Objective: Summit Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 4.8 miles (out and back)
Peak Elevation: 5,790′
Elevation Gain: 1,582′
Caution: Cables, Class 3, cliff exposures, lightning, heat
Angels Landing is a narrow fin-shaped rock formation that protrudes from the red and tan walls of Zion Canyon. It looks like a giant cleaver has cleft a tall thin slice. With thousand-foot drop-offs on each side, Angels Landing is a magnet for the intrepid – slash – fool-hardy. Bring your vice-like grips and shimmy up the narrow ledges and precipices with strategically placed chains, guard-rails, and carved steps. From the lofty perch, contemplate geological history and survey the shifting colors and timeless rock formations.
Directions to Trailhead
Take the Zion NPS shuttle service to the Grotto stop. Cross the street and start at the trailhead.
Directions to Summit
Trailhead: Follow the paved West Rim Trail north along Zion Canyon.
1.1 miles: After reaching a notch in the mountain mass, the second phase traverses the cool and shady Refrigerator Canyon.
1.6 miles: Walter’s Wiggles is a series of 21 compact switchbacks that zig-zag to a saddle.
1.8 miles: From Scout Lookout, you can see Angels Landing and the main canyon below.
2.4 miles: You have reached Angels Landing. Turn around and head back.
There are four main phases to hiking to the top of Angels Landing. The first phase crosses the footbridge over the Virgin River and follows the paved West Rim Trail. After reaching a notch above the first set of switchbacks, the trail crosses a bridge and follows the cool and shady gap of Refrigerator Canyon (between Cathedral Mountain and Angels Landing). At the end of this canyon, the third phase consists of a series of 21 switchbacks named Walter’s Wiggles. The dynamite-blasted switchbacks climb straight up to the ridgeline at Scout Lookout.
The fourth phase is composed of the rainbows and gossamer that hiking dreams are made of. The rock fin is topped by a narrow ledge that rises higher and higher. At its best, the ledge is about 15’ wide – at its worst, it is only three feet wide. There are chains covering most of the sketchiest portions of the ridge. To the left, there is a 1,000’ drop. To the right, there is a 1,500’ drop. Try not to look down as you should remain calm. The final push requires some light scrambling and Class 3 handholds until the chains end.
Angels Landing offers one of the quintessential vistas of Zion and the Southwest. The view from the top is worth it. Bask in the glorious handiwork of the Virgin River and colorful stratifications of bygone eras.
The Scenic Drive within Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles. You can ride the free Zion park shuttle to gain motorized access.
While exploring Zion in 1916, Frederick Fisher exclaimed, “only an angel could land on it,” and thus the monolith was named Angels Landing.