The infamous Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park is commonly described as one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States, and if you look at an Angels Landing deaths list it’s easy to see why.
So how many people have died on Angels Landing? As of 2023, at least 17 confirmed deaths have happened on the Angels Landing hike, and some sources put that figure closer to 20 deaths. Most of these were falls from steep cliffs.
Don’t get me wrong, Angel’s Landing is a very scenic and amazing hike, and it’s one of my all time favorites. It’s not as bad as some people make it out to be, but it’s still a hike to take seriously, and not everyone should attempt it.
The Angels Landing deaths list in this article is the most thorough list of its kind available on the internet at the time of writing (2023), although some details are still incomplete.
I don’t want to discourage you from doing this wonderful hike if you’re able. The reason I’m sharing this information is just to motivate you to be as safe as possible at Angels Landing, and also so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right hike for you.
What Is Angels Landing?
Angels Landing is an epic and scary trail that takes you up the side of a steep sandstone mountain, with chains to grab onto for safety, and amazing views of the Zion National Park surrounding you on all sides.
At times, the trail will only be a few feet wide, and you’ll have to hug the side of the mountain and hold onto the metal chains, which may be the only thing keeping you from falling.
Before we get to the Angels Landing deaths list and my safety tips, I also wrote a complete guide for the Angels Landing hike and how to do it.
It has lots of tips, info, and photos for the hike. Definitely give it a read if you plan to visit Angels Landing!
Read More: Angels Landing Hike
How Many People Have Died On Angels Landing?
There’s been a bit of confusion about how many people have died on Angels Landing in Zion, so here’s what seems to be the most accurate figure.
First of all, there were 12 deaths on Angels Landing from 1908 to 2016. This is according to the definitive book Deaths And Rescues In Zion National Park (2nd Edition), which was written by Zion veteran Dave Nally and Bo Beck, a senior search and rescue member in Zion for 20 years.
This means when you add the 5 recent deaths that have happened on the trail since 2016, you get a total of 17 confirmed deaths on the Angels Landing hike as of 2023.
One thing is for sure — Angels Landing is one of the most deadly hikes in the Unites States by the numbers, and more than a few people have died hiking it.
Angels Landing Deaths List
This Angels Landing deaths list is the most thorough list of its kind available on the internet at the time of writing (2023), although some details are still incomplete.
The news reports in this list confirm that there have been at least 16 falling deaths from Angels Landing as of 2023.
- 2021 March – Jason Hartwell, age 43, of Draper, Utah, fell from the summit of Angels Landing. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2019 November – Savannah McTague, age 19, of Newport, Maine, fell from Angels Landing. A spokesperson from Zion National Park said environmental factors may have been a cause. (Source: Portland WGME)
- 2019 April – Pradeep Beryl Solomon, age 35, of Salt Lake City, Utah, fell from the north side of Angels Landing. (Source: Deseret News)
- 2018 February – A 13-year-old girl from Colorado City, Utah, (name unreleased) was visiting the trail with family and fell to the Refrigerator Canyon south of Angels Landing. She was hiking alone when she fell. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2017 March – Tate Ryan Volino, age 45, of Osprey, Florida, fell to the Refrigerator Canyon south of Angels Landing. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2010 April – Regine Milobedzki, age 63, of Upland, California, fell 1,000 feet from a ledge near Scout Lookout. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2009 November – Tammy Grunig, age 50, of Pocatello, Idaho, fell approximately 1,000 feet from the north side of Angels Landing. Her fall was witnessed by other hikers who called 911. (Source: National Park Service)
- 2009 August – Nancy Maltez, age 55, of Glendora, California, was hiking with family when she fell more than 1,000 feet off the north side of Angels Landing. (Source: Mercury News)
- 2007 June – Barry Goldstein, age 53, of St. Louis, Missouri, fell several hundred feet while descending the trail. A nearby witness said Goldstein was ‘goofing off’ near the edge and the ground ‘crumbled’ under his feet. (Source: Deseret News)
- 2006 August – Bernadette Vandermeer, age 29, of Las Vegas, Nevada, fell more than 1,000 feet from the top of Angels Landing while hiking with her husband. (Source: Deseret News)
