Angels Landing (dayhike)

SA Report: Angels Landing

Trip Date: 10/30/2016

Location: Zion National Park

Permit/Pass: Private Vehicle: $30. Valid for 7 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Motorcycle: $25. Valid for 7 days. Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Per Person: $15. Valid for 7 days. 

Trail maps: NPSmap 

Directions: From Interstate 15 just north of the town of St. George take Utah Highway 9 east toward Hurricane (follow the signs for Zion National Park). After a bit over 12 miles, and passing through Hurricane, you reach a junction with Hwy. 17 in La Verkin where you turn right to continue on Hwy. 9 East. Continue for about 20 and a half miles to, and through, the town of Springdale (just outside of the park) and to the park's entrance kiosks. Just past the entrance there will be signs for the Visitor Center. Take this quick right turn and head down to the parking area, then walk over to the center where you'll pick up the Zion shuttle bus - the only way to reach the trailheads in the canyon. Depart the bus at stop #6 - the Grotto, for the Angels Landing trailhead.

Synopsis: Iconic. That is perhaps the best way to sum up this trail. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a challenging and daunting outing that still manages to be the most popular hike in the park. And it is topped off by some of the best views available anywhere. As signs along the way will confirm, this can be a dangerous hike - especially when conditions are inclement. But if you're sensible, in good shape and not given to vertigo you will find the payoff for your efforts exhilarating.

Trail sequence: Shuttle stop connector / Kayenta Trail / West Rim Trail / Angels Landing Trail / West Rim / Kayenta / connector

Type: Out and back

Distance: 5.6 miles

Elevation: Min. - 4288', Max. - 5808'


Rating: Difficult-Strenuous (factors: heat, pavement walking, steep sections, very exposed drop-offs, scrambling)

Notes: This is a hike that gets a lot of press for the deaths that have occurred over the years. Yes, if you're afraid of heights and exposure, if you're poorly conditioned, if you don't trust your balance, then you shouldn't attempt the last part of this hike. But if you aren't either foolish or out of shape then there should be no problem.

I've seen varying tallies for the Angels Landing mileage totals ranging from five to over five and a half miles. Obviously ours is at the high end of that count, and a look at the track suggests a lot of GPS inconsistency through Refrigerator Canyon. If the exact distance matters to you, it may be worthwhile to consider the strength of your signal.

Track: Angels Landing - Zion NP: Alltrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

 -- Depart the shuttle at stop #6 (the Grotto) and cross the street to the trailhead on the other side. Once you cross the bridge over the Virgin River, turn right to follow the Kayenta Trail north.

  -- After about two-thirds of a mile of mildly ascending travel northward, the trail begins to wind a bit as it climbs into the rocks at the base of the west cliff. Soon you start switchbacking in earnest up the sheer face of the rock walls. Another half-mile of climbing on the paved, sometimes steep path bring you to a turn into Refrigerator Canyon, a narrow ravine where the trail levels out for a while as it continues north to Walter's Wiggles.

  -- The Wiggles are a series of sharply ascending switchbacks cut into the walls heading up the northwestern side of the Angels Landing promontory (really a big fin). As you finish the switchback you level out onto a sandy narrow ridge with amazing views both up-canyon and down. For some, this 2.5 mile location called Scout's Lookout is the stopping point. It's a wonderful spot in it's own right, and the sight of the precipitous, steep and dangerous-looking ridge that leads out and up to Angels Landing is enough to prevent many from continuing on.

As you cross the ridge and climb the steep north side of the fin, there really is no way to get off-track (especially if it's a normal day with lots of company). There are usually either chains or steps or an obvious path leading you along. Some parts do require some minimal scrambling skills. Upon topping out, you'll cross a smooth but not too narrow sandstone field with a gnarled tree poking out here and there. It's just a few yards to the obvious end of the line.

[There is no established etiquette for climbing the last part up to the summit. But there can be bottlenecks on busy days, especially on the chained sections. Just take your time, look ahead, wait for others to clear narrow areas, and use common sense. Most of your waiting will probably be to catch your breath rather than for slow climbers.]

  -- The climb down requires just as much, if not more, concentration while on the chains and exposed sections. A stumble could lead to unfortunate consequences. But once you've cleared the last section of chains and returned to Scout's Lookout the trip down passes without trouble. Be sure when you reach the bridge not to pass it and continue along the Kayenta Trail - unless that is your intent.

Photos: Flickr

Video: Youtube