Everybody who has ever hiked Angels Landing in Zion National Park will tell you their story. Sometimes, it’s one of extreme beauty; other times sheer terror. Either way, it is one of the park’s most notorious hikes and an incredible short trail full of unforgettable views.
Anybody who is reasonably fit can make this journey, but the mental aspect of the sheer drop-offs and massive exposure will test your mettle. The final ½ mile has a series of chains bolted into the rock for extra security, but know your limits. If you have vertigo or extreme fear of heights, it’s best to turn around before the final uphill leg of the trail.
- Mile 0 Grotto Trailhead (37.259392, -112.950038)
- Mile 1.07 Refrigerator Canyon (37.275641, -112.951597)
- Mile 1.52 Walter’s Wiggles (37.275641, -112.951597)
- Mile 1.97 Hogsback (37.271108, -112.949816)
- Mile 2.14 Angels Landing Summit (37.269125, -112.947894)
Angels Landing Permit
Starting in April, 2022 there will be a permit for Angles Landing too. Long story short, there are four permit windows
- Spring (April and May) – Apply first week of January
- Summer (June – August) – Apply first week of April
- Fall (September – November) – Apply first week of July
- Winter (December – February) – Apply first week of October
This system should help significantly with overcrowding and covid related trail closures, and definitely favors people who can plan ahead farther than making overnight oats. However, if you find yourself at the park without a specific permit, there’s a day before lottery you can try and hope for the best.
Reaching Angels Landing
From March through November, the only way up Zion Canyon is through the free Zion Park Shuttle service. You exit at the Grotto Trailhead for Angels Landing Trail. In the summer, there can be long lines for the shuttle leaving the Visitor Center so make sure you plan for this.
The Difficulty of Trek / Length of Hike
The elevation gain of 1488’ and the exposure makes this a moderately difficult hike. The trail is 2.5 miles one way or 5 miles round trip. Make sure you bring plenty of water and start your hike early. In addition to the delays getting on the shuttle, you will have to wait for groups of hikers going both ways on final .5 miles of the trail (The Hog’s Back). You also want to make sure you take your time, stay safe and can take plenty of pictures. There is water available at the trailhead, but nowhere else on the trail.
Below is a map of the Angels Landing hiking trail. If it is not visible, be sure to refresh your browser 🙂
The only way to know what the Angels Landing hike is all about is to go out and experience it. Here is a description of our experiences and our the views along the way. They don’t do it justice, but it gives you a taste of what you’re in for.
Climbing Out of the Virgin River Canyon
You finally made it through the logistics of the Zion Shuttle and have arrived at the Grotto Trailhead. From here, you cross the road and follow the well-marked trail across the Virgin River and turn right. You climb slowly out of the river bottom until you hit a series of switchbacks at a cliff face. After you traverse the cliff, you reach Refrigerator Canyon.
Refrigerator Canyon is a short but welcome relief from the sun, heat, and exposure that you experience on the rest of the hike. The trail condition is so good at this part that you will find pavement in many sections. Before long, you reach Walter’s Wiggles.
We couldn’t help but think of Lombard Street in San Francisco when we saw the Wiggles. Also, you get to know the dark side of your hiking group if somebody actually knows (and sings) any Wiggles songs.
The final approach to Angels Landing is where you get to discover and expand your comfort zone. The day before our hike, we went on a technical canyoneering tour. Jenn felt comfortable in her harness and on rope. The heights never bothered her at all. She felt comfortable and secure with her gear. She has no shame in saying that the exposure and footing of the final ½ mile frightened her.
Angels Landing Summit
The true measure of fear is what you do with it. Jenn was able to breathe through her fear and push on. We took extra time on the exposed sections, and I spotted her on some of the down climbs. Jenn made it a little shaken but stirred by the amazing views around her.
Descending Angels Landing
Coming back down the chains was just as harrowing as going up. I flipped around and went hand over hand down the chain while walking backwards down the trail. Jenn just scooted along and had me spot her feet to the step downs. There was still the problem with passing people heading up to the summit. From the wiggles on down, we were glad we packed hiking poles. We just needed to secure them well while crossing the chains.
Final Thoughts on Angels Landing
The shuttle was empty enough that we could get a seat, but we were happy not to have to wait like we did in the morning. Pretty soon, we were sipping blended coffee drinks at the visitor center reflecting on the trip. Did you know that Angels Landing was named in 1916, not because it’s a high point, but because angels might pause there before the Great White Throne (another peak in the area)?
Jenn was really afraid of this trial with her not so bionic (but fully titanium) knees. They just don’t have the proprioception that you would want stepping down on top of a thousand foot cliff, even if there is a chain. She was able to find her zen and push through. The knees did great on the downhill too. The trail was very easy to get good footing on from Scout’s Lookout to the bottom.
If When we do this hike again, we’ll make sure to leave super early to avoid the crowds and (hopefully) catch the sunrise. Maybe, if we do a fall trip to Zion, we can go late enough to take our own car up the road and avoid a lot of the shuttle hassles. This trail is an absolute must-do hike for your Zion adventure.