Attempting Angels Landing – Zion National Park

Hi friends, welcome back! I’ve got part two of new series about my trip out west with my mom and sisters. I first shared about our time in Valley of Fire State Park, and today I’m taking you up to Angels Landing in Zion National Park. This hike is a bucket list hike and incredibly popular, so to maintain everyone’s safety, you need a permit to hike it. We all entered the national park lottery and won four permits to hike Angels Landing on a Saturday before 9am. If you hike without a permit, you will be ticketed and fined by the park rangers. When we went, I saw three people get fined, and the fine can depend on how cooperative you are with the ranger. The rangers check your pass before you hike, but if they aren’t there when you start the hike, they will check your permits on the way back. Moral of the story, be considerate and don’t hike this trail without a permit.

Angels Landing is incredibly dangerous and fourteen people have died on it since 2004. The last part of the hike up to the view point is very narrow and requires the use of chains to reach the top. After some researching, my mom and I were both very hesitant about this hike, but decided to see how we felt when we got there. Angels Landing is a total of 5.4 miles out and back and gains 1,488 feet of elevation. The chain section lasts about half a mile and is 500 feet of elevation.

We woke up bright and early and when we got in line for the shuttle at 6:40am, and there were already quite a few people ahead of us. We made it on the first shuttle at 7am, and were on our way to the Angels Landing trailhead at stop #6 The Grotto.

We walked over the Virgin River and hiked up West Rim Trail fast because we thought we needed to be at the chains section by 9am, but we only had to be at the trailhead by then. I would take a few pictures then run to catch up with everyone. This trail was paved and in great condition, but it became very steep quite fast.

This first set of switch backs was followed by a nice flat, shaded section through Refrigerator Canyon that we could catch our breath. I like to multitask and take pictures while I catch my breath.

We turned the corner and saw these twenty-one challenging switchbacks named Walters Wiggles. They elevated my heart rate very fast! I think this was the hardest part of the trail besides the chain sections. This trail is also the way to get to Scout Lookout where you can still get an incredible view of Angels Landing without a permit.

We finally made it to the chains section up Angels Landings narrow spine, and I felt confident enough to at least try it. I put away my camera and phone and followed my sisters onwards. I was very cautious and hanging onto the chains for dear life. I made the mistake of looking down quite a bit and it made me even more nervous. I slowly made my way and climbed up what I thought was the way, but turned out to be a rest spot, and I couldn’t see my sisters anywhere. A few groups caught up to me so I slowly followed them along the trail.

I got to this exposed point and this was when I decided to turn around. I just could not fathom climbing up that open section with only the chain to save me. Both sides have a cliff that goes straight down about 1,000 feet. I trip quite a bit in my hiking boots and all I could think about was one wrong step and I’d be over the edge plummeting hundreds of feet. I asked some guys behind me to let my sisters know I turned around, and then I slowly made my way back to the start.

I took some pictures on the way back when I felt secure so you can see how intense this section of the hike was. I stopped at the rest point and got some cool views of Angels Landing.

These birds circling at the top of Angels Landing looked pretty neat.

As I was taking my break, I saw a lot of people decide this was where they were going to stop and turn around. If you have a fear of heights, this would be a totally paralyzing hike. I would only try it again if I was harnessed and knew I’d survive a stumble. My palms get a little sweaty just thinking about this section of the hike!

I made my way back safe and sound and waited for my sisters to get back. These are their pictures from the top of Angels Landing. They conquered the most challenging hike in the park, and a bucket list hike for many! The only downside of hiking this early is the shadows everywhere, but better shadows than miserable heat.

We hiked a little further up the West Rim Trail to get more great views of Angels Landing.

The way down was a lot easier, but a bit tough on the knees from the switchbacks and steep decline. The sun had made its way over the rim so we got to see a different landscape on the way down. Also at this time it was about 80*, so we were very glad we weren’t just starting the hike!

While I didn’t make it to the top of Angels Landing, I had a solid attempt! If you are afraid of heights or don’t have a permit, I’d highly recommend you hike up to Scout Lookout. That was my favorite hike in the park and my favorite views in Zion National Park. It’s very challenging, but the views are worth it! So would you attempt the chain section to get to Angels Landing?? For more information on the hike you can check out the NPS website here, including information on how to get a permit.

26 thoughts on “Attempting Angels Landing – Zion National Park

  1. Congratulations to all. I would’ve passed on the chain bit. I love walking but generally not where there isn’t any facilities.

