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Angel's Landing Survival Guide

Everything you need to know about the most challenging hike in Zion National Park.


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Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Angel’s Landing is probably the most famous hike in Zion National Park. It’s also the most strenuous by a wide margin. The lure of this steep, narrow trail to one of the best vistas in the park is a siren song for adventurers everywhere.


It’s also really fuckin’ intimidating.


I hiked Angel’s Landing in the spring of 2023, and it remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was also, hands down, one of the most difficult.


I’m here to tell you about my experience with the trail to help you decide if you’ve got what it takes to accomplish this amazing hike. And if you have got it in you, I’m here to give you all the tools you need to make your trip to the Landing the best thing that’s ever happened to you.


Ready? Here we go!



Angel's Landing Trail Description


What’s the hike to Angel’s Landing actually like? I’m going to break it into four sections for you: the hike to the trailhead, the ascent, and summit, and the descent.


The Hike to the Trailhead


Yep. It’s quite a climb just to get to the part of the canyon where Angel’s Landing even begins! You’ll leave from Shuttle Stop 6 (the Grotto), cross the road and the river, and turn right onto the West Rim Trail. This trail leads up to the point where the Angel’s Landing trail branches off, and then continues on past it. That intersection is called Scout’s Lookout, and it’s a destination in its own right. Even if you don’t plan to hike the Landing, I still recommend the hike to Scout’s Lookout.


This portion of the trail winds up the side of the canyon for most of the way. It’s a hell of a climb, but you can stop as often as you please to admire the vistas like this as you do:


Zion Canyon viewed from the west rim trail in Zion National Park

Eventually you’ll reach an area where the trail cuts into the rocks. This is the last stretch of the trail before you get to Scout’s Lookout. It’s also the steepest. But take heart! You’re almost there! This is also where you’ll find the famous Walter’s Wiggles: a series of tight switchbacks that lead right up to Scout’s Lookout.


If you aren’t hiking Angel’s Landing, this is where you’ll stop. It’s stunning up there. Have a snack and reward yourself for completing your climb. Take lots of photos. If you are hiking the Landing, this is where you’ll fuel up and where a Park Ranger will check your permit (more on that later!)


The Ascent


If the trail up the side of the canyon to Scout’s Lookout was a high-key hike, the ascent to the plateau of Angel’s Landing is a low-key climb. This trail is steep. It’s narrow. There are chains built into the rock most of the way, and there were many times that I felt like I was pulling myself up the mountain by these chains rather than climbing with my legs. (My shoulders were MAD at me the next day!) It’s a 3-points-of-contact ascent. 3-points-of-contact minimum.


You quickly get good at sharing the chains: letting faster people cut around you in the wider portions of the trail, and moving out of the way of folks coming back through in the other direction. There are also plenty of mini plateaus throughout the climb where you can step out of the way, catch your breath, and drain your water bottles.


And did I mention the views are breathtaking the whole way?? They’re stunning, and each new rise gives you a slightly different vista.



However, as I hiked, I had to be careful to look out at the vistas rather than down into the canyon. If I looked down into the canyon for too long, I started thinking too much about how high up I was and how insane it was that I was up there! This hike is a mental challenge just as much as it’s a physical one. It’s an adrenaline rush for sure!


There were definitely moments where the strength of my arms was the primary thing keeping me safely on the trail. There were definitely moments where I could only look down at my feet and the trail directly in front of them because looking out at the vista made me too nervous.


There were definitely moments of insane joy as I stopped to admire my surroundings and realized I was actually hiking my dream hike.


The Summit


This is what you’ve been hiking towards all this time.


Friends, it’s everything.


The summit is a wide plateau with plenty of space to feel comfortable resting there. The 360 degree view of Zion canyon that you get from the far end is unlike anything else in the world.


Spend a good long time up there. Take millions of photos. Make friends with the other hikers up there so you get the best possible shots of yourself against the vistas. Keep your snacks away from the hungry squirrels that are absolutely zero percent afraid of you. Soak up the incredible feeling of accomplishment. You made it.


Seriously my loves, the confidence boost I received from completing this hike is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. This hike was insane and I did it. It gave me a new level of belief in my own strength and capacity for challenges.



The Descent


What goes up must come down, and on an out-and-back trail, that includes you. The only way back to Scout’s Lookout is to go back down the way you came via the same rock and chain trail.


In some ways the descent is easier. (You’re going down instead of fighting gravity.) In some ways, I found it harder. (Traveling downhill means it’s muuuuuch easier to find yourself looking down over the sheer canyon sides and realizing exactly how high up you are.)


