This classic Utah trail provides a spectacular day trip for well-conditioned hikers who have no fear of heights. After crossing the Virgin River on a bridge, the Angels Landing hike climbs vigorously to reach the elevated mouth of Refrigerator Canyon and then levels off as it enters the cool inner recesses of the cleft. Cool-climate plants such as bigtooth maple and white fir thrive in the shade of the canyon floor, and the vertical walls of red sandstone are pocked with grottos and overhangs.
As the path nears the head of the canyon, it begins a strenuous ascent of the east wall. A series of twenty-one switchbacks has been built cunningly into a rift in the wall here and bears the hiker upward at a calf-burning pace. Known as “Walter’s Wiggles,” these carefully crafted stoneworks are regarded as one of the engineering marvels of the park.
Soon after reaching the top of the switchbacks, the path makes a gradual ascent to a sandy pad called Scout Lookout, offering aerial views into Zion Canyon for people who lack the stomach for the final and hair-raising pitch to the top of Angels Landing.
As you approach the summit, the trail follows the spine of a knife-edge ridge, with heavy chains attached to the rock to serve as handrails along most (but not all) of the drop-offs. Hikers must make a steep scramble to surmount the first knob, followed by an unprotected walk across a narrow saddle that is flanked by sheer drop-offs. On the Angels Landing hike, one truly gets a feeling of walking on the razor’s edge. Climbing then resumes, aided by more handrails and footholds hewn into bedrock. This is the long and final pitch you’ll follow to the grand summit.
There are no guardrails on Angels Landing, where gnarled piñon pines grow from impossible toeholds above the dizzying void. Occupying the center of the Big Bend of Zion Canyon, the summit commands a spectacular 360-degree panorama of rugged spires and towering walls – be sure to bring your camera so you can share pictures with your friends. Highlights include the Great White Throne, Red Arch Mountain, and the entrance to The Narrows.