The Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park is well known in the national parks system. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the entire country and is notorious for being scary, difficult, or some tragic cases, even deadly.
We showed up to Zion knowing none of these things after an epic time skiing in Salt Lake City. We knew we wanted to go on a hike on a beautiful sunny day in Southern Utah. However, there’s plenty of helpful tips to know before setting out on this thrilling and adventurous hike.
Get a US Parks Pass to Visit Zion
To enter Zion National Park you are required to purchase a Parks Pass. Pass prices are as follows:
- 1-7 Day Vehicle Entrance: $35.00
- 1-7 Day Motorcycle Entrance: $30.00
- 1-7 Day Individual Entrance (foot or bicycle): $20.00
If you are visiting multiple US National Parks it’s best to purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 for the year and grants you access to all registered parks. At just $80 for a year it’s quite a steal and you won’t have to worry about stopping at park gates to pay!
Hiking Angels Landing
- Distance: 5.4 miles/8.7 km
- Elevation Gain: 1488 ft/453 meters
- Shuttle Stop: #6 The Grotto
- Hike Duration: 2 – 5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
- Best Time to Go: Spring and Fall. Summer early morning or evening.
You’ll gain some elevation
The Angels Landing hike will have you gaining some serious elevation quickly. At nearly 5800 ft, this is a great day out. To climb Angels Landing, you’ll gain 1488 ft in 2.7 miles (5.4 miles round trip). Come prepared to sweat and get your heart pumping as there aren’t many flat spots.
About the Angels Landing Trail
- Grotto Trailhead: The trail begins across the Virgin River at the Grotto Picnic Area. This is where the Zion shuttle will drop you off. There are picnic benches, shade, and bathrooms here. Use the bathrooms before your hike. Then cross over the Virgin River via the bridge, turn left and begin your hike. Along this trailhead, you’ll climb pretty moderate elevation. There’s little shade and plenty of sunshine so make sure to wear sunscreen.
- Refrigerator Canyon: You’ll reach this area and quickly know why it’s called Refrigerator Canyon. It’s always shady and cool and will be a nice break from the sun. It’s also very mellow and will give you a chance to catch your breath before the switchbacks.
- Walters Wiggles: You’ll then come across Walters Wiggles, which is a set of 21 switchbacks that quickly gain elevation as you get close to Scout Lookout.
- Scout Lookout: After the switchbacks, you’ll see Scout Lookout, a common decision and turnaround point for many people. The views here are great, and you’ll feel some sense of accomplishment for making it here. If you are afraid of heights, have young children, or mobility issues, this may be where you want to stop and turn around. Keep going for the most adventurous part of the hike.
- Hogsback: After Scout Lookout, you’ll cross the saddle, and the route quickly turns into a scramble with chains to assist. The first 100 feet or so are a great test to see if you should keep going as it will give you some sense of what you are about to get into. The short-chain section after Scout Lookout is the easiest and least exposed. If you are nervous with the chain section at first, consider turning around as the exposure worsens until you get to the summit. The busier the trail, the harder it is to navigate with the chains and cliffs.
- Angels Landing Summit: After Hogsback, you’re almost to the summit. The next portion is all narrow trails, with steep 1000 ft cliff drop-offs. Luckily the chains are there to assist you. Once you make it to the top, you’ll have 360-degree views. Stay and hang out a while before heading down.
Past Scout Lookout is not for the faint of heart
As mentioned, any hiking past Scout Lookout is not for those with a fear of heights. If you are nervous you don’t know where this section starts, don’t worry there is a big sign to warn you about what is to come.
Almost immediately there is a chain section, and if there are crowds it will make it more difficult as people are waiting, passing, and there will likely be people too scared to move at points.
As you keep moving towards the summit the exposure doesn’t get less frightening however the chains and stopping points are very helpful in assisting. We are frequent hikers and scramblers and found that with the chain assistance the hike to the summit went by pretty fast, and the chain sections made the hike extra fun and exciting.
However if you get vertigo or are scared of heights I have to repeat to not try and confront your fears attempting to summit Angels Landing. For every step you take you’ll have to return the same way. National Parks Service is not coming to save you if you are too scared to move (they will if you are seriously hurt of course). Just hang out at Scout Lookout and enjoy the views there!
