This is one of the most famous, well-known, and thrilling hikes in the entire national park system. The trail climbs 2300 ft in elevation over its 3 mile length, starting at a leisurely, level slope next to the virgin river and culminating on a rock ridge requiring a firm grip on the assistive chains. It's not a walk in the park - but the view is worth every bit of effort!
|Elevation Range:||1488 ft|
|Low Elevation:||4297 ft|
|High Elevation:||5785 ft|
|Area:||Zion National Park|
|Cost:||$34 for Zion National Park entrance fee|
Get ready! This is a strenous hike not for those with a fear of heights, but the experience and the sights will take you out of this world. So-called because angels land at the summit, you will have a full and unobstructed views up and down Zion Canyon.
After parking, make your way to the visitors center to board the canyon shuttle. If you are there during the off-season, you can actually drive all the way up into the canyon and park directly at the trailhead, otherwise the shuttle is your only option. Get off or park at The Grotto picnic area/trailhead, use the restrooms there, and fill your water bottles.
Once ready, find the crosswalk and cross the street. The trail will immediately take you across the Virgin River, and after crossing you will come to a tee in the trail. Start heading to the right, where the trail will follow the river, gently rising in elevation. After a half mile or so follow the trail to the left and up the switchbacks, as you will start climbing up the side of the canyon. The trail will be paved through these switchbacks, and travel through a wide variety of vines, shrubs, and other native flora.
The trail gets steep in a hurry - and unless you are pretty great shape your legs will be burning by now as you start to enjoy your elevated view. The trail itself is interesting, as it contours around hugging the walls of the canyon. This portion of the trail will end as you go over a small walkbridge to cross over the creekbed - which may be wet or dry depending on the time of the year.
Here, you will have entered into "Refrigerator Canyon", so named because of the relatively cool air that will flow out of it during the hotter times of day. The slope will ease up quite a bit here, and for half a mile or so you can enjoy the wooded, cooler segment at an easy pace. Take notice of some of the natural nooks in the rocks as you pass them. The trail will start switching back and forth before long, until it gets to Walters Wiggles.
So named for the man who oversaw their construction, Walters Wiggles were put in during the 1930s by the Civil Conservation Corps. It is 21 steep switchbacks that alternate back and forth up a single channel until arriving at scout lookout. This section is a real leg-burner, and any endurance you have left will be drawn out as you make your way up.
After exiting walters wiggles, make your way across the last section of the trail before you summit at Scout Lookout. If the heights up to this point were making you nervous, or if you don't want to navigate the narrow trail coming up on the last segment, then this is a great place to stop. Either wait for the rest of your group here, or turn around at your leisure. There are some non-developed restrooms here for your use, and some pretty great views that you can see as you approach the edge.
Once rested, go ahead and start heading south towards the summit. You can see the peak in the distance, and you can also see the trail immediately in front of you marked by chains.
The remaining half mile is steep and rocky, with dropoffs of more than a thousand feet just a pace or two from the trail. The trail is not inherently dangerous with a little bit of caution, but several people have fallen to their deaths here. Be careful!
The trail follows a long saddle downward, and then upwards to the peak. Wait to pass others, don't get in a hurry, and use the chains when they are there. The views are amazing, and the scrambles around the rocks and trees can be fun and challenging. You will see the peak approach as you get closer, but you will crest the peak soon enough. Once on top, the main lookout is a few hundred feet forward, and the area is worth spending a few minutes to explore. Take in all the sights around you, have a snack, and don't let the chipmunks get too friendly with you or your possessions!
After you have had some time to take it all in, go ahead and start back down. Same rules apply, perhaps more so - be careful, don't get in too much of a hurry, and don't get too eager about passing other hikers unless it is safe to do so. The trip down is the reverse of the trip up, just make sure to start heading down the trail towards Walters Wiggles once you get to Scout Lookout, rather than heading out on the West Rim Trail.
Once down at the bottom, go ahrad and catch the shuttle or drive back. If you haven;t done so already, go up the canyon before heading back down - you can see the other side of Angels landing up close and admire the trail you just conquered!
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This is one of the greatest hikes I have ever done. I felt like I was on top of the world when I got to the top, and while it was a little nerve-wracking at times, I never felt like I was in danger. So much for all the horror stories I have heard!
- From I-15, take exit 16 (Hwy 9) towards Hurricane
- After 12 miles, turn right to continue on Hwy 9
- Travel 20 more miles until arriving at Zion National Park
- Pay the entrance fee, and park. It can be hard to find a parking spot depending on the time of year; parking outside of the park and using the Springdale shuttle to enter may be the best option.
- During off-season (approximately Oct. - Apr.), you can drive directly up the canyon and park at The Grotto Trailhead/Picnic Area.
- If the canyon is closed to traffic, board the shuttles at the visitors center to get up the canyon and get off when they announce The Grotto.
- At the Grotto Picnic area, cross the street to the West, and cross the river over the bridge. Make a right, and there is the trail.
ZionNational-Park.com - The page for Angels landing on one of the best Zion - focused sites around.
Wikipedia - Yes, this trail is distinctive enough to have its own wikipedia page.
Joes Guide - A great guide, and even better photos
National Park Service eHike - The eHike page for Angels landing, straight from the NPS website