February 22, 2018

Hiking Up to the Angels Landing Viewpoint

Zion National Park is one of the most incredible places I have ever been. The beauty is jaw dropping and the various hikes are seemingly endless. You can hike through the Narrows (blog coming soon on this!), hike up Canyon Overlook Trail, hike the Watchman Trail, hike Observation Point Trail, hike up the infamous Angels Landing, or hike any of the other many trails. For this blog post I will be talking about hiking up Angels Landing.

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View of Zion Canyon from the top of Angels Landing.

We stayed at the Watchman Campground, so it was only a short drive (if you have the appropriate permit) or shuttle ride to the Grotto Trailhead, which is the 6th stop for the shuttle. Since we were going to be at the top of Angels Landing until after dark and would miss the last shuttle ride by the time we arrived back at the bottom, we were able to secure a special permit to drive our own vehicle there. Note that this permit is not easy to obtain and the odds are you will not be able to get one. So your best bet will always be to use the available shuttle system.

The hike up Angels Landing starts off on the West Rim Trail and is quite steep right off the bat as you go up a series of switchbacks.

  • A view of the first series of switchbacks you hike up along the West Rim Trail on the way to the top of Angles Landing.

  • A view of the trail as you are hiking up the West Rim Trail.

You will eventually arrive in a canyon known as Refrigerator Canyon. The steep uphill hiking will take a back seat through the first part of this area. This section is always shaded and quite cool compared to the rest of the trail, hence the name. It won't be long, however, until you arrive at Walters Wiggles - a steep, compact series of switchbacks that takes you to the top of the ridge above Refrigerator Canyon. This is where you will find Scout Lookout. You will have a good view of both Angels Landing and Zion Canyon.

A sign at Scout Lookout explains the dangers of continuing to the top of Angels Landing. Six people have died from falling off the cliff since 2004.

A sign at Scout Lookout explains the dangers of continuing to the top of Angels Landing. Six people have died from falling off the cliff since 2004.

At Scout Lookout you will leave the West Rim Trail to make the final ascent to the top of Angels Landing. From here you have about 500 feet more to the top. The rest of the hike is very exposed as you are walking across the narrow spine. There are a lot of chains and carved steps to help make this portion of the hike easier. There are not many places where you can move aside to let others pass, but there are a few.

If you are heading up Angels Landing on the weekend during the summer months then it is likely the trail will be jam packed with other hikers. I tried this once, and will never hike up during peak hours/months on the weekend again. The trail gets dangerous with the sheer number of people hiking through this section. Every other time I have done this trail I have gone up during the middle of the week and very late in the day, so there has been very little in the way of "traffic" hiking through this part of the trail. However, you do want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to be at the bottom of the trail before dark. Only if you are an experienced hiker with the right equipment and are not relying on the shuttle system should you attempt hiking this trail after dark.

  • The trail is very steep and narrow in sections. Chains and steps carved into the rocks are there to help you.

  • Justin hikes up a steep portion of the trail, using the chain for support.

  • The top of Angels Landing is in sight as you hike across the narrow spine. A chain runs along this section to help you feel a little safer.

After a bit of scrambling through this section of the trail, you will eventually make it to the top! The incredible 360 degree view is well worth the hike. Here are a few more images from the hike up Angels Landing.

As long as you are not afraid of heights, this hike really isn't nearly as scary as many make it out to be. However, if you are scared of heights, then this hike is probably not for you. It is a 1500 foot drop straight down from the top. The main challenges with this hike are how steep the trail is (you need to be in good shape!) and the bit of scrambling you have to do during the final 500 feet to the top. I highly recommend making this hike if you are in Zion National Park and are physically fit enough to do so. It is one of the most incredible views you will ever see. Have you hiked up to the Angels Landing viewpoint before? If so, tell me what your experience was like in the comments!

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