Crowds Make Angels Landing More Difficult
One of the main difficulties of hiking Angels Landing is not actually the hike itself, but the crowds past Scout Lookout. Since the trail to summit Angels Landing is narrow and you’ll want to hold on to the chains, and there are really no passing points. This means you’ll get caught behind large groups at the choke points in the hike, meaning if you are a fast hiker you’ll struggle to maintain a fast time and if you are a slow hiker you’ll probably have people behind you waiting.
If you come across someone nervous about their position, which believe me you will, this will hold up the lines even more so. To avoid crowding issues your best bet is to complete a sunrise hike or sunset hike. Bring a headlamp if you choose to do this, and try and make it back to Scout Landing before it gets dark.
Unless you are hiking at sunrise or sunset with few crowds you’ll likely be around plenty of other hikers. Once past Scout Lookout you’ll probably see some people that aren’t comfortable with the hike, that’s completely understandable as there are some seriously steep drop-offs where a fall would result in certain death.
Don’t pass anyone that isn’t comfortable with you passing them. Give them their space and if you are comfortable ask if you can assist in any way. Hikers etiquette is that hikers ascending have the right away, but that all kind of falls apart as you get closer to the summit and the trail becomes more narrow.
Angels Landing Trail is Pretty Straightforward
All that being said you won’t have any issues going off-trail on the Angels Landing hike. The trail is very straightforward and easy to follow from beginning to end! Any wandering off the trail past Scout Lookout would end in you falling off a cliff.
You’ll Want a Shuttle Reservation
The Zion Shuttle System was something we weren’t used to dealing with when accessing national parks. But when I saw the numbers in Zion, I understand why they have it in place.
The shuttle stop to get off on is #6 – The Grotto. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride on the shuttle bus from the visitor center. The hike starts across the road from the shuttle stop past the footbridge.
Most of Zion National Park (upper Zion Canyon and the Scenic Drive) operates on a timed shuttle ticket system to limit congestion and vehicles. It’s difficult to score a seat on the Zion shuttle through their system. We enjoyed Zion for two days and were only able to score shuttle tickets for one of these days.
Zion Shuttle Key Points
- Shuttle tickets are $1 and you’ll need one for each day you want to explore Zion.
- Shuttle service will begin operating at 7:00 a.m. at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center
- Shuttle tickets are available online for one-hour blocks between 7 am and 2 pm. You can board the shuttle anytime between the hour you are slotted for.
- You can get on and off the shuttle as much as you want for the day you have booked.
- You can still access the road via bike if you fail to get a shuttle ticket.
- The only way to get shuttle tickets are:
- Advanced tickets: Released twice a month on the 16th and last day of the month. This is the best option if you can plan your trip to Zion in advance.
- Day Before Tickets: Released the day before you want to visit at 5:00pm on the dot. Make sure to be online and ready to book as soon as the clock hits 5:00pm. We were on literally three seconds after and missed our chance to get tickets for the next day which completely ruined our plans to hike The Narrrows. The book up incredibly fast.
- Afternoon walk-up tickets: Available between 2-4 everyday at Zion Visitor Center. These operate on a first come first serve basis.
- All the action happens on Recreation.gov.
- Get more shuttle info here.
There are no bathrooms
It’s important to note that there are no bathroom areas or toilets on the hike. Usually, I wouldn’t note this as I can always find a nice quiet bush to pee at on a hike, but not on this trail. There’s nowhere to venture off and pee really fast and the crowds make it difficult to ever get any privacy. The last place to use the toilet is at the Grotto picnic area, right when you get off the Zion Parks shuttle.
You’ll need sunscreen
Besides the Refrigerator Canyon, there’s not much shade on the Angels Landing hike. It’s imperative you put on sunscreen before or bring it with you so you don’t get fried under the hot desert sun.
The Best Time to Hike Angels Landing
The best time to hike Angels Landing is spring and fall. Summer is doable too, but keep in mind it’s going to be HOT so if you plan to hike Angels Landing between June and early September it’s best to either do a sunrise or sunset hike to avoid dehydration and heatstroke. This is key for hiking in the desert. Just make sure to plan your early morning hike with the shuttle system or ride a bike in.
An early start will ensure you beat the crowds and if you make it to the summit before the first rays set on the mountains you’ll score some insane views and photos.
You can hike Angel’s Landing in the winter however the trail ices over and can be extremely dangerous. Especially past Scout Lookout when a fall would mean death. I would highly suggest avoiding winter hiking here.
We completed this hike in the beginning of April and the weather was extremely pleasant. Not too hot, but the sun was shining and the hike was ideal.
