Angels Landing Hike: Epic Chain Trail In Zion National Park Utah
The infamous Angels Landing hike in Utah is an epic and scary trail that draws many thousands of hikers every year to the Zion National Park.
This is a hard hike that takes you up the side of a steep sandstone mountain, with chains to grab onto for safety, and amazing views of Zion surrounding you on all sides.
The Angels Landing chain section is especially noted for being hair-raising and hazardous, and there have been a number of falling deaths on this hike over the years.
I wouldn’t say the Angels Landing trail is for everyone, but if you enjoy adventure, photography, and a good adrenaline rush, then definitely add it to your bucket list!
This guide for the Angels Landing Zion hike will explain how to do it safely, where to find the trail head in Utah, and everything else you need to know before you go!
- Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km) round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet (460 m)
- Top Elevation: 5,790 feet (1,765 m)
- Duration: 3 – 6 hours round trip
- Difficulty: Hard
Angels Landing Hike: What To Expect
Angels Landing is a scenic trail that takes you out of the canyon and up a steep mountain ridge, where you have to hold onto metal chains for safety.
This is an extremely popular trail, and Zion National Park is a very busy place in general, but the crowds can be manageable if you plan ahead.
It’s a safe enough hike if you’re careful, but I wouldn’t recommend it for young kids, unfit older folks, or anyone who is not surefooted and comfortable with heights. People have died on the Angels Landing chain section.
The details below will explain each part of the Angels Landing trail and what to expect. The entire hike is so worth it!
• Angels Landing Switchbacks
The Angels Landing hike starts out on a flat, paved path at the trailhead, but quickly starts to gain elevation right after you cross the bridge over the Virgin River.
You’ll spend the next mile on these Angels Landing switchbacks. There’s no shade at all to protect you from the sun, but the path is wide and the canyon views are already amazing.
At this point, you can already see the massive peak of Angels Landing towering in front of you. Yikes! As you keep climbing these switchbacks, your views of the Zion Canyon only get better by the minute.
• Refrigerator Canyon
After trudging up a mile of very exhausting switchbacks, you’ll arrive at Refrigerator Canyon, which gets its name from the nice, cool temperatures in the shade.
The path flattens out a bit, and it’s a great chance to catch your breath after the initial Angels Landing switchbacks. We even found a neat little cave with just enough room for a person.
Refrigerator Canyon is one of the only places in the entire hike where you get any shade, so enjoy it while it lasts.
• Walter’s Wiggles
Next up: more switchbacks!
This section is called Walter’s Wiggles, and it has some very relentless switchbacks that will tax your legs big time.
There are 21 switchbacks in total, and you gain about 250 feet of elevation in this short section alone.
• Scout Lookout
Near the two mile mark, after completing Walter’s Wiggles, you’ll arrive at Scout Lookout.
It’s a spacious viewpoint where you can look out over Angels Landing and the canyon below, without actually navigating any steep cliffs or holding onto chains (yet).
I would not recommend going past this point with young kids, unfit older folks, or anyone who is not surefooted and comfortable with heights.
Scout Lookout has plenty of room for hikers to sit and relax, and even a few restrooms on the hillside, although they are unmaintained and utterly nasty.
This is the last non-exposed part of the hike, and you’ll start to see warning signs telling you so. Catch your breath here, because things are about to get dicey!
• Angels Landing Chain Section
Now begins the real fun: the Angels Landing chain section!
This is the most thrilling and dangerous part of the hike, and it’s what brings many people to Angels Landing in the first place.
At times, the trail will only be a few feet wide, and you’ll have to hug the side of the mountain. Not all of this section has chains, but the most sketchy parts do. The chains are metal and sturdy, so you can rely on them.
For safety sake, always make sure you have at least one hand on the 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.
• Top Of Angels Landing Summit
At long last, you’ll pass the final chain section and reach the top of Angels Landing.
Even though you’re past the chain section and there’s more room to move around, you still need to watch your step and not get overconfident.
People have fallen from the top of Angels Landing when they tried to sneak out to the edge for pictures, not realizing how slippery the sandstone can be. In fact, according to the National Park Service, most falling deaths on this hike have been from the top, not the chain section.
The true summit (and best views) are at the end of the mountain, so keep walking a bit further along the top until it dead ends. At the end, some brave little chipmunks will keep you company and try to steal your snacks.
The final Angels Landing view gives you a 360 degree panorama of Zion Canyon, along with the tiny roads and shuttle buses below, and you can even look down at the gigantic peak you just climbed.
It’s easily one of the best views in Zion National Park, but it’s also one of my favorite views on any hike we’ve ever done.
How Long Is Angels Landing Hike?
The Angels Landing hike can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours roundtrip, depending on your pace and fitness level.
Bad crowds can slow you down more, especially on the Angels Landing chain section, although it’s possible to avoid the worst of it if you time your visit right (more on that in a minute).
Is Angels Landing Safe?
Yes, Angels Landing is plenty safe if you take it seriously. More than 300,000 people successfully complete the hike every year. I’ve done it twice myself, and I’d happily do it again.
