Updated: Mar 2, 2021
If there is a must hike in Zion National Park, it has got to be Angels Landing. While Zion offers many hikes and canyoneering adventures, Angels landing offers some of the greatest views of the canyon to be had in a shorter hike. With that said it is a hike that does have some exposure and is not recommended for those who are afraid of heights.
For those of you that just want the quick details, here is the skinny on the hike:
Length: 5.4 miles round trip
Type of hike: Out and Back
Rating: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Gain: 1488 feet
Trailhead: Grotto Shuttle Stop in Zion National Park
Trail Condition: Sandstone trail, with the last 1/2 exposed to long drop offs.
Trail Description In Depth:
The trail is well marked with signs and begins across the river from the Grotto shuttle stop. The trail starts out with just a slight incline as you work your way towards the canyon wall for about 1/4 mile. Once you reach the canyon wall the trail begins to ascend on a series of switchbacks until finally curving around to refrigerator canyon.
Refrigerator canyon is aptly named because it receives very little sunlight and provides refreshingly cool temperatures especially in the hot summer months. Don’t let the cool air fool you however, because this is where the hike really takes off. After getting a small break from the climb you will be greeted by a series of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. This is a series of 21 short but steep switchbacks that climb up the mountain and it is here that most of the elevation gain on the hike occurs.
The wiggles come to an end at an area known as Scout Lookout. Scout lookout providesviews of both the upper canyon looking towards the narrows as well as some views from down the canyon. There are also pit toilets available here. The trail divides at Scout Lookout at a sign points to the left for Angels Landing and to the right for the West Rim Trail and Lava Point.
At this point, hikers who are afraid of heights should enjoy the view, while those who crave a little more adventure can push forward about another 1/2 mile to the top of Angels Landing. Chains are placed along the final part of this route to help hikers negotiate some of the tougher and more exposed areas of the hike. While a few people have fallen from Angels landing over the years, many thousands of guests make the trek up and back without incident. The key to this part of the hike is to patiently make your way to the top using the chains and paying attention to the trail markers and other hikers around you.
If you choose to go to the top, you won’t be disappointed by the spectacular view that awaits.
The last 1/2 mile of the hike is the slowest part of the hike, due to its more rugged nature and bottle necks that can often occur at the chains depending on how many other hikers are on the trail. If it is a busy day in the park, be sure to add a little extra time to complete this hike so you can navigate the fixed chains safely.
For those that don’t have an extreme fear of heights but do get a little nervous around them, I recommend giving this part of the hike a try. Heights make a lot of people a little nervous, and the best way to overcome a little fear is to step out of your comfort zone and try it. The nice thing about this hike is that because it is an out and back hike if it gets to be a little too much you can always turn around and head back. Keep in mind that one reason we recreate is to learn to push ourselves and to test our limits, so you never know what your capable of until you try it.
These are my recollections and experience on this hike. If you have done this hike before please share your comments and impressions below. If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums. Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!