Angels Landing Midday

Angels Landing Survival Guide: Things to Know Before You Go

Julie United States 34 Comments

Angels Landing is the most popular hike in Zion National Park. This hike, along with The Narrows, draws thousands of visitors per year, most of them during the summer months.

Why is Angels Landing so popular? This is a hike where it is more about the journey than the destination. Yes, the view from the top of Angels Landing is spectacular, but it’s the final climb along the narrow ridge that draws so many people here. With chain-assisted rock scrambling sections, stunning views, and vertigo-inducing heights, this really is a thrilling hike.

For adventure seekers, this is definitely a great hike to put on your bucket list. We have hiked a lot of places around the world, and this hike is one of our favorites.

But there are some things you should know in order to have the best experience.

Facts About the Angels Landing Hike

Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 3 to 5 hours
When to go: Year round, although the best seasons are Spring and Fall.
Trailhead: The Grotto (stop #6 on the Zion Shuttle)

Important Note: Crowds on the trail to Angels Landing have been enormous in 2019. The trails to Hidden Canyon, Observation Point, and Weeping Rock are closed, giving hikers limited options in Zion National Park. 

Our Experience

First Shuttle of the Day

We were in Zion National Park the first week of May. Knowing about the legendary traffic on the trail, Tim and I decided to get an early start to the day.

The first shuttle of the day was at 7 am. At the advice of the park rangers, we lined up early, maybe a bit too early (yes…we were eager to get started!). At 6:30 am we were the first two people in line. By 7 pm, just enough people arrived to completely fill the first shuttle. And almost all of us were heading to the same place…Angels Landing.

West Rim Trail

From The Grotto shuttle stop, we crossed the Virgin River to get to the trailhead. Almost immediately we could see the monolith of Angels Landing in front of us. Pretty soon, we’d be standing up there.

First View of Angels Landing

The first two miles of the hike is on the West Rim Trail. It is a steady, uphill climb on a wide, paved trail. After a steady, monotonous uphill slog, the trail enters Refrigerator Canyon, a cool, shady canyon. This is a good place to catch your breath and cool off, if you need to. This is the only shady part of the hike.

West Rim Trail, the first section of the hike to Angels Landing.

The trail before Refrigerator Canyon

Walter’s Wiggles

Next up are Walter’s Wiggles, 21 switchbacks that get your thighs burning and your heart pumping. You know you are getting close to the top when you start climbing Walter’s Wiggles.

Walters Wiggles Zion

Walters Wiggles

Scouts Lookout

At the top of Walter’s Wiggles is Scouts Lookout. From here, we had our first view of the trail along the ridge.

From Scouts Lookout, it’s just 500 feet of climbing to go. Now the real fun begins.

Angels Landing View

The Final Climb to Angels Landing

Tim and I hike at a fast pace, so by this point only a handful of people were in front of us. For the most part, we had the trail to ourselves.

At first, the trail does not seem too dangerous. This is a good spot to practice using those chains before you get to the real drop offs.

Chains on Angels Landing

Angels Landing Chain

The view of the final climb to Angels Landing.

Zion

The middle section of the spine is where things really get interesting. There is a lot of exposure here. The trail narrows to just a few feet wide, with drop offs on either side. With the help of the chains, you have to scramble up and down sandstone steps and boulders. The Virgin River looks tiny down in the valley below, if you dare look down from here. This part of the trail is a blast, if you like this kind of thing.

Angels Landing Hike

Tim Rivenbark

Looking down

No chain assist

Steps on the trail

Julie on Angels Landing

Steep Climb Angels Landing

Then, it’s one final climb to the top.

Angels Landing Chains

Tim and I made it to the top of Angels Landing in just under an hour. It was 8:30 am and we joined about ten other people at the peak. The view is magnificent, although this early in the morning, most of the valley is still in shadow. There are also a crazy number of chipmunks up here and they are not at all shy about trying to steal your food.

View from Angels Landing

Tim and Julie Angels Landing

This is the view of the narrow ridge that you hike, seen from Angels Landing.

Narrow Ridge of Angels Landing

Finishing the Hike

With it being so early in the day, the trail still only had light traffic as we made our descent. But we did have to stop and wait for some people climbing up. I can see how the trail can get clogged with traffic, as many sections are only wide enough for one-way traffic. Getting here early was a good move!

