Zion National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful natural wonder nestled in southwest Utah. With countless epic hikes and all the scenic views one could hope for, it’s a definite bucket list item for any outdoor lover.
Inside the park, you’ll find the picturesque Angels Landing, a 1,488-foot tall rock formation. It is perhaps the most popular landmark in the National Park (maybe even all of Utah).
The hike to the top of Angels Landing is also known for being one of the most dangerous and exhilarating hikes in the entire world. Although regarded as a hard hike, it’s a favourite to most as it leads to some of the very best views.
I’m the first to admit that I was a bit intimidated before hiking to the top of Angels Landing, but with proper planning and preparation, the hike is definitely worth it. Here's what you need to know before hiking Angels Landing.
Before I jump into the nitty gritty details about this bucket-list hike, I wanted to share some quick details about the hike itself. Yes, it can be dangerous and a bit intimidating, but it’s important to have a brief overview before diving into the real planning.
Total mileage: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,488 feet
Do I need a permit? Yes (details below)
When is the best time to hike? March-June or September-October
Location: Zion National Park, Utah
As of 2021, Zion has been piloting a lottery permit system to better manage the crowds. Every person who hikes Angels Landing NEEDS to have a permit.
To apply for the lottery, you will need to first make an account on Recreation.gov. You will then see that there are seasonal lottery dates that open 2-5 months before your hike. For example, if you are hoping to hike Angels Landing on June 15th, the lottery opens on April 1st.
If you are not selected during the seasonal lottery, you can test your luck again the day before your hike. The day before the lottery is open from 12:01 a.m. and 3 p.m. and you will find out if you were awarded a permit at 4:00 pm.
It costs six dollars to apply (for up to 6 people) and then three dollars per permit awarded. If you did not get a permit, you can still hike up to Scout’s Landing, but will have to turn back before the chained section.
As of 2024, at least 17 hikers have died on Angels Landing. There’s absolutely no denying that it can be a dangerous hike. At times, the trail is just a few feet wide with steep drop-offs on each side.
Weather conditions, cautiousness, and other unrelated factors played a part in some of these deaths, however checking the weather before you go is always smart.
Also, remember that pictures/videos aren’t worth your life.
I know we live in a time of “if it’s not on video it didn’t happen”, but please put your phone away during this hike (or at least during the chain section).
If you have your heart set on recording the entire hike, be sure you have a hands-free option!
I’m not writing this to scare you away from hiking Angels Landing. In my opinion, it is 100 percent worth it. As long as you are careful and prepared, you will have no trouble making it to the top of Angels Landing.
If the chain section of Angels Landing freaks you out (or if you didn’t get a permit), the Observation Point trail is an excellent alternative. It is a bit longer but leads to very similar 360-degree views.
The trail itself is about 7 miles and gains just over 700 feet in elevation. The climb is more gradual and great for those who want to avoid the chains and steep climb on Angels Landing.
Another option is Scout's Landing and as stated previously, you can hike up here without a permit. But even with a permit, it’s still a great turning around point if you are just not feeling comfortable continuing up to the chained section.
There’s absolutely no shame in this. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Making it to Scout’s Landing is still a great accomplishment and an amazing adventure. You’ll still get to experience the famous Walter’s Wiggles (the famous series of 21 switchbacks), see the chain section with your own two eyes, and enjoy 360 views of Zion National Park.
Here are a few useful tips for hiking Angels Landing safely while making the most out of your trip.
If visiting Zion between March and November (or Christmas), personal cars are not allowed to travel to the trailheads. To get to the start of Angels Landing, you will have to hop on the free shuttle.
The shuttle travels continuously throughout the park starting at 7:00 am. You can park at the visitor’s center (make sure it’s well before your permit time) and ride the shuttle to stop #6, The Grotto. You can expect a new shuttle to show up every 10-15 minutes.
It’s important that you time your ride accordingly as you need to arrive at the trailhead at the start of your permit time.
This one may seem obvious, but I saw far too many hikers hiking in sandals and other unsafe footwear. If you do not have hiking boots make sure you at least have a good pair of tennis shoes on!
It also wouldn’t hurt to make sure your shoes are broken in to avoid any blisters!
It is not recommended to complete the Angel's Landing hike in the rain, thunderstorms, high winds, or snow.
I know you may feel like you should hike it no matter what because you worked so hard to get a permit, but it’s just not worth the risk. Check with park rangers beforehand if you are feeling worried.
Side note: The trail doesn’t always close during unsafe conditions (You can check for updates here though). The decision usually lies in your hands. However, if you are a confident hiker and visiting in the winter, be sure to bring crampons/traction support.
This should go without saying, but this hiking tip is even more important on Angel’s Landing than on any other trail.
First and foremost, it’s not a race. Take your time, watch your footing, and go at your own pace.
Secondly, there will be MANY spots where you will have to yield to allow someone to pass. If you can find a safe spot to step out of the way, please do so and patiently wait. Sometimes the trail is only wide enough for one person so it is so very important to be aware of your surroundings.
Once again, it’s not a race. Take your time, enjoy your surroundings, and have a snack at the top. Give yourself at least 4 hours to complete this hike. Make sure to start early enough to beat nightfall.
If you are used to hiking in the backcountry and using nature’s restroom, you may be shocked to find out that you will not have the opportunity to do so on this trail. It’s packed and you’ll always be surrounded by other hikers.
With this being said, make sure to use the bathroom at The Grotto shuttle stop.
Zion is busy year-round so no matter what time of year you visit, expect there to be crowds at Angels Landing. But, if you are looking for smaller crowds (which leads to a higher likelihood of winning permits), plan your hike during the Spring or Fall months.
You’ll also avoid the scorching summer heat and monsoon season this way. Expect for temperatures to be chilly in the mornings (the 40s) and warm up to the mid-’60s by afternoon.
Angels Landing is a strenuous hike with not a whole lot of shade. Make sure you are prepared with a lot of water and a snack to re-energize yourself at the top.
It’s also important that you have a backpack so you can be hands-free during the hike. You don’t want to be carrying a water bottle while trying to pull yourself up the chains.
As always, make sure to leave no trace. Pack it in, pack it out. Do not leave ANYTHING behind.
Also, once you make it to the top there will be a ton of very persistent chipmunks trying to steal your food. Even though they are cute, do not feed them as this just adds to the problem. They are wildlife after all.
After tackling Angels Landing, be sure to leave yourself time to explore the rest of Zion National Park. I recommend spending at least 2 days adventuring through this park. Some other highlights include the Emerald Pools Trail (3.0 miles), and the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail (1 mile), and if you are up for another adventure you can try trekking through The Narrows.