    1. It is very difficult when there aren’t any facilities. I’m always happy when there is a restroom at the trailhead or if a hike starts in a park with one.

  2. Jon missed out on a good one! Spectacular post, Lyssy, and such a contrast to your urban NYC adventures. The selfie where you’re sitting on the wall has a background looking more like a painting than a real landscape. More colors than I would’ve expected from a red rock canyon too. You made it further than I would’ve chosen to (and I love hiking). Chains to ascend + steep drop-offs is all I needed to read to say, “No way, not for me”. Even if I made it to the top, I’ve learned it’s the descent from the heights I struggle with most because I can’t help but look down, and then my stability is in trouble. Kind of surprised the Park allows hikers on such a (potentially) dangerous climb. Your own experience wasn’t compromised by turning back, however. Your photos prove the Park is just as awesome from its more modest heights.

  3. The chain section seems really dangerous, so I’m pretty sure I would’ve done the same as you and turned around. Especially since you got separated from your sisters. Amazing hike!

    1. I know a lot of people hike this trail, so relatively the deaths are low, but I’ll still not take any chances! I was worried I’d get stuck at the top and need to get helicoptered back haha.

  4. I would definitely not have attempted the chain section as it looks very dangerous but well done for making it as far as you did Lyssy especially with the added weight of your camera which you wouldn’t want to get damaged either. Gorgeous photos too and congratulations to your Mum and sisters for keeping going.

    1. Thank you! I tried, but ultimately made the smart decision to turn back. I figured coming back down could be even scarier because if you stumble gravity takes you down. It is hard with a backpack, plus my hat provided limited sight.

  5. Jerry and I skipped Angels Landing as he has 2 vertigo episodes. But I admire your trying. Our FAVORITE trail was the Narrows but your mom told me the water was too cold. We went in September and the water was great. It came up over my waist. You hike up to “Wall Street” where there is a huge rock with a waterfall. It was so dry that summer that there was no water fall. But, better dry as the trail is easily flooded and very dangerous when there is a lot of rain and flash floods occur.

    1. We didn’t realize it would be so hot when we went! The Narrows would have been very refreshing, but another time. I’ve seen pictures and it’s so beautiful thought the canyons. It would be scary if a flash flood came though.

  6. A stunning park and this hike looks pretty amazing. Like you, I am sure we would have turned around on the chains section. We did the hike that starts just past the rock tunnel out of the park and this hike provided amazing views and was still quite challenging. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    1. The park is stunning! It would be nice if they could harness you like a zip line, otherwise doesn’t seem worth the risk. We did the hike right after the rock tunnel (stay tuned) and I thought it was a bit challenging too. We got lucky and found a parking spot right across from the trailhead.

  7. This hike is quite impressive, I agree that you should not go beyond your capabilities. In my opinion, it would be better to do it progressively by doing the hike several times, further and further away. But, well, there are so many hikes to be taken.

    1. I think that would help. It is daunting to know that you have to turn around and do the whole thing downhill afterwards… I will stick to less narrow and dangerous hikes 🙂

  8. I’m not sure I’d make it as far as the chains section. 😄 I commend you for even trying this more than challenging “hike.” The photos are beautiful though and remind me a bit of your shots from Yosemite. Zion would be worth a visit. Scout Lookout is probably my speed.

    1. Thank you! I was comparing it to Yosemite a lot. Nature and National Parks are my favorite things to take pictures of. Zion is definitely worth a visit, but Yosemite definitely has my heart 🙂

  9. Even though you didn’t make it to the summit, you still got some great photos! Also, I’m glad to hear they are enforcing the permits and ticketing people.

    1. Thank you! I am glad they are too, I can imagine how many people would try to hike and cause dangerous congestion. My sisters said because of the shadows the view wasn’t the best so I made the right choice 🙂

  10. It looks absolutely stunning Lyssy – and I love the permit system, we have nothing like that in the UK and I think it would be a good idea. We don’t really have rangers on trails either – which is why we have so many deaths across the Lake District especially here. Like you, I couldn’t have done the chain section and I think it’s beautiful anyway 🙂

    1. Getting to the chains is enough of a hike for me, couldn’t risk not going to Paris! The permit system is newer for the national parks now that the popularity increased so much with covid. I think it’s great because they get so crowded.

  11. Nope! There is no way I could have gone up that; I have a HUGE fear of heights. The chain section would have been my stopping point as like you’ve said going down isn’t fun either.

    1. Definitely not a good hike if you are afraid of heights. I wasn’t about to play with fate this day haha

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