Angels Landing Hike: Know Before You Go

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You can’t talk about hiking in Zion National Park without discussing the Angels Landing hike. Hiking this trail is an epic experience that many adventurers have on their bucket lists.

However, before you start picturing yourself grabbing the chains to pull your way to the summit, there are some things you need to know. Let’s get started so you can start packing your hiking backpack for your Angels landing hike! 

About Zion National Park

Zion National Park sits in the southwest section of Utah and became Utah’s first national park in 1919. The park has experienced a 90% increase in annual attendance since 2010. Throughout the entire 2021 year, the park welcomed over 5 million guests. The bright blue skies contrast with the enormous sandstone cliffs and create breathtaking landscapes. 

The park offers over 50 miles of established hiking trails in varying difficulties. You can find everything from ADA-accessible trails along the Virgin River to strenuous hikes like The Narrows and Angels Landing. 

There is a 5-mile scenic drive through the Kolob Canyons. To see or experience all the park has to offer typically requires jumping on and off the shuttle buses that operate throughout the park.

The weather at Zion National Park can be rather intense during the summer months. High temperatures typically climb above 85 degrees in May and commonly hit over 100 degrees in July and August.

One of the best months to visit is October when the high temperatures average just shy of 80 degrees, and the lows are in the upper 40s. However, no matter what, when you visit this park, you likely won’t leave disappointed.

Pro Tip: Zion National Park is stunning, but don’t forget about the other national parks in Utah. Read about The Mighty 5: Why You Need to See These National Parks in Utah.

East Entrance sign to Zion National Park

About the Angels Landing Hike

Let’s be honest. The Angels Landing hike isn’t for everyone. It’s 5.4 miles of strenuous hiking with steep drop-offs and 1500 ft of elevation gain. It typically takes over four hours to complete. This is not a great option for those with young children or who fear heights.

Starting April 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) will require a permit for the Angels Landing hike. This is in response to the record number of guests putting hands on the chains and climbing to the top. You can acquire a permit through seasonal and day-before lotteries, which cost $6 to enter and an additional $3 per person if you get selected in the lottery.

The start of the trail follows the West Rim Trail, which isn’t overly dangerous and is more exhausting due to the steady uphill climb. It’s a wide and paved trail with plenty of room for hikers and a handful of spots to catch your breath and enjoy the shade. However, once you reach the 21 switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles, things get a bit more intense until you reach the top.

Once you reach the summit of Angels Landing, you can enjoy an incredible view. It’s a great place to catch your breath, enjoy a snack, and take in the landscape. You should keep your distance from the ledge as numerous deaths have occurred along the hike.

Getting to Angels Landing Trailhead

Getting to the Angels Landing Trailhead typically requires riding a shuttle bus. You can park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and hop on a shuttle bus heading to Zion Canyon. Many hikers hop off at Shuttle Stop 6, which is the Grotto. 

There are a few weeks of the year during the winter and spring when the shuttles are not running. If you’re visiting during this time, park on the pavement at the trailhead and leave space for others. Due to the popularity of this hike, the parking can fill up quickly. If that’s the case, you’ll need to find parking elsewhere and hike back to the trailhead.

Your permit for the Angels Landing hike will have a time printed on it. You should be at the Grotto and ready to go at the start time printed on your permit. It’s a good idea to build time into your schedule to find a spot and make your way to the trailhead.

A road leading in to Zion National Park looking at the mountains and the sun shining through

What to Know Before You Commit 

You should keep in mind a few things before committing to doing this hike. Let’s take a look and see if the Angels Landing hike could be your next adventure.

1. It’s Not For the Faint of Heart

This is unlike any 5-mile hike you may have hiked in the past. It’s not only incredibly strenuous but also extremely dangerous. The 1000-foot drops on both sides of the trail can expose a fear of heights you didn’t know you had. You must be physically and mentally prepared for this hike, especially when doing the final climb. 

2. Be Honest About Your Fitness Level

Nothing about the hike up to the top of Angels Landing is easy. The first half of the hike is a steady increase in elevation, which can wear down your muscles before the actual test. If your heart isn’t pumping and thighs burning by the time you hit the 21 switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles, they will be when you finish. If you’re not honest about your fitness level, it will be evident very quickly.

It can be a very dangerous situation if your fitness level is not at the level it should be for attempting this hike. You’re likely going to complete some technically challenging moves to complete the climb to the top. You increase the chances of slipping or falling as you climb to the top if you’re exhausted.

A shot looking down at the switchbacks that people must conquer when doing the angels landing hike

3. You Need a Reservation

Whether you love or hate them, you will need a reservation to climb Angels Landing. This system limits the number of hikers able to climb to the top of Angels Landing and helps increase the safety of all users on the trail. It also helps avoid the overuse of the trail.

The park uses a lottery system to hand out the Angels landing hiking permits. It costs $6 to enter the lottery for up to six people and an additional $3 per person if you receive a permit. There are lotteries for seasonal and day-before permits this season. With this being the first year for the permit system, it’s best to check with NPS for any updates or changes to the system.

4. Your Shoes Are Important

This isn’t the type of hike where you should worry about your shoes matching your outfit. You need to have quality hiking boots or shoes. Trying to hike in sandals or flip-flops will likely result in blisters and make it more difficult to maneuver the rocks and rough terrains. A thick-soled, closed-toe shoe with a good grip will be sufficient for getting to the top.

