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Angels Landing

Everything you need to know

The notorious Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park, with its strenuous switchbacks, sheer drop offs and dizzying views, is a true bucket list National Park adventure. Hikers gain 1,488 feet of elevation from the Grotto trailhead to the top of a stone spine a Methodist minister once declared, “Only an angel could land on.” The 5.5-mile, round-trip hike takes about 4 hours for average hikers and ranges from exhilarating to terrifying, depending on who you ask.

In April, 2022, the National Park Service began requiring permits for all hikers above Scout’s Landing to control crowds where 1,000-foot cliffs drop off from each side of the narrow trail. Those without permits, or with a fear of heights, might consider hiking to Scout’s Landing or just above it for a spectacular view that omits the half-mile stretch to the summit of Angel’s Landing which traverses a narrow stone spine.

Obtain a permit to hike Angels Landing

Get permits through us

A limited number of permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis to commercial tour operators like us. But we can only obtain these permits for hikes on certain days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Contact us to see if we have permits for your date, or can get permits for your date. We can take up to 6 people in a group, plus one guide.

Or get your own permit

We can guide you on your Angels Landing hike any day of the week if you obtain your own permits, even if you do not include a guide on the permit. All permits are awarded at Recreation.gov.

Advanced, “seasonal” lottery

If you plan ahead, you can apply for permits in the seasonal lottery. You will get to pick seven ranked days and times or windows of days and times you want to hike.
Find the date you plan to be in Zion and use Recreation.gov to apply for a permit during your application window, simply search “Angel’s Landing, and select your season. There is a non-refundable $6 fee to submit an application for up to 6 people. Results are emailed on the date permits are issued. If you are awarded permits, an additional $3 per person fee will be charged to your credit card. This can be refunded if you cancel at least two days before your hike. If you aren’t selected, consider applying again for a last minute permit the day before you plan to hike or call us to see what your options are.

When to apply

Hike Dates Lottery Opens 8 a.m. MT Lottery Closes 11:59 p.m. MT Permits Issued
 March 1 to May 31 January 1 January 20 January 25
June 1 to August 31 April 1 April 20 April 25
September 1 to November 30 July 1 July 20 July 25
December 1 to February 28, 2025 October 1 October 20 October 25

 

Last-minute lottery

You can also apply for a permit one day before you want to hike beginning at 12:01 a.m. until 3 p.m. Mountain Time by searching “Angels Landing” on Recreation.gov and selecting the correct season. For example, if you want to hike on Monday, apply between Midnight and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Results will be emailed at 4 p.m. It costs $6 to enter the lottery, plus $3 per person if you win.

Getting to the trailhead

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal cars most of the year, which means you will most likely be boarding a free shuttle at the Visitors Center and riding to the Grotto bus stop. Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes and the bus ride to the Grotto takes about 30 minutes, plus there is often a line to board the shuttle. Some choose to ride bicycles to the trailhead. From January 1 through March 2 there is no shuttle and personal vehicles are allowed on the road, but parking fills up quickly. If you need more details, here is a link to the shuttle schedule.

 

The hike

Take the shuttle bus to the Grotto and begin your hike on the West Rim trail at the time stated on your permit. Cross the bridge over the picturesque Virgin River, then follow the trail to the right. The trail will begin to switchback as it enters Refrigerator Canyon and you climb from the valley floor. This section of the trail is wide and normally not intimidating even for those afraid of heights. About 1.5 miles in, you’ll reach 21 steeper switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. At just over 2 miles, you arrive at Scout’s Lookout where there is a heavily used outhouse. From here, hikers may continue up the West Rim trail without a permit, or take the last half-mile spur trail up to Angel’s Landing if they do have a permit. This trail follows a narrow stone ridge that in some places is the width of a sidewalk with 1,000 foot drop offs on either side of the trail. The park service has installed chains to hang onto, but in spots, it’s precarious to pass another hiker and hikers will be traveling both directions. Once on top, there is plenty of space to spread out, enjoy a snack and revel in the 360-degree view. But don’t let your guard down. It’s a long way down and people have fallen here.