- 2004 June – Kristoffer Jones, age 14, of Long Beach, California, fell when he crept out to a narrow ledge and tried to scratch his name into the side of the cliff as part of a $5 bet with some other boys. Kristoffer was hiking with kids from a Provo Boy Scout troop, and his mother later sued for lack of supervision by the adults in the group. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2003 January – Dorothy Kaiser, age 66, of Joshua Tree, California, fell 900 feet near Scout Lookout. There was some speculation that her death may have been suicide, since there were no witnesses and she had a terminal illness. (Source: KSL)
- 2000 August – Georg Sender, age 63, of Illertissen, Germany, fell 10 or 15 feet and hit his head near the top of Angels Landing. He was wandering off the main trail when the accident happened. (Source: Deseret News)
- 1997 January – John Christensen, age 36, of Provo, Utah, was rock climbing on the cliff face of Angels Landing when a botched rappel caused him to fall. It’s suggested Christensen may have been struck by a falling rock, causing him to lose his grip on the ropes. (Source: Deseret News)
- 1989 April – Jeffery Robert Dwyer, age 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho, fell 150 feet from a rock pillar. His death was labeled suspicious because a lot of blood was found at the top. It may have been a suicide or homicide, but no one knows for sure. Ultimately, it’s been listed an accident. (Source: Deseret News)
- 1987 May – A woman from Denver, Colorado (name unreleased) lost her footing and fell 250 feet while hiking near the final section of Angels Landing. (Source: Deseret News)
As you can see, from 2017 to 2021, an average of one person per year fell and died at Angels Landing.
However, there were no deaths on the trail in 2022, and there haven’t been any so far in 2023. That may be because of the new permit system and hiker limits, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
Again, the reason I’m sharing this information is just to motivate you to be as safe as possible at Angels Landing, and also so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right hike for you. I definitely don’t want to discourage you from doing this hike if you’re able!
How Did They Fall?
These are always the big questions in my mind when I hear of tragic accidents like this: “How did they fall? What happened? How can I avoid this happening to me or my friends?”
Every case is different and unfortunate, but it does seem like at least some of these deaths were clearly avoidable. Kids shouldn’t be doing this hike unsupervised, and of course you can’t goof off near the edge of a 1,500 foot cliff.
These Angels Landing death stories are still tragic, but diving into the details gives a clearer perspective of the risk level for an average hiker, and it shows that accidents like this are less likely to happen if you’re being careful.
The last time we did this hike in 2021, we saw a couple of young guys foolishly walk over to the edge of a sheer 1,500 foot cliff and crawl partway down the side for ‘cliffhanger’ pictures. They weren’t just dangling their feet over the edge, they were actually crawling down it. Crazy! I consider myself a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I was certain we were going to witness their deaths.
Again, I don’t want to imply that everyone who has died on the Angel’s Landing hike was being careless or foolish. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it does seem like at least a few of them were.
If you’re curious about more of the details surrounding the Angels Landing death stories and other close calls, you might want to check out the book Deaths And Rescues In Zion National Park by Dave Nally, which explains some of the history of these kinds of incidents.
Another book on the same topic is Death In Zion National Park: Stories Of Accidents And Foolhardiness by Randi Minetor.
Other Angels Landing Incidents
There have also been plenty of close calls, rescues, and deaths on the Angels Landing hike that didn’t involve people accidentally falling from the cliffs.
Here are a few of the most well known examples:
- 2016 May – Two hikers were rescued in one day. A man jumped off a rock and broke his leg, then a woman almost fainted from extreme fatigue after hiking without any sleep the night before (graveyard shift). (Source: National Park Service)
- 2013 September – Aammata Xaymounty, age 23, slipped and fell 30 feet near Scout Lookout, but a ledge and some thick brush kept him from tumbling 1,000 feet to his death. (Source: Deaths And Rescues In Zion National Park)
- 2010 March – In a dramatic close call, off-duty police officer David Bavencoff is credited with saving a girl from falling to her death at Angels Landing by quickly grabbing her leg as she started to slide off the cliff. The U.S. Department of Interior gave him a Citizen’s Bravery Award. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
- 2007 June – Mark Ertischek, age 60, of Anchorage, Alaska, died of a heart attack while hiking up the trail. CPR rescue attempts from nearby hikers was unsuccessful. (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Is Angels Landing Dangerous Or Safe?