Two days later, Tim and I hiked the entire West Rim Trail. This hike starts at the north section of Zion National Park, 12 miles from Scouts Lookout. We reached Scouts Lookout at 1 pm. Angels Landing looked much different midday, with crowds of people on the trail. I can only imagine what it would look like during the peak season summer months.


Should You Hike Angels Landing?

Do not underestimate this hike! There have been 17 deaths on the Angels Landing hike.

If you have a fear of heights, you should not do this hike. There are sections that are very narrow with 1000-foot drops on either side. This is not the place to confront your fears.

You must have a good level of physical fitness. You will be climbing (and then descending) 1500 feet. Most of this climb comes before the narrow spine of Angels Landing. If you are very fatigued by the time you get to this point, it only makes the hike more dangerous. Once you are on the spine, it is a very strenuous, sometimes technically challenging climb to the top. This is not to be underestimated. If you do not think you are fit enough or have enough experience rock scrambling, go no farther than Scouts Lookout.

Young children should not do this hike. Again, this hike is dangerous and not a place to bring young kids. In our opinion, the youngest age we would recommend is 12 years old, and only if they have lots of hiking experience. Yes, I do know kids that have successfully hiked Angels Landing at a younger age, but they had heaps of prior experience. Anyone attempting this hike needs prior experience hiking with chains and along exposed trails before hiking Angels Landing.

If you are traveling with kids, it is safe for them to hike to Scouts Lookout. They can wait here with an adult if someone in your group wants to hike up to Angels Landing.

If you really want to know what to expect, watch the video Tim filmed on the narrow section of the trail.


Planning a trip to Utah? Check out our post 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Road Trip. Visit Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on this epic road trip.

How to Have the Best Experience

Our #1 Tip: Take the First Shuttle of the Day

The early bird gets the worm on this hike! For the best experience, this is a hike that needs to be started early in the day. By being on the first shuttle, you will be one of the first on the trail. This gives you plenty of time to hike the spine of Angels Landing before it gets crowded with other hikers. Starting early also helps you avoid the midday heat and afternoon storms, which becomes a huge bonus during the summer months.

Our #2 Tip: Hike more of the West Rim Trail

If you have the time and energy, from Scouts Lookout you can continue on the West Rim Trail. The scenery is spectacular and very few people venture out this way.

Read more: How to Day Hike the West Rim Trail


What to Bring on the Hike

Hiking Shoes. No flip flops, no crocs, no Converse sneakers. You need hiking shoes or boots for this hike.

Water. Bring plenty of water, especially if you will be hiking midday or during the warmer months.

Sunscreen. There is very little shade on the trail.

Hiking poles (optional). As I have gotten older, I am having more problems with my knees, especially on hikes with a large descent at the end. Hiking poles are my new favorite hiking gadget and I highly recommend them. They take about 30% of the weight off of your legs as you descend, easing knee pain and other symptoms. I use Black Diamond Distance Z poles and love them. They easily collapse down to fit in your luggage and hiking backpack, plus they are extremely lightweight. The poles come in several sizes, so make sure you pick the right length based on your height.

Here is another road trip idea. Learn how to plan a road trip through all 5 national parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands) with details on the best things to do, where to stay, and more.

Utah’s Mighty 5: Travel Guide & Road Trip Itinerary


Have you hiked Angels Landing? How was your experience? Comment below!

More Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List

Zion Narrows
Kjeragbolten, Norway
Fimmvörðuháls, Iceland
Hiking Half Dome in Yosemite, A Step-By-Step Guide
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand
Zebra Slot Canyon, Utah

 

Angels Landing Zion National Park

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Comments 34

  1. Julie, excellent post about this hike. I recently completed it myself in late September. The only thing that I would disagree with is discouraging folks with a fear of heights from experiencing this hike. I am absolutely petrified of heights and I am so glad that I ignored all of the comments and reviews that said that I shouldn’t even bother to attempt it. I met others at the top that felt the same. Based on my experience I know that folks with acrophobia can and absolutely should do this hike. The feeling of pure joy combined with enormous satisfaction and an incredible sense of peace is something that I have never experienced before and something that I will never forget, but more importantly one that I hope to experience again and again. For those with acrophobia that are considering this hike know that it can be done and that others with similar fears have done it before you. When you go, take your time, maintain 3 points of contact, concentrate only on your next step and don’t distract yourself by looking to the sides at all, don’t hesitate, but be sure of your footing and go early before the crowds. You got this.

