Angels Landing – 5mi / 8.1km
The knife-edge ridge off the West Rim that is Angels Landing puts you right in the middle of the magnificent Zion Canyon. This very popular and busy hike starts at the West Rim trailhead across from the Grotto. An earlier start makes for a less crowded trail and summit.
Take a footbridge over the Virgin River and a right turn that heads upstream, leading you along the northwestern shore on a relatively level path. After about a half-mile, the trail begins to switch back up on a hot, paved slope. The views keep getting better with every turn as the expanse opens up below you. This section of trail has steep drop offs, but is wide, which is helpful for those with a fear of heights.
Shaded relief is found when the trail turns up into the aptly named, Refrigerator Canyon. Impressive rock walls tower above with overhangs that are picture worthy. After a gradual grade, the trail turns and you face the famous Walters Wiggles feature of tight switchbacks up towards Scout Lookout. These memorable switchbacks are a feat of engineering, and a treat to admire during stops to catch your breath.
At the top of Walters Wiggles a short traverse brings you to Scout Lookout with amazing views of the Virgin River as it comes out of the Narrows and down onto a rock outcropping called the Organ. It is here that you make the decision to finish the ascent to Angels Landing or turn around and head back down to the canyon. From here on up to Angels Landing, the stories you’ve heard of cliffy exposures make themselves apparent.
While no rock climbing with ropes is needed, the idea of a traditional trail isn’t applicable either. This amazing scramble along the ridge features steep drops on either side. Climbing is made easier and safer with the assistance of chains attached to steel poles secured into the sandstone. Patience is needed for those behind and ahead of you as people will inevitably be moving at different speeds from both directions.
Once at the top, the views bring smiles to everyone as a sense of awe and accomplishment washes over you. High enough to be at eye level with the White-throated Swifts and Peregrine Falcons, but below the canyon walls enough to still sense their magnitude, you recognize the magnificence of Zion Canyon. You can see up where the Virgin River emerges from the Narrows and snakes below you continuing all the way out to Springdale. Giving you further perspective, the white Park Service buses look like toys as they run the red roads. From this vantage point, photos come easy with every view being breathtaking.
This hike is a popular one making it a busy place at the top, so unless you go early in the morning or late in the day, you’ll have plenty of company. Once it’s time to head down, proceed with the same caution and patience until you get back to more traditional footing at Scout Lookout.
Trailhead: Take the National Park Service’s free shuttle to the Grotto stop in the main Zion Canyon or drive the Zion Canyon Road if the shuttles aren’t running and the road is open to private vehicles.
Elevation Gain: 1,500ft / 450m – Elevation Loss: 1,500ft / 450m