As previously mentioned in my beginner’s guide to hiking the Grand Canyon, I’m by no means a lifelong hiker. The word ‘strenuous’ when attached to the word ‘hike’ still has me wondering if there’s a nice stroll I could partake in instead.
But the sense of achievement that comes with doing something you never thought you could has become somewhat of a recent drug for me. I’ve been pushing my limits, being brave – and actually, after two weeks of training my legs up in the USA, I found hiking Angel’s Landing one of the more achievable longer hikes I’ve done.
If you’re planning on visiting Zion National Park, or just curious to know how my legs were still working at the end of this impressive climb, then read on…
What’s the Angel’s Landing Hike all about?
Basically, sick views and adventurous clambering. More on that soon. Angel’s Landing is an iconic peak in Utah’s Zion National Park. It’s not *actually* the highest spot in the park (that honour goes to Horse Ranch Mountain), but with a 1500ft elevation gain, it’s definitely a challenging one still.
The name was given to the peak after Frederick Fisher famously stated in 1916 that it was so high, “only an angel could land on it”. The trail to Angel’s Landing is basically split into a few different sections, and with a bright and early start time of around 7am, my group and I set off to conquer it…
How to get to the Angel’s Landing trailhead
Take the free shuttle bus from the Zion National Park visitor centre, which goes around every 10 minutes. You’ll want Stop 6, The Grotto.
Starting your hike
After having a quick wee and refilling my water bottles at the Grotto trailhead, the beginnings of the Angel’s Landing trail are pretty easy going. A flat path leads you beside a river, as you gaze up to the peak, wondering how the hell you’re gonna drag your ass that high.
As the trail continues, the path begins to get steeper, with some switchbacks (paths that go back on themselves) and plenty of space to stop, catch your breath and let fitter people pass you by. This part was actually the bit I found hardest, strangely.
Still pretty hilly, but this part of the trail is the one part of the Angel’s Landing hike where you’ll find some consistent shade, so it’s a chance to cool down if you’re getting a bit warm. Also, it looks pretty awesome.
Named after a ranger in Zion National Park, Walter’s Wiggles is a set of 21 humorously named switchbacks that you’ll probably not be laughing about when you’re halfway up them. Once I’d caught my breath a bit, I actually managed to power up these relatively okay – the knowledge that I’d get a BIG rest at the top of them spurring me on.
My top tip for this pretty steep switchback climb? Head down, legs in gear, and give yourself little rest breaks if you need it. You got this.
YEAH, WE MADE IT. Scout’s Lookout is a nice reward on the Angel’s Landing trail for toughing it out up the Wiggles, with some pretty cool views of the park.
There’s also a basic bathroom here if you need it (although I’ve been told it’s not always open – so a convenient bush might be the best you can do).
The next part of hiking Angel’s Landing is the one that sensible people get a bit nervy about. If you’re not a fan of heights, you could always just bask in the glory of Scout’s Lookout – and there’s totally no shame in that!
Angel’s Landing Spine (aka THE CHAINS)
Honestly? I was expecting to be super nervous, but I actually *really* enjoyed this part.
Once you’ve had a breather and dodged the chipmunks going at your lunch at Scout’s Lookout, the part considered truly ‘strenuous’ awaits. To get to the fabled Angel’s Landing, you basically have to haul yourself up another 500ft of rock face, across a treacherous sounding spine that features some pretty sheer drops either side. Like I said, if you don’t like heights, this one might get you.
I personally found it loads of fun – using my arms to pull myself along, taking slow shuffles and small steps, and even spending a fair amount of time on my butt. It’s steep, sometimes tough, but I took it all pretty slowly, stopping to enjoy the views as often as possible.
Reaching Angel’s Landing
HOLY WOW. This spot is kinda special. And not just because I cried a little at my own achievement, honestly.
Once you’ve hauled yourself up the chains, there’s a short flat-ish walk to the end of Angel’s Landing, and then the views are all yours to admire. The amazing photo spot can be found just to the right of the peak, with a little cliff shuffling, and we spent about 45 minutes soaking it all in and taking photos.
Making it this far honestly felt like such an amazing achievement for me – the girl who didn’t think she could hike more than 10-20m uphill without giving up. And if it hadn’t been for my amazing TrekAmerica group, all spurring each other on, I don’t think I’d have actually gone through with it. Sharing the whole experience in the incredible beauty of Zion National Park was a truly unforgettable experience.
Descending the Angel’s Landing trail
The hardest part about this hike was definitely navigating the two way traffic on the spine section of the Angel’s Landing trail. Going up wasn’t too bad, as our early start meant we didn’t meet too many downward hikers. But waiting for groups of tens of folk to navigate up and past on my descent definitely got slightly hairy at times. Advice? Take it slow, shout ahead (or find some shouty Americans to let in front of you…) and be polite.
The whole Angel’s Landing hike took me around 4.5 hours, with a fair bit of loitering time at the top. I’m stupidly glad we went up early after seeing the queues waiting to come up, and glad we had some quieter time to appreciate the beauty of the location with much smaller crowds.
Hiking Angel’s Landing was a total highlight of my Utah trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone – even if you’re a little wary of the height or your fitness levels, even making it to Scout’s Lookout is insanely rewarding!
General tips for hiking Angel’s Landing
- Start early. I mean, early. The first shuttle buses start around 6am, and you wanna be on that one, aiming to be well on the trail by 7.
- BRING WATER. 3 litres is the advised amount – I didn’t actually drink all mine but on a properly sunny day, I’d definitely have done. There are no water points on the trail, so what you take up is what you’ve got.
- Other things to bring: food/snacks (Clif bars are the BEST), suncream, sunglasses.
- Wear shoes with a good grip – walking boots are ideal. You’ll feel a lot sturdier on some of the trickier sections.
- Don’t hike to Angel’s Landing if the weather conditions are bad – it’s definitely not somewhere you’d want to be stuck in a storm!
- Check the Zion National Park website/visit a ranger station for the latest updates on trail closures and safety.
- Slow and steady wins the race, especially along the chains. Don’t get flapped by people who are taking it at a faster pace than you.
- Keep three points of contact when you’re on the chains. Don’t be afraid to get low, and even shuffle along on your butt, if things feel a bit dicey.
- Take a backpack big enough for your water – because you’ll want both hands free on the chains.
- If you’re not an experienced hiker, always hike with at least one other person – for safety and moral support.
I hope this post has been helpful, and maybe inspired you to go hiking Angel’s Landing – it’s a really rewarding adventure, and I felt like a TOTAL boss once I reached the top!