Angels Landing is one of the most unique and challenging hikes in all of Zion National Park
By Dan Sanchez
Zion National park has an abundance of beauty mixed in with high-adrenaline outdoor activities. While you can rock-climb, canyoneer and backpack in the park, one of the most popular activities is to take a simple day-hike.
But for the Fresh Air Junkie, who wants a challenge, Zion’s most challenging hike is up Angels Landing. This hike not only puts your fitness levels to the test, it also challenges your mind. Located in Zion Canyon, the trail head starts at The Grotto shuttle stop, and proceeds across the north fork of the Virgin River.
A relatively short five-mile round-trip hike, it increases 1,488 feet in elevation and proceeds up the sides of the canyon walls where you can get a great view of the Virgin River below. At one point, the trail cuts into the sides of the sandstone walls to each Walter’s Wiggles, a tedious array of steep switchbacks that seem like they never end. Up to this point, the hike is completely paved and enters into shaded areas which are a great relief if you’re making the trek during the hot summer months, (June thru September).
Once you make it past the majority of the climb, you reach a resting point, Scout Lookout, that has two bathrooms. Most stop here for a well-needed rest. But others proceed further up to the last 0.5 miles which is the most challenging. The trek up to the top requires scrambling over large rocks on a narrow wall that has 1,200 ft. drop-offs on either side. At various points on the hike to the top, you’ll have to let people come down before you’ll have enough room to keep climbing up. There are chains bolted into the sandstone on areas where you’ll need to hold on to gain your footing and move upwards.
The scramble up the steep and narrow ledge can seem tedious. We’ve seen people give up from the amount of steep climbing. But you’ll often find helpful people willing to give you a hand and encourage you to keep going.
Once you’ve overcome your physical and mental anguish you’ll be greatly rewarded by the view at the top. Make sure to bring a camera and if you find it’s crowded, wait about 10-20 minutes as most will then make the trek back down; allowing you to get the shot you want.
This hike is not for those with fear of heights, but once you’ve made it you’ll find it to be an exhilarating accomplishment. It’s also very important to have good hiking or trail shoes. People with sneakers can easily slip on the sandstone, making your hike on Angel’s Landing that much more dangerous. According to park Rangers, people have died or been injured on this and other hikes in Zion with exposed ledges. The key to safety is being prepared and to stay on the trail.
We used a pair of Five-Ten Camp Four approach shoes which allowed us to stick to the rock like Spider Man. It’s also imperative to take at least one-liter of water or more with you on this hike and plenty of trail snacks or energy bars. We guarantee that your leg muscles will be shaking on the way down.
Angel’s Landing will take you about four hours round trip so it’s a good idea to start early, as lots of people get on this trail. If you make it back down around noon, you can take the shuttle to the Zion Lodge, where you can have lunch under one of the enormous trees on the grounds. Afterwards, you can make your way to the Visitor’s Center and discover some of the other extreme hikes that await you in this park. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/zion.