What should I pack for my Angels Landing hike?

  • Your permit
  • Carry at least 2 liters of water per person, and consider bringing more if it’s hot. There is no water along the trail. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun and you’ll be exerting.
  • Backpacks are essential because you’ll need your hands free for the chains section
  • Hiking poles can be useful to protect knees and leg muscles, especially on the steep descent, but we strongly recommend putting them away for the chains section.
  • Food is always good, carry a full lunch or at least plenty of snacks, include something salty and things you look forward to eating. Keep an eye out for bold squirrels who try to steal your food and do not feed them.
  • Sunglasses and hat. It’s sunny and you need to have your eyes wide open for this one.
  • Please wear some kind of hiking or athletic shoe, preferably with good traction, or at least sturdy sport sandals. We know high heels give those Instagram selfies a certain look but they are a danger to yourself and others on a trail like this.

What’s the best time of year to hike Angels Landing?

Spring and fall bring the best temperatures to the desert Southwest. March, April and May, at least early May, are quite comfortable but can be windy. December, January or February can also bring good hiking temperatures. Cold is safer than heat, but there is a risk of snow and ice on the trail. Traction control devices can help, but if it’s really slippery, consider whether you want to risk the chains section: no adventure story is worth dying for. June, July and August can be hot. Try to get an early morning permit, carry water, hats, cooling towels and watch out for afternoon monsoons and the lightning hazard that comes with them. September and October are premium, this is what most consider the best weather but it can be harder to obtain a permit and the park will be at its busiest. November should be pretty sweet too. Also avoid holiday weekends as much as possible. You can also read our blog post about weather and when to plan your trip.

Is hiking Angel’s Landing dangerous?

One blogger has compiled a list of 14 people who have fallen to their death from Angels Landing since 1987. In 2021, FOX 13 examined death investigation reports from the National Park Service and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal reports some interesting trends they found. Of the 13 deaths the journalists studied, most victims were men. Also many were hiking alone, including one 13-year-old girl who was separated from her family. But the big takeaway is most of the deaths do not occur on the narrow section with chains that has made the trail so notorious.

“Folks were falling either before the chained section or after the chained section,” the article states.

Our interpretation of that is the trail really is not that dangerous as long as you are careful. It’s when people let their guard down, such as on the top when they are distracted by the view and their selfie sticks, we assume.

Another hiker, who writes for KSL about a close call on the trail with a kite, seems to agree with us.

“Now, I can’t say with any certainty what is leading to the growing number of deaths on Angels Landing. Each event is its own tragedy. Having hiked the chain section to the summit many times; I do not consider this trail to be particularly dangerous for hikers who are attentive, cautious, respectful and prepared.

However, I suspect extreme accessibility and social media fame are luring many underprepared, inattentive, inconsiderate and vainglorious travelers to this trail — increasing the risk and frequency of tragedy. Attempting Angels Landing with the wrong set of attributes is to tempt one’s fate, as thousand-foot falls do not allow for do-overs.”

Angels Landing History

Frederick Vining Fisher, an Ogden resident and pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Ogden, named Angels Landing and two other Zion Canyon landmarks during a visit there in 1916. The rock formation had previously been called Temple of Aeolus, according to Wikipedia.

The Washington County News published a story on Dec. 25, 1924, about Park Ranger Harold Russell, who is believed to have been the first person to actually stand on the Angels Landing summit in 1923. Russell was a guide along with David Dennett on this climb. There were also no Walter’s Wiggle switchbacks, chains or steps that have been carved into rock to make the hike more passable. The article describes some of the hiking party dangling from ropes “in thin air” to reach the summit of Angels Landing.

The Angels Landing trail was constructed in 1926 after the West Rim trailhead provided access to Scout’s Lookout. Work was supervised by Park Superintendent Walter Ruech, who Walter’s Wiggles is named for.

The half-mile section up the spine, the Angels Landing Trail-West Rim Trail, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. A 1984 Classified Structure Field Inventory Report about the trail describes the project and states, “Angels Landing is one of the most dramatic trails ever built by the Park Service.” We couldn’t agree more.

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