Angels Landing: The Scariest Hike You’ll Never Forget

angels landing hike guide
Explorer Chicks on the Angels Landing Trail

The trek to Angels Landing is little more than two miles each way, but don’t let that moderate distance fool you; this is a high-adventure hike that you won’t soon forget.

Promising heart-stopping views and an unbeatable adrenaline rush, Angels Landing Trail has become one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, if not in all of North America.

You Might Also Like: Guide to Driving From Zion to Bryce Canyon National Parks

Ready to get your thrill on and brag to your gal pals that you’ve hiked angels landing and survived to tell the tale? Keep reading for all the details on how to do it.

Angels Landing Hike Overview

  • Distance: 4.4 Miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Wheelchair accessible? No
  • Elevation Gain: 1604 ft.
  • Pets allowed? No
  • Permit Required? No
  • Time Required: 3 Hours
  • Access point: Grotto Trailhead

How Long Is the Hike to Angels Landing?

The total Angels Landing trail is 4.4 miles round trip. It starts near the Grotto Trailhead, which is accessible via the Zion National Park shuttle service.

While much of the first mile or two are paved, they’re steep enough to give you a workout. You’ll quickly find yourself on a series of tight switchbacks, nicknamed “Walter’s Wiggles,” crossing back and forth as you climb. 

The real fun begins in the last half mile.

For your final ascent, the hiking trail narrows, with sheer drop-offs on either side. In some places, the path is just a few feet wide, with metal chains acting as handrails along the rock edge.

Your reward for reaching the halfway point is a panoramic view of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River below.  Take it in for a few moments before you turn around, heading back down the way you came.

Why Is Angels Landing Hike So Scary?

walking the chain on angels landing

Angels Landing trail is strenuous and challenging for both the mind and body. We wouldn’t recommend it for young kids or for anyone with vertigo, a fear of heights, or two left feet.

For the final climb, you traverse a narrow ridge with anxiety-inducing drop-offs on either side. Sure, there are those metal chain handrails to add support, but you’ll still need to watch your feet every step of the way.

Worse, other hikers are moving in both directions–even in the narrowest points. Narrow trails are manageable when it’s just you and a few friends. When you’re there with a hundred or so other tourists, things can get a bit trickier on a thin trail.

angels landing hike

How Many People Have Died on Angels Landing Hike?

A March 2021 article from US News and World Report called Angels Landing one of America’s top five most dangerous hikes. Since 2000, there have been 13 deaths on the trail, most due to falls.

Those stats are frightening, but they’re small compared to the number of people that visit Zion National Park every year. According to National Park Service data, more than 3.5 million visitors passed through Zion in 2020.

Tips for Tackling Angels Landing and the Chains

chains walking angels landing

When you are prepared and cautious, this great hike offers the experience—and views—of a lifetime. Besides, what is adventure without a little adrenaline rush?

Here are some tips for hiking Angels Landing safely:

  • Stay on the Path: Sure, it’s tempting to inch closer to the edge of the cliff for that perfect photo. We promise that it’s not worth the marginally better view.
  • Pack Plenty of Water and Snacks: Pack everything you need to stay energized. The last thing you want to worry about on this big hike is a growling stomach or a dehydration headache.
  • Be Patient: Crowds and technical trails can make for slow going; be patient with others and take breaks if you need them. Those views aren’t going anywhere.
  • Watch the Weather: Of all the places you want to be in the rain, snow, or wind, Angels Landing is not one of them — especially on the chains portion.
  • Be Honest With Yourself: Not up for a death-defying cliffside walk today? Fair. Trust your gut and know your limits.
  • Wear Appropriate Footwear: This hike is not a casual stroll for flip-flops. You’re going to want your trusty hiking boots for this booty buster!

Best Time to Hike Angels Landing

Summer, spring, and fall are peak seasons for venturing to Angels Landing. In the winter, ice can form on the already-treacherous paths, so we don’t recommend venturing out on this popular hike if there’s snow on the ground.

We recommend getting an early morning start to avoid the crowds. In summer, that early start will help you avoid the blazing sun too.

woman in zion and bryce canyon

You don’t need a ton of equipment to conquer Angels Landing safely, but here are a few things we recommend:

  • Sturdy boots: When there’s little more than a chain between you and the bottom of the canyon, a solid grip is your friend. Choose a stalwart pair with good traction.
  • Gloves: Sturdy leather-palm gloves protect you from the heat or the cold of the chains, helping you hold tight.
  • Hydration Vest: Trust us, you’ll want your hands free on this trek. You don’t want to risk dropping a bottle over the side, either.
  • Sun Protection: The trail is very exposed; shield yourself from the sun and other elements with a hat and sunscreen.

Whatever you decide to carry, make sure it’s balanced and secure. You don’t want to drop anything, and you definitely don’t want to wobble under a badly-loaded backpack.

Other Hikes to Do In Zion National Park

Backpacking near a river during a weekend hiking and glamping in Zion National Park.
Explorer Chicks hiking The Narrows.

If the full Angels Landing climb prompts a hard no, here are a few alternate hikes you can find nearby in Zion National Park that won’t make your knees wobble (but will still have a big wow factor!):

  • Scout Lookout (via West Rim Trail): The consolation prize for bailing on Angels Landing is another, lesser-known vantage point called Scout Lookout. The path to this vista point is an out and back 3.6 mile paved trail and offers its own breath-stopping views.
  • Observation Point (via East Mesa Trail): At seven miles, this out-and-back hike is longer than the path up to Angels Landing, but it’s far less steep, with an elevation gain of just 702 feet over the entire trail. Like Angels Landing, however, it boasts a view you won’t soon forget.
  • The Narrows: Leading through Zion Canyon’s narrowest point, the Narrows is a river walk as much as it is a hike—and by that, we mean walking in the river. The best part of this trail (besides the epic scenery, of course) is the variable length; you can go as far as you want before you turn back.

Join Explorer Chick on a Zion and Bryce Canyon Adventure!

women in zion canyon
Explorer Chicks freeing the tatas in Zion.

Angels Landing is just one of the mind-blowing stops you’ll find in Zion National Park. With our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Hiking and Glamping trip, you’ll get lost (figuratively, of course) among the hoodoos, try your hand at canyoneering, and wade through the cold river of the canyon with our experienced guides. Learn more and join us on the weekend adventure of a lifetime!

Tammy Liebenauer

1, July 2021

This trip was amazing!! We packed so many bucket-list stops in only 4 days. Angels Landing, Bryce Canyon, canyoneering and The Narrows were all gorgeous and different challenges each day. The accommodations were perfect, the restaurant was wonderful and our guides were accommodating and fun.

Meet the Writer

Carolyn Rousch

Carolyn is a freelance writer and midwesterner-turned-desert-dweller based in Tucson, Arizona. Her writing has been featured on Rover, Amerisleep, and Tattooed Women.

She is also an enthusiastic traveler, always seeking the best food, drink, and adventures to be found in every destination (and she has the Google Docs to prove it). When she’s not on the road or at a keyboard, you might find Carolyn rock climbing, hiking, or taking photos around town.

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