I still think the Angels Landing hike is plenty safe and not too dangerous if you take it seriously.
The Angels Landing deaths list above doesn’t really tell the whole story. For starters, more than 300,000 people successfully completed this hike in 2020. I’ve done it twice myself, and I’d happily do it again.
If we assume there’s 1 death on the trail every year, out of 300,000 total hikers, that basically means there’s a 0.0003% yearly fatality rate. However, if you’re a safe hiker and you don’t goof off, realistically, your odds of getting hurt are probably pretty close to zero.
That may not be the most politically correct way to say it, but I’m sure the National Park Service has had similar thoughts, and that’s probably why the trail has remained open and relatively unchanged all these years.
So, is Angels Landing the most dangerous hike in the United States? No, not even close. There are much harder, steeper, and more technical hikes in the US that are more likely to kill you, but they just aren’t as well known.
Angels Landing is not even the most dangerous hike in the US National Parks. Popular hikes like Half Dome in Yosemite are harder and more dangerous. If you’ve done the Half Dome hike, then this one will be relatively easy by comparison.
For me personally, I have to say I didn’t find Angels Landing too scary at all after doing some very sketchy hikes around the world where there are no chains to hold. I expected Angels Landing to be a lot worse than it is.
It still may rank as one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States by the number of fatalities, but that would be partly because of its popularity. Everyone has this hike on their bucket list. I wouldn’t recommend it for young kids, unfit older folks, or anyone who is not surefooted and comfortable with heights.
I also wouldn’t attempt Angels Landing when it’s very windy, rainy, snowy, or icy. You want decent weather for this one so the rocks aren’t slippery.
For safety sake, always make sure you have at least one hand holding the metal chain.
This is especially important when you’re passing other hikers going the opposite direction, because you’ll be tempted to let go of the chain to get around them.
You don’t want a passing hiker to trip you, bump you, or fall into you when you’re not holding the chain. That could be lethal. No matter what happens, always put safety first.
If you’re still feeling unsure about Angels Landing, you could hike Observation Point instead. It’s another hike in Zion with stellar views of the whole park, and it doesn’t have any of the safety risks or permit hassles of this hike.
Otherwise, it’s also possible to book a guided hike of Angels Landing with a tour company. Prices are steep, but a permit and guide is included, and they can help you navigate the whole hike safely.
Why Do People Hike Angels Landing?
I know what you were probably thinking after seeing the list of how many people have died on Angels Landing: “Why would anyone want to do that hike?!”
Some people do Angels Landing for thrills or a challenge, but it’s also extremely scenic, with some of the best views of Zion National Park surrounding you on all sides.
I’d still say the summit of Observation Point gives you a better overall view of Zion Canyon, but the views on the Angels Landing chain section are more unique, epic, and memorable. It’s my favorite spot in Utah for that reason.
In any case, Angels Landing is a fantastic hike, and I’m glad the National Park Service hasn’t dumbed it down too much in the name of public safety.
Also, now that permits are required for the Angel’s Landing trail since 2022, that has reduced the crowds quite a bit and the overall safety of this hike is better than ever. That may be why there were no deaths on Angels Landing in 2022, and none so far in 2023.
Angels Landing Lottery Permit System
Since 2022, the National Park Service now requires day use permits (via lottery) for the Angels Landing chain section. This is a new pilot permit system.
The reason for this change was because the trail was becoming very crowded, and oftentimes you’d be passing other hikers going the opposite direction, which was annoying and made it less safe for everyone.
Before the change, Angels Landing was averaging more than 1,200 hikers per day during the busy season, and during the Covid years those numbers surged even higher. Now that permits are required, the trail has less than half as many hikers as before.
I have mixed feelings about the change. While it’s true Angels Landing was a crowded hike and some changes were needed, I don’t know if a lottery is the best way to do it.
This is one of the main bucket list hikes that brings people to Zion, and for many people it’s not convenient to plan their schedule around a lottery. The system seems a bit overcomplicated right now since it’s brand new, but hopefully they’ll iron out some of the kinks over time.
In any case, it’s still an amazing hike, and you can find more details about how to get a permit in my complete Angels Landing hiking guide.
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Thanks for looking! I hope you were helped by this safety guide for the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park, Utah.
Don’t forget to check out my other Utah hiking guides before you go!