Angels Landing in Zion National Park is probably one of the most iconic hikes you can take in the world. But… also one of the most dangerous. In this article about the Angels Landing hike I tell you about my own experiences on this trail and I give you updates that are necessary to know, since I already walked the trail several years ago and since then it has grown in popularity.
This article was first published in 2016 and updated in 2022
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Please note: from 2022 the Angels Landing hike can only be done with a permit. This is because the trail is too busy and too many accidents happened because of the crowds. The permits are awarded through a lottery. The cost is currently 6 USD for a group of up to six people. There are also options for a ‘day before lottery’. More information and applying for a permit can be found here. Unfortunately, because 2022 will be the first year that this system will be used, I cannot share any experiences about it. Just keep your fingers crossed if you want to walk Angels Landing in 2022!
From Lonely Planet
“Sure, you get an adrenaline rush conquering your fears while hiking up steep ascents past sheer drop-offs. But this is not Disneyland. The danger is real. Loose stones can be slippery and every year people die from falls off cliffs. Even minor injuries can turn serious when difficult terrain means rescuers are hours away. Just be prepared and pay attention. We can’t believe we have to say this, but flip-flops (thongs) are not appropriate hiking footwear for Angels Landing. And parents, please keep hold of young children. We want you, and your offspring, to be reading our books for years to come.”
This is what I read about hiking Angels Landing, my planned hike in Zion National Park, Utah. Doesn’t sound very encouraging, right? It almost sounds like they have been paid by the park officials to write this phrase in their guidebook. In my opinion, with Lonely Planet it always depends on the author how difficult a hike really is. I noticed that in New Zealand I could usually count on the actual described walking times but in Scotland for example, the hikes were far more strenuous and time consuming than described. For my US roadtrip I had no idea how this was going to be like, but figured that since many others can do it and with our experience, I should be able to do Angels Landing without too much trouble.
Angels Landing or The Narrows?
Zion National Park has two legendary hikes: Angels Landing and The Narrows. So if you only have one day to spend in this park, you should choose unless you are extremely fit and a fast hiker. Since I was also going canyoneering with a guide for half a day, I only had a few hours left to do The Narrows. So I picked Angels Landing instead.
Angels Landing: my must-do hike!
So the Angels Landing hike became my must-do in Zion National Park. But would it really be as dangerous as Lonely Planet would have me believe? Or was it just a warning to over-enthusiastic and unfit wannabe hikers who wanted to do something out of their comfort zone?
On my last day in Zion NP I got up extremely early to catch the first bus to Angels Landing. The sun was just starting to warm up the valley a little and light up the mountain peaks. On the bus I started to worry a bit. I looked up and realized we were going to walk ALL THERE, holding on to chains attached to the red rocks for safety. Anyway, I figured if others can do it, so can I.
The first part of the walk to Angels Landing is relatively easy, it’s a brisk walk up but nothing technical. It was wonderful to step up into the shadows of the mountains, only to the sound of birdsong. Not long after the first climb, I arrived at Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 zigzags carved into the rock. Here I finally started to sweat a little and my heart started beating faster.
About an hour after I started, I reached Scout Lookout, where they have a restroom and where most turn when they see what’s ahead, the last perpendicular to Angels Landing. Anyone who is afraid of heights would do well to turn around and just enjoy what you have achieved so far.
Going further up
I went far and slowly but surely climbed up. I forced myself not to look down and hold on tightly to the chains on some stretches. One misstep and I would plunge into the depths. I was glad I started on time, because the trail is only 50 centimeters wide in some parts and so no two people can pass. Imagine having someone in front of you who doesn’t dare go any further, you wouldn’t be the first to get stuck! After about 45 minutes of climbing, I arrived at Angels Landing. Here I had a 360 degree panorama of the Zion Canyon and I decided to sit down and take in the beauty of this national park. However, I didn’t have too much time, below me I saw the hordes of people coming up and since I wanted to drive to Bryce Canyon that day, I quickly decided to go down again.
Crowds on the Angels Landing hike
Back at Scout Lookout it started to get pretty busy on the track, I was glad to have gotten ahead of the crowd. In about 3.5 hours I was back at the bus stop, a special experience richer. The way back was less difficult than expected, if you do get scared, just sit down and slowly lower yourself onto your buttocks. I’ve done more difficult hikes in the Alps for example, where I had no foothold in any way, so in that respect, this hike is made easier by the presence of chains. Yet it is still the case that every year hikers get into trouble, because they are not well prepared or have overestimated themselves anyway.
Angels Landing for those with a fear of heights
Like I said, you should only do this hike if you think you can handle it. If you have enough perseverance and are not afraid of heights and deep chasms, you will undoubtedly love it. Get up early, take the first bus to the start of the hike and enjoy. And don’t forget to get your permit! If you are afraid of heights, don’t do the walk to Angels Landing, I’m sure you’ll regret it, also because more than half of the walk is steep and dangerous. A misstep can have fatal consequences… However, I thought it was absolutely worth it and will gladly walk it again, should I ever get to Zion National Park again.
More technical information about the hike to Angels Landing can be found on the Zion National Park website.
Book your trip!
Ready to book your trip? The following links may be useful:
– Go here to check flights to the nearest airports. The closest airport is St. George but since you’ll most likely also visit other places, you may drive in from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas as well.
– Get a rental car, cheap rates can be found here.
– Book your accommodation or campsite well ahead as space does sell out soon especially in the high season. Find availability and cheap accommodation here.
Conclusion and disclaimer
Hopefully you found this article helpful. If you have any questions about the Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park, feel free to leave a comment. Read more? Here you will find all my Utah blogs.
Want to read further? Then visit my page with the best hikes in Zion National Park.
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