Angels Landing Hike Overview
Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Hiking time: 2-4 hours
Best season: Early Spring to Middle Autumn
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 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.