But the rules for the descent are about the same as the rules for the ascent. Take your time. Pace yourself. Share the trail. Rest on the plateaus in the middle. Keep 3-5 points on contact at all times. (Contact point 5 being your ass.)


Encourage folks who are on their way up. Reassure them when they ask if it’s worth it. (It is!) Let them know if they’ve made it this far, they can totally make it to the top. You’ll still be full of adrenaline so let your energy encourage others!


When you get back to Scout’s Landing, take a few extra minutes to bask in that adrenaline before you head back down the canyon to the shuttle stop. You earned it, you champion!



So Should you Hike Angel's Landing??


The only person who can answer that is you. You need to be reasonably fit and comfortable with heights (or at least very good at managing heights!) But if the physical and mental demands sound like they’re within your capacity, then yes, you should absolutely hike Angel’s Landing!!



What You Need for a Successful Angel’s Landing Hike


Going to take on the adventure? Yay! I’m so excited for you! Here’s the things you absolutely must take with you on your Angel’s Landing hike:


A Permit


Angel’s Landing is a permit-only hike. If you get to Scout’s Lookout without a permit, you will not get past the park rangers onto the Angel’s Landing trail. This does make it a little more of a challenge to book and plan, but the permit system has done amazing things for this hike. Limiting the number of people on the trail makes the experience safer, more enjoyable, and helps the National Park maintain the trail more easily.


Permits are assigned by lottery, and you can apply for the seasonal lotteries and/or the daily, next-day lottery. Both live at Recreation.gov. I recommend applying for the seasonal lottery as soon as you know your travel dates. If you’re unsuccessful with the seasonal lottery, you can apply for the next-day drawings while you’re at the park. I got my permit through the next-day lottery. Enter early, enter often!


For a full breakdown of the Angel’s Landing permit system, read This Post!


Good hiking boots


A solid pair of sneakers with good traction can get you a long way on most hiking ventures, but for Angel’s Landing, you will be much happier in a boot with killer treads and ankle support. Good hiking shoes are an investment that will last for years, so don’t be afraid to drop some good monies on a good pair that fits you well.


Gloves


This is one you may not think of, but think about all those metal chains for a moment. Think about how metal absorbs the surrounding temperatures. A good pair of gloves with solid traction (work gloves, bike gloves, leather gloves…NOT knits or mittens!) means you won’t have to worry about how hot or cold the chains are, all while improving your grip! (Remember how your grip is the main thing keeping you on the topside of the mountain??) I hiked in March, and the air was chilly, and I was immensely grateful for my leather gloves. I saw a LOT of hikers having to stop and warm up their hands in their pockets before being able to continue. Bring gloves!


Multiple water bottles


You’re going to want at least two water bottles per hiker. Angel’s Landing is a climb, friends. And that’s not even taking into account the climb it took just to get to the trailhead. I packed two of these perfectly backpack-sized 24-oz water bottles for my trip to the Landing, and by the time I got back down to the shuttle stop, they were drained. And I hiked in March when the air temperature was in the 50s. Pack more water than you think you need. You’ll need it.


Food


When you count in the hike from the shuttle stop to Scout’s Lookout, and then add the out and back to the Landing, the average hike time for Angel’s Landing is five hours. And that’s the average. Bring trail snacks to refuel as you go! You’re going to be on the trail for a while and your body will be working hard.


A Good Backpack


For a trail like Angel’s Landing you’re going to want something light and sturdy. Anything too bulky will pull you off balance and get caught on the rocks. Anything too small won’t have room for all the gear you need. I like this one as the perfect medium between storage space and compactness. And it folds up into itself so it won’t even take up much space in your luggage. Plus it has a whistle built into the chest strap, which is a must if you’re a solo hiker!


Crampons (seasonal)


If you’re visiting in the shoulder seasons, especially in the spring, ask the park rangers how icy the trail is. You gain a lot of altitude on your Angel’s Landing climb, and the conditions at the bottom of the canyon may not be indicative of the trail conditions on the rim.


I picked up a mid-range pair of crampons from one of the local outfitters at the park gates for about $30. And when I got out onto the Angel’s Landing trail and started encountering some icy patches, I was VERY glad I had them. Were there people on the hike without them that stayed perfectly safe? Of course there were. But for me, the extra $30 was well worth the peace of mind.


Zion Canyon viewed from Angel's Landing

My loves, this hike is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, and I sincerely hope that you get the opportunity to try it. Cheers!


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