.
Check the weather:
There can be some fierce storms that roll through the canyon so make sure you pay attention to the forecast. Also, talk with some of the rangers before going up. The last place you want to be during rain/snow/wind/lightning is 1,500 feet in the air gripping onto a chain.
Seriously. Just do it.
Zion National Park Entrance Fee:
Zion National Park is located in Springdale Utah which is about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, Nevada and about 5 hours from Salt Lake City, Utah. The park is open 24 hours a day, but things like the visitor’s center and lodges do close at various times. Passes are required to enter and can be purchased for $35 and are valid for 7 days. You can also interchange the passes – say you buy one on the first night walking in, that same pass is still usable for when you drive the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel road that cuts around the park. Which is a must-do as well!
Angels Landing Campground
Do keep in mind that this is the desert. These campgrounds are open and have little to no shade. And as such, it gets very hot during the summer months so plan ahead. There are a couple sites that run along the Virgin River, but that will only help so much.
As with all National Parks camping is popular AF and during the peak season of late spring into fall these sites book completely every night. If you’d like to camp, try to make reservations online or by calling 877-444-6777 in advance.
Angels Landing deaths
I already mentioned that this is a dangerous hike that needs to be respected and taken seriously. There are real consequences for goofing off or not paying attention. But even so, accidents happen and when they happen on Angels Landing or along the other trails in Zion, they are tragic.
Zion National Park keeps a record of all the deaths that have been caused by falling and Angels Landing is in the lead with 8. Followed closely behind at 7 deaths is the popular Emerald Pools hike.
The most recent fatality happened in February 2018 when a 13-year-old girl was somehow separated from her family and fell.
Please be careful on this hike and do not take your kids with you.
There you go, I bid thee good luck! If you do end up hiking Angels Landing definitely let me know how it goes!
Read Next: Hiking the Narrows at Zion
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Founder of Packing for Plenty in July 2017. Along with her husband, Pete, she is on a mission to visit most countries. And wants to take y’all along as well! On PFP Steff provides travel itineraries ranging from a weekend trip nearby to 2 weeks living abroad like a local…detailed destination specific travel tips that aren’t readily available elsewhere…and unique and interesting bucket list worthy experiences.