Sure, you’ve heard of Angels Landing: the 1,488 foot tall rock formation in the heart of Zion National Park. But do you know what it’s like to actually climb it?
Angels Landing is the most famous hike in Zion and features everything from strenuous switchbacks to breathtaking dropoffs. The summit offers a stunning 360 degree view of the park and according to its discoverer Frederick Fisher, “only an angel could land on it.” This guide will tell you everything you need to know to conquer the monolith safely and successfully.
When to visit
The trail is open year-round, but peak season is from March to October. If you’re brave enough to trek in the winter months, be aware of ice and snow on the trail that could make hiking unsafe. The winter, early spring, and late autumn will guarantee smaller crowds, but the summer promises sunshine and warmth.
As far as the best time of day goes, it again depends on the season. In the summer, it may be better to hike in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. The trip takes about five hours total, so make sure you have enough time to finish before dark if you come in the late afternoon or evening.
What to bring
Some essential supplies for hiking Angels Landing:
Sunscreen: No matter the season, sunscreen is a must. Most of the hike is void of shade and you can even get burned when it’s cloudy.
Lots of water: Angels Landing takes on average five hours round trip, and it is a strenuous hike, so make sure you stay hydrated.
Hiking shoes: Take care to wear shoes with good traction and support. Parts of the trail can be treacherous and slippery, even in fair weather.
Snacks and a lunch: Refuel yourself along the way. Take a break to eat lunch at the top and enjoy the view.
Layered clothing: If you’re hiking in the cooler winter months, you’ll want to dress warm, but make sure you layer so you can shed as the hike becomes more physically demanding.
Other items could include a camera, a map of the park, sunglasses, and of course a backpack to hold all your materials.
Where to go
The Angels Landing trail begins at the area known as the Grotto. If you’re riding the shuttle, get off at the Grotto shuttle stop. If you’re driving yourself into the park during the shuttle’s offseason, drive into the canyon and park when you reach the Grotto picnic area. From there, cross the road and the footbridge that spans the Virgin River and head up the West Rim trail. You’re on your way to Angels Landing!
What to expect
The trail leading to Angels Landing itself has five main sections, each offering their own unique experience and challenge.
You will begin your journey on the West Rim trail. A paved, well-maintained walkway begins to wind you among the trees and then up the side of the mountain in a series of long switchbacks. The higher you climb, the more you can see of the basin below, featuring the glittering Virgin River and a blend of multicolored stone.
After about a mile, the trail turns into a shady canyon to give you a break from the steep switchbacks. Greener vegetation grows beside the path, no longer dried up by the beating sun like the trees you just passed through. Carved out between Angels Landing and Cathedral Mountain, a breeze often blows through this passageway, giving it the name Refrigerator Canyon.
A sharp turn toward the end of the canyon takes you up another series of even steeper and more strenuous switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. Each corner offers you a view down into Refrigerator Canyon and a chance to catch your breath.
When you reach the top of the Wiggles, you’ll be at Scout’s Lookout, a wide space featuring remarkable views of Zion Canyon. At this juncture, the West Rim trail continues through Cabin Spring and on to Lava Point, but the Angels Landing trail turns to lead up to the summit. Scout’s Lookout is the end of the road for many less experienced or less adventurous hikers and a good place to stop and snack.
The final stretch of the expedition is the Angels Landing trail itself. From Scout’s Lookout, it’s about half a mile to the summit, but it’s not an easy walk. The trail becomes narrow and rocky, and most parts have sheer cliffs on one or both sides. Hang on to the chains bolted into the rock for your security. Watch your step, be courteous of other hikers, and take it slow, and you’ll make it to the summit.
Once you’re at the top, take the time to relax for a few minutes and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery and panoramic view of Zion Canyon. The summit is wide and flat, giving you the freedom to sit down and eat or walk around and take pictures before beginning your long descent. You did it!
Find out more about Angels Landing and everything else there is to do in Zion by downloading our free eBook, Insider’s Guide to Zion National Park.
And now that you have all the information you need to successfully climb Angels Landing, it’s time to plan your next trip to Zion!