  2. Hey Julie!!
    We (troop leader + 6 moms) took 14 girls from our Girl Scout troop to Zion National Park Just this week (early June). It took us 2.5 hours to get to Scout’s Lookout. We are from Houston and the girls (and mommies) had varying degrees of fitness and experience with hiking elevations.
    One mom and I looked longingly at the start of the Angels Landing trailhead but realized that we couldn’t leave the troop leader & other moms with 14 girls (age 13-14) to navigate.
    That night we made a plan to go up the next morning, just the two of us. She is a runner and hiker and super fit. I work out 5-6 days a week and consider myself in good shape for 53 years of age.
    We went out on the first tram (started at 6 that week) so good advice on that. The hike was incredible, we made it to Scouts lookout in under 50 minutes and did Angels Landing in another 45-50 minutes. It was an adrenaline rush to be sure. One thing you didn’t add was the wind gusts. That part of the morning was windy so that adds to the balancing act while you are on the ridge. The one way parts of the trail would have been harder to navigate later in the day, but even from when we started it was busy. The moms in us did not want to stay long at the top, too many people taking chances at the edge of the mountain looking for a cool photo op.
    All the way down I was grinning from ear to ear. I did it! At 53!! I did see older folks on the trail which motivated me to stay in shape and maybe attempt with my daughter in another year or two. But it is definitely a bucket list item.

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      Author

      Congrats on hiking to Angels Landing! That’s awesome! Thanks for letting me know about the wind. So far, during our visits to Zion, the winds have been calm, but I can see how the wind can make it even trickier. If you go back to Zion with your daughter, the Narrows, Hidden Canyon, and Observtion Point are more great hikes to consider. Cheers, Julie

  3. Amazing Hike! My husband proposed to me at the end of this hike! After I said yes, I nicely asked him to hold the ring until we got back down safely! Best hike I’ve done so far! We plan on doing Troltunga this summer in Norway!

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      Author

      What an amazing place for a marriage proposal. Congrats on the wonderful news and have fun hiking to Trolltunga. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi Julie,
    I am thinking about hiking Angels Landing Next week. I hiked Kjerag last year and found it difficult but doable. Would you say this hike is more strenuous?
    Thanks!

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      Author

      Hello Kelsey. I would say that they are similar. Angels Landing will be hotter and more crowded, so make sure you start first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi Julie. Amazing hiking! I’m an adventure seeker and haven’t been to Zion National Park. Thanks for sharing the guide so I can make a plan well. How long do you think I should take time at Zion National Park? By the way, I think I have to loss a lot of water so I think I’ll take more water bottles. Last time I bought from http://www.pirt.org/best-water-bottles/. The bottle’s material is good and friendly. I have to think more what I need. Thanks a lot for your helpful sharing.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Alice. Two full days gives you enough time for two of the bigger hikes (Angels Landing, the Narrows, and Observation Point). With three days, you can do each of these in the morning before it gets very crowded. Happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      The Zion Shuttle is a shuttle that is included with your park entrance fee and takes you throughout the park (including to Angels Landing). You only need to hire a separate shuttle service if you are starting a hike outside of the main part of the park. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hey guys! I just did this hike with my friend from Brazil that I met at a hostel in Kanab doing a work exchange and it was incredible. I love your writing and your descriptions! One part that really made me laugh was the sentence about the chipmunks. How wild is it that they just hop around from rock to rock without a care in the world? Maybe the key to hiking Angels Landing is to simply think like one of those chipmunks who seemingly have no fear whatsoever. (And also no fear of stealing your food.)

    Great Post!

    Paul 🙂

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      Author

      Hi Paul! I love those bold, fearless little chipmunks. 🙂 I’m glad you had a great experience at Angels Landing. Happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      Looking at the times I took our photos, it took us about 20 minutes and we were moving fairly fast (we did stop frequently to take photos). And of course, we were there early, so we did not have traffic on the trail to deal with. Cheers, Julie

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