Angels Landing

Spectacular, amazing…crowded! Tips & suggestions for the busy season.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Angels Landing is one of the most sought out hikes at Zion National Park, it’s become a bucket list destination for people from all over the world. However, the downside to its popularity is that the trail can become very crowded during the busy season, which adds  another element of difficulty. Here are a few tips and suggestions from my observations as a guide that may be of help when planning your visit to Zion and Angels Landing. #knowbeforeyougo

Getting there In the busy season take the free shuttle to stop number 6, Grotto Picnic Area.  In the off-season you can park in the Grotto’s parking lot. The trailhead is across the footbridge on the opposite side of the road from the shuttle stop. Restrooms and water filling stations are available in the parking lot.

What to bring Unless you are planning to spend the night on the West Rim Trail (permit required), there’s no need to take a large backpack, daypacks for water, snacks, sunscreen, and camera is sufficient. I see people hauling way too much on this trail. Conversely, I see hikers without enough water and no snacks. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. I occasionally see “hikers” wearing flip flops on this trail. NOT a good idea. With the exception of Refrigerator Canyon, you will be exposed to the sun throughout this hike. Hat, ample water, and sunscreen are highly recommended. I also carry a small bottle of Gatorade to replenish electrolytes.

When to go The best time to hike Angels Landing is first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and hottest part of the day. (Click here for shuttle schedule) If you arrive mid-morning you could end up in a long shuttle line at the visitor center shuttle stop. This is when most people show up for the day. Late morning you’ll likely miss the longer shuttle lines but you’ll catch up to them on the trails. Early birds on the trail will still run in to a busy trail coming back but at least you avoid it going out.

Be prepared The trail often gets backed up at both ends of the narrow ridge between Scout Lookout and the hogback that climbs to the top landing. This is because the narrow section of the  ridge is only wide enough for one-way traffic with sheer drops of 900 ft on the Refrigerator Canyon side and 1,200 ft drop above Big Bend. Don’t be in a rush, this is a good place to exercise patience.

The last half mile of the trail from Scout Lookout to the end is fairly strenuous with extreme exposure that is not recommended for small children or those with a fear of heights.

Since 2004 nine people have died falling from the cliffs along the route, hike with care and be courteous to other hikers. Sometimes the only thing between us and bottom is common sense. Below is a pic I shot to show how narrow the trail gets. Big Bend shuttle stop on the right, Refrigerator Canyon on the left.

Angels Landing Trail

Busy holidays This year (2019) the park service began managing the trail on busy holidays. They do this by staggering the number of hikers in intervals from the Grotto shuttle stop. This helps reduce congestion at the top but creates long wait times at the bottom.  Considering there is water refilling stations, shade, and better restrooms at the bottom, I think this is a much better option than waiting at the top.

Last word Don’t let the crowds discourage you from hiking this amazing trail! Knowing in advance what you might encounter will help in planning your visit. There’s talk about the park permitting this hike in the near future to reduce congestion.

Below are details about Angels Landing that may be helpful in planning your time at Zion National Park.

Difficulty: Strenuous with steep switchbacks and long drop-offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge with extreme exposure to the summit.

Distance & elevation gain: 5.4 miles out and back from the Grotto shuttle stop with 1,488 feet elevation gain.

Trail type: Out and back. I strongly recommend wearing sturdy, comfortable shoes. Flip flops are not the ideal footwear (I’ve actually seen people on this trail in flip flops)

Time required: 3-6 hours

Dogs: Not allowed

Fees: Zion National Park entrance fee

Seasonality: Year-round. Spring and fall are most favorable temperature-wise; summer can be very hot. The trail is accessible in winter, during the coldest months the trail is likely to have sections of ice and snow that can be a bit risky.

Bathroom: Restrooms available at the Grotto shuttle stop and at Scout Lookout

Water: Refilling station available at the Grotto shuttle stop. Bring plenty of water and snacks, there is no water available along the trail.