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Zion National Park   |  Jay Dash

Angels Landing

Angels Landing in Zion National Park is one of the most spectacular day hikes in the world. The trail to its lofty summit was hewn out of its steep, rock-solid spine in 1926 and it continues to thrill hikers to this day. The hike climbs up roughly 1,500 vertical feet along the narrow fin of stone that reaches a top elevation of 5,790 feet. A chain railing adds an element of safety, but if exposed heights make you weak in the knees, it will take a double-dose of courage to make the summit. This is one adventure that packs a mountain of excitement into a relatively compact, daring hike.

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Angels Landing Hike Overview

Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Hiking time: 2-4 hours
Best season: Early Spring to Middle Autumn
Difficulty: Strenuous
Hazards: Cliff exposure; can be slippery and dangerous when wet. The Angels Landing hike is not recommended for young children.
Pets: Not allowed
Finding the trailhead: The trail begins at the Grotto Trailhead, 0.6 miles beyond Zion Lodge on Zion Canyon Road (accessed via the tram).
Trailhead GPS: 37.259070, -112.951006
Shuttle Stop: The Grotto

Hiking Information

Hiking along a gutsy trail with high exposure is what makes Angels Landing so amazing — and for some, a daunting proposition. You don't need to have super-human nerves of steel (though it helps), but even confident hikers will need to stay vigilant throughout the hike. With careful, deliberate footing, hikers will be rewarded with memorable, vast vistas of Zion Canyon over 1,000 vertical feet below their boots. 

The adventure begins at the Grotto Trailhead and features a nice prelude to the main show. 

Begin by crossing the Virgin River on a bridge — the easiest part of the day. Angels Landing starts along the well-marked West Rim Trail and gains elevation quickly to reach the elevated mouth of the aptly named Refrigerator Canyon. It 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 have been built cunningly into a rift in the wall here and bears the hiker upward with calf-burning efficiency. Known as “Walter’s Wiggles,” these carefully crafted stoneworks are regarded as one of the engineering marvels of the park — and, yes, they pick up a lot of elevation very quickly.

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. It's a good turnaround point for people who lack the stomach for the final and hair-raising 500-vertical-foot push to the top of Angels Landing.

As you approach the summit, the trail follows carved-out steps along the spine of a knife-edge ridge. Heavy chains attached to the rock 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, you truly get a feeling of walking on the razor’s edge. Climbing then resumes, aided by more handrails and footholds chiseled into bedrock. This is the long and final pitch you’ll follow to the grand summit.

There are no guardrails on Angels Landing's highest point, where gnarled, defiant pinyon 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.

The Virgin River flows through Zion National Park.

Photo: Angie Payne

Expansive view of Zion National Park from the Angels Landing trail.

Photo: Jay Dash

When to Hike Angels Landing

On weekends from late spring through summer, the trail often gets very crowded. Ascents can slow to a crawl and stepping aside for descending climbers can hamper the momentum of the adventure, especially in the blazing heat of the summer sun. 

Shoulder seasons are the time to go, especially in early March and mid-November. There will be fewer hikers than peak season and the relentless solar radiation will have backed off. An early winter hike isn't a crazy idea, though check with rangers before heading up as Angels Landing is no place to be if coated with a slick skin of ice or snow. Sunrise and sunset hikes are perfect for photographers who want to capture the deep oranges and reds from desert sunlight. 

The worst time to hike? During the busy summer season, especially on holidays like the Fourth of July. If that's when you happen to find yourself in the park, hit the trails as early as you can but expect to encounter a lot of incoming foot traffic on your descent.

Save Time with the Shuttle

Zion National Park's shuttle is a great bargain at a mere $1 per rider on recreation.gov. Reduce traffic and take the shuttle to and from the Grotto Trailhead.

More Things to Know

Angels Landing Safety Precautions

There have been ten known deaths from falls at Angels Landing since 2004, so yes, this is a hike to take seriously. If you are diligent, stay on the trail and use the carved steps and safety chains, the risks are greatly reduced. Patience in passing other hikers is required. Remember, you can always take a breather and regain your composure if the heights start to affect your balance. 

Zion National Park does get rain and snow, though it is not common. It's best to postpone your hike if the conditions will be slick or wet. It's also worth mentioning again the wilting heat of the summer sun, which can dehydrate even fit hikers in less than an hour. Bring plenty of water.

What to Pack

  • Water/electrolyte drinks. Essential for hydration. Bringing along 80-100 ozs is prudent, especially if you'll be slowed down by crowds on weekends or holiday outings. Pro-tip: Use ice in thermal water bottles (usually used for hot drinks in winter) to keep your drinks nice and cold. Water filling stations at The Grotto and throughout the park offer free water.
  • Good footwear. Day hikers or boots with sturdy outsoles are a must (leave the sandals and tennis shoes at home).
  • Sun hats. A full-brimmed sun hat, visor or baseball cap will keep some of the sun off your face and neck.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks. Salty snacks (pretzels and trail mix) also help with electrolytes and dehydration.
  • Hiking Poles. Preferably, collapsible. You will likely not need them on the final summit push thanks to the chains, but they are nice to have on the approach and descent. 

Keep Angels Landing Mighty Forever

Angels Landing may be an intimidating hike but it is also one of Zion's most popular. As you plan your next trip to Zion, consider ways to support its basecamp communities and keep the park Forever Mighty

Be sure to pick up any trash along the trail you might find, even if it isn't yours. With so many people on the trail (and often distracted by the task of staying focused on the safest footing), it's easy to get lazy with a dropped wrapper or apple core. Leave No Trace principles are especially important in sensitive geological areas like Angels Landing. Please do not build rock cairns or carve anything into the stone.

How To Travel Responsibly

Nearby Highlights and Amenities

The views of Zion Canyon from the summit are postcard-worthy — and it's fun to explore the canyon after your hike and marvel at the place where you once stood. The Emerald Pools are a nice follow-up hike and a big change of pace from the hot, sun-baked rock along Angels Landing. The namesake pools are easily accessed as the trails begin across from the historic Zion Lodge. With the name Emerald Pools you might think they are a refreshing watering hole to splash in and get cool, but these small desert oases are off limits to visitors. Please leave them clean and for the animals and insects of Zion. 

The Watchman and South campgrounds are excellent basecamps for Angels Landing. Even if you aren't staying overnight, they have restrooms and adjacent day-use areas that are a good place to relax after the big hike.

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