The Angel’s Landing trail is one of the most challenging yet rewarding hikes on the West Coast of the United States.
I recently went on an epic 4-day roadtrip to Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. It was an incredible weekend filled with mountains, views and the opportunity to reconnect with nature, one of the goals for my year of adventure.
The first stop, Zion National Park, was nothing short of amazing, though not exactly what I was expecting. Due to a last minute change of plans, I found myself summiting Angel’s Landing. It was a grueling hike up, and I wish I’d done some research before embarking on the trail.
To save you some of the same pains, here’s what you need to know before you go on the Angel’s Landing trail at Zion National Park.
The Narrows v. Angel’s Landing
For the longest time I had been ogling videos about walking through The Narrows. I had researched outfitters and the appropriate clothing. I was prepared to need a walking stick. I even knew there was a possibility The Narrows would be flooded as I was going in mid-April, but the eternal optimist in me refused to accept that outcome.
Until I arrived at Zion and was faced with a big “CLOSED” sign next to The Narrows on the board for the day. Naturally, I had a plan B, but I was not 100% prepared for the journey I was about to undertake.
You see, unlike The Narrows, which are a leisurely stroll you can take through lower ground and turn back at any point in time, Angel’s Landing is a five mile hike that, unless you reach the summit, is not really worth your time. It can take up to two hours before you reach what you think is the end, only to find out you haven’t even begun the hard part. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Angel’s Landing Deaths
The first 2 miles are through scenic, paved terrain, but it’s the last half mile, where you’re holding on for dear life and hoisting the full weight of your body up onto metal chains, that you really feel like the badass adventurer you are.
Before you decide to enter the final portion, you’re fairly and thoroughly warned that 6 people have died by falling off this mountain. Don’t be unlucky #7!
Length of the Hike
To access the Angel’s Landing trailhead, you take the shuttle from the visitor’s center to the 6th stop. The problem is, parking at the visitor’s center is very limited. I won’t go into too many details here, but by the time my friend and I arrived at 10am, every spot was taken and we had to get creative about making our own spot, which is not exactly sanctioned. The only other option at that point though would have been to drive back into town and take the shuttle in from town, which would have taken at least another hour and we were eager to get on the trail.
Silly me hadn’t realized that Zion National Park was on Mountain Standard Time (the giant mountains perhaps should have tipped me off) so we’d already lost an hour coming in from Vegas. The line to catch the shuttle looked like something straight out of Disney, but thankfully moved fast. Be prepared to have shuttles packed to capacity during ingress and egress to the park.
If you end up going mid-day, like me, there will be a crowd. While this isn’t a problem for the first two miles of the trail, since it’s well paved and very wide, the overpopulation becomes apparent once you’re on the final half mile stretch, with steep drop offs on either side and two-way traffic.
Only one person is able to hold onto the chains at a time despite two-way traffic, meaning that at some point you may have to step very close to the ledge to facilitate movement. If this sounds terrifying to you, skip the final half mile. My friend did, and she waited for an hour and a half for me to finish the final half mile stretch despite others along the way stating it would only take a half hour.
Total, expect to spend about 5 hours on this hike with the final half mile climb, 3 hours without. It’s only 2.4 miles one way, but you gain 1,500 feet in elevation throughout the course of the trail and the terrain will keep you on your toes, and gripping the nearest rope or chain for dear life.
Angel’s Landing Trail Elevation
Don’t fear, there are some amenities on your 5-mile total hike to and from the Angel Trail Summit. Right before the final half mile stretch, you’ll find two porta-potties. That said, bring your own hand sanitizer, and plenty of it!
On the way up I noticed a kind samaritan was kind enough to leave a sealed bottle of water in the shade for someone else who might need it. As weary as I am about strange food and drink, I almost snatched that sucker up, because boy was I thirsty. The bottle I brought wasn’t nearly enough and they don’t sell water bottles at the visitor’s center. They have water fountains where you can fill up before boarding the shuttle but that’s about it.
As I mentioned, this hike is rough. It requires you literally holding on for your life, and a lot of people trying to walk past you or requiring you to keep moving since they’re right behind you. The rocks are uneven and covered in sand, so they’re slippery and require superhuman leaps at times to ascend to the next level. You’ll pass several plateaus along the way where you’ll start to think, “I made it! ” only to find you’re still nowhere near the end (one example is pictured above).
But despite all these, despite your frustration, sweat and fear, I highly encourage you to keep going. Because you’ve come this far, and because if I can you most certainly can as well!
Unless you have some serious upper body strength and prior resistance training, you will be incredibly sore the next day from pulling yourself up on the chains to reach the summit. Don’t plan for strenuous activity the following day, but take it easy with some desert sightseeing instead. I went to Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona and it was the perfect way to rest after a day spent in the heavens at Zion National Park.
Only 2 1/2 hours from Las Vegas, Zion National Park makes the perfect excursion for anyone looking to experience nature at it’s finest. If you decide to visit and take the trek, you’ll see why the Angel’s Landing trail is consistently ranked one of the best hikes in the world.
Till next time, safe travels!
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