First Shuttle of the Day
I know I’ve mentioned over and over the benefits of being some of the first people on the trail. This means you have to do one of two things. Make sure you book the 7am shuttle if possible, or bike yourself the trailhead before 7am. If you cannot get a 7am ticket (like we couldn’t) you’ll likely just have to take what you can get on the Zion shuttle system before they sell out in minutes.
The biking may seem a bit extra, but if there’s a will there’s a way!
Connect Angels Landing with the Emerald Pools
After you have completed Angels Landing I highly recommend hiking the extra mile to Emerald Pools. It’s a very easy hike in Zion that you can easily connect to at Angels Landing trailhead. To reach Lower and Upper Emerald Pools will require very little elevation gain and although it’s not nearly as thrilling as Angels Landing it’s a nice side hike to add to your Zion itinerary.
Is Angels Landing the Scariest Hike in America?
Angels Landing has commonly been touted as “the scariest and most dangerous hike in America,” but in my opinion it is not that bad. I’m not an avid US hiker, but compared to the hikes and scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, Angels Landing is more on the moderate side. The fact that the hike sees over 1500 hikers a day ranging in age and ability should tell you that it’s not crazy hard.
If you are a frequent hiker and have summitted a few mountains you won’t have any issue on Angels Landing. If you aren’t scared of heights, steep cliff drop offs, or exposure I also don’t think you’ll have too many issues. Angels Landing is not too physically demanding, but perhaps more mentally demanding given the risk. The steep drop-offs might make your heart stop. Without the chains, I certainly would not have felt comfortable on Angels Landing. However, using them to conquer the summit makes it extra fun.
How Long Does it Take to Hike Angels Landing?
If you are a fast hiker you can complete Angels Landing in about two hours, without a long summit stop. However, depending on the time of day you may get held up by crowds along the chain section. Cameron and I hike at a pretty fast pace, and we finished the trip in 2.5 hours moving time. This included a good 20 minutes or so of us stopping for ascending hikers off the summit. We hung out at the summit for around 30 minutes enjoying the view and the sunshine.
An average hiker should estimate Angels Landing to take them around four hours total. It’s a great half day adventure in Zion that you won’t regret!
Items to Pack for Angel Landing
- Water: You will definitely need water on this hike. We went out with our Stanley IceFlow bottles to keep us hydrated with extra cold water on this desert hike. They keep drinks cold for hours even under intense heat.
- Sunscreen: As mentioned before don’t venture out without sunscreen. The sun here in the desert is intense.
- Trail runners: You’ll want shoes with fantastic traction for this hike. My favorites are the Salomon Speedcross Trail Runners for hiking in the desert.
- Shorts: Hiking shorts are ideal for hot hikes like this. (Men’s hiking shorts recommendations / women’s hiking shorts recs)
- Hiking Shirt: Moisture-wicking, quick-drying hiking shirts are perfect for hikes like Angels Landing. My favorite hiking shirt is made by Outdoor Research!
- Hiking Hat: Protect your forehead and eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunglasses: I don’t hike without sunglasses, good ones with polarization too to protect my eyeballs. I only have one set of them after all!
- Snacks: You’ll want something to snack on when you get to the summit. I love energy bars, an apple, and fruit chews.
Leave Your Furry Friends at Home
No pets are permitted on Angels Landing hike so make sure to leave them somewhere they are comfortable and cool. Springhill Suites is a great pet-friendly hotel in Springdale.
Check Out Some of the Other Zion Trails
- Watchman Trail: Leaves from the visitor center and is a nice easy to moderate trail with amazing sunrise and sunset views.
- Observation Point: 8.0 miles and 2150 ft of elevation gain will get you up Observation Point. It’s a less crowded option with similar views to Angels Landing. (Currently Closed 2021)
- The Narrows: Perhaps the most famous hike in Zion. The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and has hikers hike through the gorge the entire way. Hike in as far as you like then turn around!
Enjoy a Beer When Finished!
To end this fantastic day in Zion we couldn’t help but stop at the Zion Brew Pub for a beer while the sun went down. It’s a great place to stop and hang out for a while after a day in the park. They have a great dinner menu too!
Stay in Springdale
The best place to stay to be near the Zion National Park action is Springdale, which borders the park gates. Springdale is a cute desert town with a surprising number of hotels and restaurants. There’s some cute boutqieu shops and even a delicicious coffee shop or to.
Prices in Springdale are higher than elsewhere in Southern Utah and places book up fast. To get the best rates book well in advance.