Hiking Angels Landing at Zion National Park
This is by far the most difficult hike I have ever done. I am by no means extremely fit or active and we were also not feeling 100% when we did this hike and we definitely struggled a bit. This is not a hike for someone who is terrified of heights, extreme drop offs, or anyone who is not physically fit or able to do a very difficult and challenging hike. If you feel like you are able and want to do this hike it is the most rewarding thing and the views from the top don't compare to anything I've ever seen before. Keep reading for everything you need to know, tips, and advice!
First things first, as of April 2022 the Angels Hike is now permitted. We were there in April and were able to secure permits as part of the first month program. We talked to some of the park rangers and got their perspective on it. They are all relieved about the permits being required and quite honestly I am too- more in this in a bit. The rangers also told us to "consider ourselves lucky" that we got permits and hinted at the fact that they may be limited and restricting the permit numbers even more moving forward to find the sweet spot.
You can apply for your permit at a couple different times:
Before your trip- this is generally cut off about 2-3 months ahead of your targeted hike date. In this method, you get to select and rank 7 days and times of the day that would work for you to hike Angels Landing. If you are granted a permit it could be any of the time windows you provided. It does cost $6 to apply and the fee is not refundable should you not get selected for a permit. Also note that your permit only covers up to 6 people including the person filling out the application. If you are selected you are charged an additional $3 per person on the permit. You will be notified ahead of time if you got a permit or not and are required to print it and take it with you. They have rangers checking at two separate locations on the trail.
The day before- This lottery opens every day at 12:01am and closes at 3pm.They issue permits at 4pm the day before your intended hiking day.
Okay enough about the logistics of obtaining the permits. The hike itself is 5.4 miles round trip and you gain just shy of 1,500 ft of elevation. They say the average hiker completes this hike in about 4 hours. We took longer than this but again had a respiratory illness and had to stop often to catch our breath. I am not sure doing this sick was a great idea but it was amazing and so worth it! I was not turning down this opportunity.
The hike itself is essentially 2 parts and only one is what you need the permit for. The first part up to Scouts Landing from the shuttle bus stop does not require a permit. The second part is where the second set of rangers verifies your permit before heading up to where the chains start. The first part to me was more challenging than the permitted actual Angels Landing trail. It is made up of 21 switchbacks where you gain a significant amount of elevation FAST. Once you make it up the first set of switchbacks you enter a canyon and walk back into the canyon towards the second set of switchbacks. If you make it to the top of all the switchbacks you have made it to Scouts Landing.
This is a stunning hike and if you do not get a permit to hike the second chain part I still recommend this trail. At Scouts Landing there is no running water but pit restrooms available and a large area where you can enjoy lunch or a snack as we did. There is also another trail (West Rim Trail) that splits off from here and continues on MUCH longer than than the Angels Landing Trail.
(view from about 1/2 way up of the canyon & view of the chains and steep elevation)
To me the hardest part was done. I was a bit nervous to start the next part but my brother and I did it! Keith stayed back at Scouts Landing as he felt much worse than I did and decided it wasn't worth it as he is quite terrified of the sharp drop offs. Once we started there are chains that run along the rocks that you can(should) hold onto on your way up. There are bluffs on either side of you that drop off to absolutely nothing. This part is definitely one way traffic- groups of people have to find larger platforms/breaking points to wait for the other group to pass either up or down as there just isn't room for two people to pass. This is part of the reason they added permits as there were too many people on the trails and too much congestion on these very tight lanes. I am thankful they did. I never felt crowded or scared and I think the number of people on the trails was good. There were a couple times in both directions (up and down) that we had to have groups wait for us or we waited for another group but people are so kind and friendly along the way.
Once you make it to the top of the last chain you feel so empowered and proud and the views are stunning. Don't stop there though. Follow the rocks and there is an even greater relatively flat spot to take in all the views! At the end of the trail my brother and I were up there with about 3 other groups and there was plenty of space and photo ops! If you're really feeling up for it you can hike down a bit and get to the actual peak. I was not brave enough for that- too risky to me. The views are GORGEOUS and unlike anything I've seen before. Truly the best views of the canyon.
(view of the canyon from the top)
The hike down is the exact same path you took up and goes 10x faster than the way up. I can honestly say this was by far the most challenging hike I have ever done. I consider myself able and somewhat athletic but I don't workout or hike regularly- just for a point of reference. But it was also 10000% worth the struggle. I've never been so high on a cliff and never felt more free or empowered in that moment. To be able to do it and share those memories with my brother was also so special.
Things to make sure you take with you to prep:
WATER- lots and lots of water
snacks and/or a meal if you'll be hiking over a mealtime
waste bags- this park has a pack in/pack out policy so that you leave no traces- this means everything you bring in you also have to bring out.
a backpack with everything you'll need
a printed copy of your permit
your license/photo ID
good hiking boots/footwear (the boots I have and linked run small- size up .5 size!)
If you feel able and are not scared of heights this is a must do hike at Zion National Park! As always let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to share more about our experience.
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