With that said, I would not recommend it for young kids, unfit older folks, or anyone who is not surefooted and comfortable with heights. People have fallen and died here.
I also wouldn’t attempt Angels Landing when it’s windy, rainy, snowy, or icy. You want decent weather for this one so the rocks aren’t slippery.
If you’re still feeling unsure about Angels Landing, you also have the option of booking a private group tour for the hike, that way there’s an experienced tour guide to explain everything for you as you go.
Angels Landing Deaths List
At least 17 confirmed deaths have happened on the Angels Landing hike to date, and some sources put that figure closer to 20 deaths. Most of these were falls from steep cliffs.
It’s commonly rated 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.
I definitely wouldn’t discourage you from doing this hike if you’re able. I’m only sharing this information 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.
If you’re looking for a much safer hike in Zion with some of the same amazing views, I’d recommend Observation Point trail.
Don’t get me wrong, Angels Landing is a very scenic and amazing hike (one of my all time favorites), but it’s a hike to take seriously, and not everyone should attempt it.
More info: Angels Landing Deaths List
What To Bring
- Shoes. This trail is not sandal friendly at all. You want hiking shoes with good grip for Angels Landing Utah.
- Water. Try to pack at least 3 liters per person. In Utah, you should always bring more water than you think you need.
- Snacks. We brought some granola bars and shared them at the top of the mountain, after climbing the Angels Landing chains.
- Sunscreen. Most of the hike has no shade at all to protect you from the sun, which also happens to be very strong here in southern Utah. You’ll definitely want sunscreen and a hat.
- Gloves. This one is optional. Some people say gloves are helpful for the Angels Landing chain section, but I’m not sure it really makes much difference. We didn’t find the Angels Landing chains to be abrasive or slippery in our hands at all, even without gloves.
When To Go
The best time of year to hike Angels Landing Utah is in the spring, summer, or fall. During winter the trail can be icy and hazardous, so that’s usually not a good time to go.
Summer is the hottest and also the busiest time to hike Angels Landing. If you can go during the shoulder seasons (spring or fall) instead, that’s usually ideal.
Either way, the best time of day to do this hike is very early in the morning, to beat the heat and crowds. Try to get the very first shuttle of the day, if possible.
This means waking up very, very early, but it’s the only way to go if you want to avoid long lines for the shuttle, traffic jams at the chain section, and potentially brutal temperatures.
Where Is Angels Landing Zion?
Angels Landing is part of the Zion National Park, in southwest Utah.
Zion National Park is located in the far corner of Utah state, so it’s also within easy driving distance of Arizona or Nevada.
It’s about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, or 4.5 hours from Salt Lake City.
Angels Landing Trail Head: How To Get There
The Angels Landing trail head is limited to shuttle access for most of the year, and they only open it to cars during some winter months.
The Zion shuttle is free and easy to use. Just park your vehicle at the Zion National Park Visitor Center (GPS here) and then take the shuttle to stop 6, also known as The Grotto. You can read more about the Zion shuttle schedule at the official website.
Once you arrive at the shuttle stop 6, just walk across the road and you’ll find a sign marking the Angels Landing trail head. Cross the bridge and the hike begins.
Is Angels Landing Open / Closed?
Angels Landing is open all year long, except for trail maintenance or the occasional storm.
You can check about any current trail closures in Zion at the Zion National Park website.
U.S. National Park Regulations
The Angels Landing trail is part of Zion National Park, so the usual U.S. national park regulations apply.
As always, please remember to keep the trail clean, be considerate of other hikers, and leave no trace. Thanks and happy travels!
You’ll need a park pass to enter Zion National Park, but it’s pretty easy to get and you can buy it online or in person.
We normally get the annual pass and visit several U.S. parks in a year, but they also have daily passes. More information and current fees can be found on the Zion National Park website.
Angels Landing Lottery Permit System
Starting in 2022, the National Park Service is planning to require day use permits (via lottery) for the Angels Landing chain section. This new permitting system is still in the works.
The reason for this change is because the trail is becoming very crowded, and oftentimes you’ll be passing other hikers going the opposite direction, which is annoying and makes it less safe for everyone.
I have mixed feelings about this. While it’s true Angels Landing is a crowded hike and some changes are 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 of us it’s not convenient to plan our schedule around a lottery.
The plan is to make permits available as part of a seasonal lottery you can enter well before your trip, but there will also be some permits handed out on a day-before lottery for people who weren’t able to get a permit ahead of time.
According to the National Park Service, permits will only be needed for the Angels Landing chain section. In other words, you’ll be able to hike all the way up to Scout Lookout without getting a permit, which could be handy if not everyone in your group is able to get a permit.
In any case, the changes don’t take effect until at least April 1, 2022, so you can still do the full hike until then without having to get an Angels Landing permit.
You can read more about the new permit system on the NPS website. I’ll keep this guide updated as more info becomes available.
Where To Stay
Best Zion Tours
More Utah Travel Guides
I hope you enjoyed this travel 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!