Top Hikes in Zion: Angels Landing

Written by SeanMitchell in Hiking & Trails

Top Hikes in Zion: Angels Landing

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is home to some of my favorite scenery in the world.  From Kolob Canyons in the North to the eerie landscape of East Zion, the views in this park range from the majestic to the truly bizarre.  Most visitors to Zion generally spend their time in the Southeast corner of park in the Zion Canyon where the North Fork of the Virgin River runs through an other-worldly valley.

Map of Zion

Often times, the most famous hike in a National Park can be a place of frustration for avid hikers.  When I think of the trail to Half Dome in Yosemite on 4th of July weekend or Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon in late spring, I think of staying home. Angels Landing is Zion National Park’s most famous hike, but is certainly an exception to this rule.

Angels Landing

Angels Landing from Observation Point

Angels Landing is Zion’s most traveled hike and I would argue its most famous (though some would argue the Virgin River Narrows isn’t far off, though quite less travelled), but it has some quirks that keep numbers from getting out of control. First off, although the hike is relatively short, it is fairly strenuous.  In 2.2 miles, hikers climb 1200 feet to the top, with 800 feet of that coming in less than a half-mile.  Even the fittest of hikers must then deal with the infamous Walter’s Wiggles, featuring switchback after switchback (21 in all).

The Lung-bursting Walter’s Wiggles

Second, a section of the hike is very likely to scare off anyone afraid of heights.  This knife-edge section has a 1200 foot drop on either side, with some parts only wide enough for two.  Every few years, someone dies on this hike from straying to close to the edge.  The pictures will tell you why.

Angels Landing from Scout Lookout

There are no guard-rails, only chain links that at times can be more of nuisance than an aid.  I do not write this in any way to attempt to scare off anyone who is afraid of heights, but the fact is that you may be “looking down” quite a bit.  However, if you need confirmation that it can be done by someone who fears the edge of a cliff, just ask my friend and wonderful nature photographer, John Woods, who is now thrice a veteran of Angels Landing.

So following all of this, you may ask the question, “why should I bust my gut while taking a chance of falling off a cliff?”  Good question, and here is the answer: the views.  Need proof?  Here you go:

The views along the Angels Landing Trail


So there you go.  You should all get up right now, drive to Zion, and hike Angels Landing.  Just do it.