Photo by Calvin Achilles from Unsplash

Photo by Calvin Achilles from Unsplash

Angel's Landing Hiking Guide - Zion National Park


A summit so high and so treacherous, “only an angel could land on it." When Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher first saw the sky-high Angel's Landing, that’s what he allegedly said. And yet, thousands of ordinary, albeit brave, people summit Zion’s most infamous hike every year.

What is Angel’s Landing?

Angel's landing on a clear skyImage by Leslie Cross from Unsplash

Angel’s Landing is one of the most breathtaking, leg-shaking, and heart-racing hikes in North America. This 5-mile out-and-back hike leads visitors up a narrow precipice to a stunning 360-degree view. But it’s not the view that makes this one of Zion National Park’s must-see hikes. It’s all about bragging rights. 

This hike is a narrow, scrambling adrenaline rush that is sure to live on forever in your personal highlight reel—or your nightmares. The most famous section of Angel's Landing is known as "the Chains." In some areas, it’s only a few feet across, with sheer plummeting drops on each side. Thankfully, these chains serve as a lifeline in case you slip. Hold tight! It’s a long way down.

RELATED: One-Day Itinerary: Zion National Park

About the Angel’s Landing Hike 

To reach Angel’s Landing, you must first hike nearly 2 miles to Scout Lookout. Here’s how it all kicks off.

Your journey to Scout Lookout begins at the Grotto Picnic Area. You’ll start by crossing the road to join the West Rim Trail. After a short climb, you’ll pass into Refrigerator Canyon, where you’ve got one last chance to soak up some shade and cool air.

After that, get ready to work up a sweat as you snake your way up the infamous Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 punishing switchbacks. But once you reach the top, you’ve made it to Scout’s Lookout! Take a look around and catch your breath, because, after that, it’s on to Angel’s Landing.

Angel’s Landing takes you up 500 vertical feet (152 meters) over only a half-mile (8 kilometers), and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. The narrow spine you'll follow has a few scrambles as well as a saddle with steep drops on both sides.

Because there are no chains on this section of the climb, I recommend crossing only if you are confident in your footing. For the rest of the ascent, you’ll be able to rely on chains almost the entire way until reaching the summit. There are no rails, handholds, or chains at the summit, but sum up your courage to snap your trophy pictures, enjoy your panoramic view, and then brace yourself. It’s time to go back down.

When to go to Angel’s Landing

angel's landing clear weatherImage by Fineas Anton from Unsplash

Angel’s Landing is open year-round, but each season presents its own unique challenges. 

From a crowding and weather standpoint, the shoulder seasons, like late spring and early fall, are going to be the best options. There are fewer visitors, the weather isn’t too hot or cold, and there is little to no chance of snow or ice.

If you do decide to climb Angel’s Landing in winter, be aware that wintery conditions can make the climb extremely dangerous. If you have concerns, talk to a ranger for some advice on how to stay safe.

RELATED: When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

Making a Reservation to Hike Angel’s Landing

Reservations are mandatory to hike Angel’s Landing. Permits come in two varieties. There’s the advanced notice lottery, which they draw by season. Applications open up about 2 months before the start of the season and close a little over a month prior. Check the NPS website to see when to apply.

The other lottery is the 24-hour lottery, applied for the day before, between the hours of midnight and 3:00 p.m., MST. 

Regulators award these permits through a random lottery. Your chances of being chosen are lower during the busiest months, such as July and August. 
You can find both lottery applications at the Recreation.gov website.

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Why the Reservation System was Implemented

Over the years, Angel’s Landing has become popularized as a must-do hike. It is a simple fact that the top is crowded, although debatable.

Shifting your way around people coming and going on a narrow, dangerous ridge is, well, dangerous. The regulators implemented the permit system to reduce congestion, improve safety, and enhance the visitor experience. 

What to do if You Aren’t Selected

Try the 24-hour lottery if you aren’t chosen in the advance lottery. If you still aren’t selected, either finish your hike to Scout’s Landing or consider an alternative hike.

For more suggestions, check out our tips below and our hiking guide.

What to do in Bad Weather

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. You can try to apply for another 24-hour lottery if you’ll be staying a few days, but otherwise, you may be out of luck. The NPS cannot reschedule your permit for another day, as it would risk dangerous overcrowding. You can, however, apply for a refund as long as it is more than two days prior to the reservation date.

Angel’s Landing: Tips and FAQs

woman standing at the top of zion national parkImage by Kristina Wagner from Unsplash

Pack What You Need

Walking sticks are great for the hike to Scout Lookout, but once you start up Angel's Landing, they won’t be much help. The climb is simply too steep, and clinging to the chains is far safer. If you bring walking sticks, be sure they are collapsible and can fit in your backpack because you won’t want anything getting in your way. 

Also, you’ll definitely want a good-sized backpack to hold all of the water and any snacks you might need. Remember, Angel’s Landing is very exposed, so bring about twice as much water as you think you’ll need. On a summer afternoon, the heat can be absolutely brutal.

Start with a Pit Stop

When you reach shuttle stop 6 at The Grotto, you absolutely must refill your water and use the restroom before you start your hike. There is no water on the way to Angel’s Landing, and the hike will be in the fully exposed sun the entire time. There is no restroom for the half-mile Angel’s Landing hike, and while there is a pit toilet at Scout’s Lookout, you do not want to use it unless you have to. Trust me on this.

RELATED: Zion Shuttle Guide

Be Prepared for the Return

What goes up, must come down. It’s a fairly steep ascent to the top of Angel’s Landing, and if your balance isn’t great, you may find yourself doing a lot of crouching and scrambling. This can definitely be a major thigh workout and will also put a lot of pressure on your knees. If you have joint issues, consider bringing your brace.

Patience is a Virtue

Be patient. Not everyone will be as fast or fearless as you, so take the opportunity to be a shining beacon for humanity. Be encouraging and allow people to move at their own pace.

On the same note, if you need to take a break, find a safe place to "pull over" and let others pass. If you can't find one, don't force yourself to go faster than your body feels capable. Safety comes first; after all, this is supposed to be fun! Don’t let the impatience of others ruin your experience!

Reconsider Bringing the Kids

Angel’s Landing may not be a family affair. The regulators do not allow dogs on most Zion hikes.

While the regulators technically permit children on Angel's Landing, remember that more than 15 people have died on this trail in the last 30 years. While there is no hike without risks, Angel’s Landing is particularly narrow, steep, and challenging. Before attempting such a dangerous hike, consider your child's age, behavior, experience, and physical condition.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

Watch out for those wily chipmunks and squirrels. I know they’re cute, but if they get any bolder, they’ll start organizing snack stick-ups.

Consider an Alternative

You’re a trendsetter. You do your own thing. If you’re ready to say “phooey” to crowds and reservations, consider one of the following Angel’s Landing replacements.

My first suggested alternative is just to turn around at Scout’s Lookout. Honestly, the view is every bit as nice there as it is at Angel’s Landing, and it’s much less stressful to reach. No reservation is required.

If you’re still raring for more adventure, continue from Scout Lookout to the West Rim Trail. This trail connects Scout Landing to Lava Point, the highest elevation lookout in all of Zion. While the hike is 15 miles long in total, you can always do part of it and then turn around. 

 Lastly, if what you’re really looking for is sky-high thrills, head to Observation Trail, which is even higher than Angel’s Landing. Check out our hiking guide for more information on this and other hikes.

Have Fun

Don’t forget, you came to Zion to have a good time! If you don’t get a permit, decide the hike isn’t for you, or are feeling too much pressure to reach the top, remember: at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. Don’t push yourself too hard and instead focus on just enjoying yourself.

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