Angels Landing in Zion National Park is famous for being one of America’s most dangerous hikes. To compensate, it has the prettiest views and the highest level of satisfaction. We’ve been lucky enough to hike in some incredible places around the world. Yet, hiking the Angels Landing will always be one of our favorite experiences. In fact, it was so great that we did it twice!
We hiked the Angels Landing via West Rim Trail during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we were traveling through the USA in our self-contained RV. We wanted to stay safe by avoiding crowds, so we started our climb before the shuttles in Zion started running. That amounted to hiking the Angels Landing trail in the dark and summiting with the sun. It was beyond amazing!
The hike, which is 5.4 miles out and back, is truly not for people with a fear of heights. Don’t use this hike to “conquer” your fear – respect your body and your limits. We don’t have fear of heights and are very confident hikers. We never once felt nervous or unsafe. On the trail, there are chains when you need them. We used these chains and never had problems as we gained 1,488 feet/454 meters in altitude.
Both times we hiked the Angels Landing, it took less than 2 hours from the trailhead to the top. And both times we did it at night. We were pretty well-paced the entire time and didn’t make any stops other than to take off layers. We had bundled up for November’s early morning temperatures. The reward upon getting to the top was to have the entire landing to ourselves. And the daylight revealed all that we conquered. I wish this intense sense of accomplishment and appreciation of the beauty around you for every nature lover.
This hike is a bucket-lister, and here is how you can make it your reality:
There are many ways to begin this hike when the shuttles are running in Zion. The Floor of the Valley Road is inaccessible to personal vehicles unless you have a reservation at Zion Lodge.
The first time we hiked the Angels Landing, we parked in the visitor’s center parking lot around 3:30 AM. We biked from the parking lot up the Pa’rus trail to Canyon Junction, where Pa’rus ends. From the junction, we biked up the main road, Floor of the Valley Road. And we arrived at The Grotto (Shuttle Stop #6). From the visitor’s lot to The Grotto, it’s about 4.2 miles one way. The bike ride lasted between 30 – 35 minutes. We took our time biking uphill to preserve our legs before the hike. We locked our bikes at the bike racks at The Grotto picnic area. After that, we walked across the street and began the hike.
We were the only people on the pitch black trail. The trail is actually paved for most of the way. The intense and tiring part is the 21 switchbacks of Walters Wiggles. Through, that part doesn’t require chains and it is paved. The chains assisted part of the hike doesn’t begin until you reach a sign telling you you’re 0.5 miles away from the Angels Landing. This area is called Scout’s Lookout and there are toilets available. I can say that any hiker at any level without a fear of heights wouldn’t have many problems accessing the first two miles of this hike. The view from Scout’s Landing is worth the climb up, even if you don’t complete all of Angel’s Landing.
We summited about 45 minutes before the day broke and enjoyed a picnic for breakfast up at the top. It was very cold, so I recommend multiple layers and hand warmers if you hike in fall or winter. We brought hot coffee to sip as we stargazed. It felt like a dream! Once daylight broke, we were truly speechless. Zion National Park is staggeringly beautiful and the views from the landing are the best it has to offer.
After spending some time at the top, we hiked halfway down the trail. There, we started passing other hikers who were dropped off by the 6:00 AM shuttle (shuttle times change seasonally). I can’t stress enough how enjoyable it was to hike the trail alone. I would not want to share the trail with others once you get to the chains part of the hike. If you search for images online, you will see how uncomfortably crowded Angels Landing can get. Do yourself a favor and avoid the crowds!
The second time we hiked Angels Landing, we did it with friends. We drove to Canyon Junction. You can’t drive on the Floor of the Valley Road in a personal vehicle during most of the year. So we found parking along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Ample parking along the highway will be available early in the morning. We snagged the closest parking spot to the junction. We walked, but you could also bike from the car up to The Grotto. It is about a 3.4 mile walk one way from the junction to The Grotto.
If you plan to camp in the National Park at Watchmen or the South Campground, you will walk or bike the Par’us Trail. Once you reach The Grotto you can start hiking the Angels Landing before the shuttles start. South is the closest campground (approx. 4 miles from the trailhead). Now, all this extra biking or walking may sound like it would be too much. In this case, you can also make a reservation to stay at Zion Lodge. You can then walk 0.5 mile to the trailhead from there. If you don’t mind sharing the trail with others, you can take the free Zion shuttle bus from the Visitor’s Center to The Grotto (Shuttle Stop #6). If you visit Zion when the shuttles aren’t running, you can drive to The Grotto and just park in the lot!
Still curious? The National Park Service has provided a virtual tour of the Angels Landing.
Hiking the Angels Landing to Summit with the Sun – Gear Guide:
Light source: If you plan on starting your hike at night, you’re going to need headlamps and handheld flashlights. The headlamps are an absolute must. The are chains on and off during the last 0.5 mile of the hike. When you get there, you absolutely need both hands to help navigate. Therefore you won’t be able to hold a handheld flashlight.
Layers: In November, the temperature was below freezing at night. It barely hit above 32F/0C at the top of the Angels Landing. The hike is a constant climb. We started wearing multiple layers and ended up taking off most by the time we reached the summit. Of course, we had to put them back on once we stopped moving. I wore a thermal top layered with a pullover, fleece, and puffer jacket. Also, workout leggings with sweatpants pulled over them worked for me. You might want to wear a cap, mittens with hand warmers, and thick hiking socks, too.
Shoes: Hiking boots are great, but not necessary for this hike. Most of the trail is paved. I would recommend hiking boots or sturdy shoes – anything with good tread will be a wise decision.
Daypacks/Other: Of course, don’t forget the water and snacks! We brought daypacks to hold our shed layers. We also had a 2.5L CamelBak to share between two hikers. Some coffee in a Swell bottle, bread, cheese and Clif bars were our treats. We brought our Nikon camera, a tripod, and cell phones to take pictures. Another essential thing to bring is a trash bag to carry out your scrap, so make sure you have one.
You won’t see the actual sunrise while you are hiking the Angels Landing at night. Because the mountains block the view. But, you will see an incredible night sky full of stars and planets!
It is a stunning experience. We saw Venus and shooting stars both times we hiked up in the dark in late November 2020. It was breathtaking. I definitely recommend starting your hike in the dark. Please only take on this adventure if you’re a confident hiker without a fear of heights.