Although the hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park is only five miles up and back, most hikers take four hours to make the round-trip. After all, you are climbing 1,488 feet in elevation, up steep switchbacks. The last half mile is along an exposed ridge where accidents or carelessness can prove fatal. Fourteen people have died on Angels Landing since 2000. It’s imperative to stay on the trail, pay attention and to avoid the section with chains when crowded.
Park officials recommend an early morning departure so you can beat the heat of the mid-day sun. (You really don’t want to be up there in the late afternoon, trying to get down in the dark.)
Preparing for your Angels Landing Hike
Being prepared to hike the Angels Landing Trail means hiking boots or closed-toe hiking shoes with non-slip soles (sandals, flip-flops and skate shoes are all bad ideas), a day-pack to carry plenty of water and salty snacks, plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
According to the National Park Service, “The route to Angels Landing involves travel along a steep, narrow ridge with support chains anchored intermittently along the route. Footing can be slippery even when the rock is dry. Unevenly surfaced steps are cut into the rock with major cliff dropoffs adjacent. Keep off when it is wet, icy or thunderstorms are in the area. Plan to be off before dark. Younger children should skip this trail; older children must be closely supervised.”
Angels Landing Permit Lottery
In 2022, Zion National Park is piloting a permit program for Angels Landing to help solve overcrowding problems. All hikers will need a timed permit to hike past Scout Lookout beginning April 1, 2022. To obtain a permit, you’ll need to apply for one of two lotteries. A lottery is a random drawing of applications to be awarded permits. Entering a lottery doesn’t guarantee you will get a permit.
The first lottery is the advanced seasonal lottery, which happens quarterly. This lottery is the best option if you’re planning a trip in advance. The seasonal lottery opens several months in advance of each hiking season. When the lottery is open, you can apply once per person on recreation.gov for a permit for up to six people by ranking up to seven dates and times, or window of dates and times you’d like to hike in that season. All permits are valid for a specific date and time of day: before 9 a.m., between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. or after 12 p.m. The fee to apply for the lottery is $6 and non-refundable. After the lottery closes, applicants will be notified of the results of their application. Selected applicants will be automatically issued a permit and charged the $3 per person permit fee.
- The spring lottery for hiking dates between Apr. 1 and May 31, 2022 is open from Jan. 3-20, 2022. Applicants will be notified of results on Jan. 25.
- The summer lottery for hiking dates between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2022 is open from Apr. 1-20, 2022. Applicants will be notified of results on Apr. 25.
- The fall lottery for hiking dates between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, 2022 is open from July 1-20, 2022. Applicants will be notified of results on July 25.
- The winter lottery for hiking dates between Dec. 1, 2022 and Feb. 28, 2023 is open from Oct. 1-20, 2022. Applicants will be notified of results on Oct. 25.
If you didn’t plan far enough ahead to enter the seasonal lottery or you didn’t get a permit in the seasonal lottery, your second option to to enter the day-before lottery. On the day before your desired hike date, you can enter the lottery by applying for a timed permit once per person for up to six hikers between 12:01 a.m. and 3 p.m. MT on recreation.gov. The fee to apply for the lottery is $6 and non-refundable. You’ll be notified of the results and, if you were selected, issued your permit and charged the $3 per person fee at 4 p.m. MT the day before your hike date. For example, if you wanted to hike on May 1, you could enter the lottery on Apr. 30 between 12:01 a.m. and 3 p.m. MT and would be notified by 4 p.m. if you had obtained a permit or not.
The lottery system on recreation.gov is the only way to get a permit to hike Angels Landing. Make sure to apply using your name as it’s listed on your photo ID to avoid any issues when rangers check permits. You can specify an alternate permit holder while applying. If you’re applying to hike with others, this is a great idea in case you get sick or are unable to make the trip, your alternate can be the permit holder.
If you are unable to make the trip, or want to reduce the size of your group, you can until two days before the permit date and receive a refund for the permit cost.
Because Angels Landing is such a popular hike, this lottery is expected to be competitive. To increase your odds of winning, avoid choosing weekends, holidays and peak season dates like spring break, summer break and fall break.
Logistics of Angels Landing Hiking
To climb Angels Landing, take the shuttle bus to the Grotto drop off point. The trail follows the Virgin River for awhile, then gets steeper as it leaves the river. You’ll climb up switchbacks, be refreshed by cool breezes from Refrigerator Canyon, then surmount the 21 tight switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles, named after Walter Ruesch, the first superintendent of Zion National Park. Ruesch designed and led the construction of the Angels Landing Trail during the Great Depression. Workers hung from ropes for $3.50 a day, as they chipped a trail out of solid rock.
When you reach Scout Lookout (at 1,000 feet above the canyon floor), it is time to make one of several decisions. You can stay and enjoy the spectacular view, drink some water, eat a snack and head back to the Grotto after you catch your breath.
Or you can hike another 488 feet to Angels Landing, along a narrow spine of rock and a trail that’s only a few feet wide, with 1,000-foot dropoffs on either side. Support chains help increase your peace of mind. Some spots are narrow, so be courteous as you pass others going up or down. The 360-degree view from Angels Landing is blow-your-mind “Wow!”
Finally, there’s less scary hiking options — a day-hike out on West Rim Trail, or a longer 12-mile hike to the high plateau of Lava Point.
Want more exhilarating Zion challenges? Hiking Angels Landing is part of our 5-Day Adventure Itinerary.
Need a map? Download an official Zion National Park map for basic road and attraction locations. Want a detailed topographical map of trails in the park? Buy the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Map for Zion National Park at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, lakes and much more. Or get the complete Utah National Parks Map Pack with five topographic maps. All of the NatGeo maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.
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