5. The Shuttles Run On a Schedule

Zion National Park has a robust shuttle system that runs very efficiently and makes it easy to see and move around the park. However, you need to know the schedule. The shuttle buses run on a schedule to help the park run efficiently. They’re not going to wait for you or adjust their plan because you’re not on time.

These shuttles can reach capacity during the peak seasons and make it difficult for groups to get on when they want. It’s important to build time into your schedule to arrive at the Angels Landing hike trailhead on time. Park rangers may or may not be as understanding as you’d like if you arrive late because you didn’t plan accordingly. 

A propane fueled shuttle bus stops at the Visitor's Center in Zion National Park in southwest Utah. Sandstone formations in the background.

Tips to Make Your Hike More Enjoyable

This is a hike you’ll want to enjoy while doing it. Here are a few tips we think will make it easier to finish strong and enjoy your hike.

Bring Lots of Snacks and Water

No matter when you visit, you’ll need to bring plenty of water. Bring more water than you think you’ll need if you’re hiking during the summer months or in the middle of the day. A backpack with a water bladder can make it easy to carry a large amount of water and any other supplies or gear during the trip. 

Wear Hiking Gloves

Protect your hands while hiking. Trying to catch yourself after a slight stumble or even the chains towards the top can do a number on your hands. You’ll appreciate the gloves as you’re scrambling over rocks and grabbing hold of them to pull yourself up along the route.

It’s Not a Race

It can be very tempting to get caught up in the excitement of the Angels Landing hike at the start. You can waste a tremendous amount of energy by increasing your hiking pace. Remember that slow and steady is the best pace, especially when hiking. No trophy or medal is waiting for you at the top of Angels Landing.

One of the best ways to control your pace is to carry on a conversation with others hiking with you. If you’re struggling to talk like you normally would, you might be going too fast. Maintain a pace that you can easily carry on a conversation.

Take a Break at Scout Lookout

Once you pass through all 21 switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles, you’ll reach Scout Lookout. Your legs and heart are likely to need the rest, but it’s your first view of the iconic ridge to the top of Angels Landing. After a couple of miles, you’re only 500 ft from the trail’s end, and you’ll want to gather yourself before approaching the ridge.

Be sure to give others on the trail room to hike. You don’t want your resting to make it more difficult for others to continue on their hike. However, take the proper amount of time to catch your breath, and take a drink and a few pictures.

Use the Chains

We can’t understate how dangerous the chain section of the Angels Landing hike can be. The chains are there for your safety, so use them. It’s not the time to showboat or try to impress others with your balancing skills.

Multiple people have fallen to their deaths over the massive drop-offs on both sides of the trail. As you approach the ridge, it’s a good time to remind those in your group of the seriousness of the situation. Use the chains.

Looking down the cliff over the angels landing hike with chains

Try to Hike in a Shoulder Season

Hiking during the shoulder season helps increase your chances of winning a permit in the lottery system. The weather is also typically much cooler, making it easier to enjoy hiking to Angels Landing and the rest of what the park offers.

The serene landscapes found in Zion National Park can feel out of this world. Not having huge groups of tourists around you can let you take your time and not feel rushed.

Pro Tip: Stay close to Zion and other beautiful locations in Utah with our guide on The Best Places for Utah Camping.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Angels Landing Hike

You might have a question or two about conquering the Angels Landing Hike. Let’s look at some of the most common questions other hikers ask.

Social media has helped the Angels Landing hike gain popularity in recent years. The epic view from the top sucks in adventure-seekers wanting to attempt it themselves. The new reservation system implemented by NPS will limit the availability of making the hike, which will likely add to its popularity.

Is Angels Landing the Most Dangerous Hike in the US?

No, Angels Landing is a very dangerous hike but is not the most dangerous hike in the U.S. In the past 20 years, there have been 10 known fatalities while hiking Angels Landing. We don’t want to take anything away from those 10 lives, but hiking Mount Rainier, which has claimed 395 lives, is more dangerous.

angels landing hike warning sign cautions hikers about risk

How Long of a Hike is Angels Landing?

It is a 5.4-mile round-trip hike that takes approximately four hours. However, it can take longer if you stop along the route to take pictures, catch your breath, or enjoy the views.

Why Do They Call It Angels Landing?

In 1916, Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister, visited the park for the first time. Like many other visitors, Fisher was impressed by the beauty of the park and the rock sculptures. When he saw what we know as Angels Landing today, he referred to it as a place that only an angel could land.

Be Prepared for Angels Landing

While Angels Landing provides heavenly views, it’s not an easy journey to get there. You want to be ready physically and mentally and have all the right gear. If not, you will have a miserable time and struggle to enjoy and appreciate the adventure.

Do yourself a favor and thoroughly plan your trip to Zion National Park. This will help you secure the necessary permits and any gear that will make climbing easier. It also will give you time to go on a few practice hikes near you before the big day.

Have you made the hike to the top of Angel Landing?

1 comment
  1. Makes me want to see Zion. I saw it about your age, but didn’t do the hikes and was then unimpressed with just the valley floor and moved on… me

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