02/10/2022

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Epic Chain Trail In Zion National Park Utah

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. Permits are required since 2022.

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, although it’s plenty safe if you stick to the trail.

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 travel guide for the Angels Landing Zion hike will explain how to do it safely, where to find the trail head in Utah, how to get Angels Landing permits, and everything else you need to know before you go!

Angels Landing Utah

Quick Facts

  • 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 Zion National Park

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 should be more manageable now that permits are required to do the hike.

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!

The final Angels Landing view is an epic 360 degree panorama of cliffs and canyons

 

• 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.

The steep peak of Angels Landing as seen from below
Some of the first Angels Landing switchbacks you’ll encounter

Zion Canyon views on the Angel’s Landing trail

 

• 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.

Near the top of Refrigerator Canyon

 

• 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.

Walter’s Wiggles

Looking back down at Walter’s Wiggles

 

• 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!

Warning sign at Scout Lookout. This is the last non-exposed part of the Angel’s Landing hike.
Start of the Angels Landing chain section

Here’s where things get sketchy! However, the Angels Landing chains are metal and sturdy.

 

• 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 for your safety.

The chains are metal and sturdy, so you can rely on them. They were first added to this trail decades ago when Zion National Park was still young, but they’ve been maintained and improved many times over the years, so everything is in good shape.

Even though the Angels Landing chain section is only about 1/2 mile long (or less), it feels quite a bit longer because you have to take your time and move slowly.

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.

    
    
 

First views of the sandstone ‘spine’

Looking back after the last Angels Landing chain section

 

• Top Of Angels Landing Summit

At long last, you’ll pass the final chain section and reach the top of Angels Landing. Congratulations!

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 of the summit, 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.

One of my favorite views on Angels Landing. From here, you’re looking directly at Observation Point Zion, another popular trail in the park.
Hikers resting at the top of the summit at the Angels Landing Zion trail.
Zion Canyon

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).

How Safe Is The Angels Landing Hike?

Yes, Angels Landing is plenty safe if you take it seriously. More than 300,000 people successfully completed the hike in 2020. 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 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.

The craziest Angels Landing view

Deaths On The Angels Landing Hike

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 the 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.

On the other hand, since permits are required for the Angel’s Landing trail since 2022, that has reduced the crowds a bit and the overall safety of this hike is better than ever.

More info: Angels Landing Deaths

 
 

What To Bring To Angel’s Landing

  • 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 other snacks, and shared them at the top of the mountain, after climbing the Angels Landing chains.
  • Sunscreen. Most of the Angel’s Landing 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.
  • Phone. Pictures on the Angel’s Landing hike are a must. On most of the trail you won’t get any cell phone reception or texts, but at the top summit of Angels Landing we did. This could be handy if you have any important messages to send or receive.

    
 
 

When To Hike Angel’s Landing

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?

Angel’s 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.

The park is about 2.5 hours of driving 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 only 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.

Angels Landing trail head sign at Zion National Park

Is Angels Landing Open / Closed?

The Angel’s Landing hike 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!
 

Entrance Fee

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.

The final Angels Landing view above Zion Canyon

Angels Landing Lottery Permit System

Starting in 2022, the National Park Service requires day use permits (via lottery) for the Angels Landing chain section. This is a new pilot permitting 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.

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.

In any case, it’s still an amazing hike, and I’ll explain how to get Angels Landing permits in the following section.
 

How To Get Angels Landing Permits

There are currently two ways to get permits for the Angels Landing hike: there’s a seasonal lottery you can enter well before your trip, and there are also 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 website, permits are only needed for the Angels Landing chain section. In other words, you can hike all the way up to Scout Lookout without getting a permit, which is handy if not everyone in your group is able to get a permit.

At the moment, it costs $6 USD to apply for Angels Landing permits (which allows you to apply for up to 6 people at a time), and then if you successfully receive a permit you’ll have to pay another $3 per person. The fees are non-refundable.

Logically, you have the best chance of getting Angels Landing permits if you apply for a less busy day, month, and/or time slot, when there aren’t as many people hiking in Zion. For example, if you apply to hike at noon on a weekday in March or October (that’s just an example).

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. You can find more info and apply for permits on the official National Park Service page linked below!

Book Now: Angels Landing Permits

 

Where To Stay At Zion

 

Best Utah Tours

 

More Utah Travel Guides

Thanks for looking! 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!
 

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