All About Angels Landing Hiking Trail

Updated on March 18, 2018
harrynielsen profile image

I have enjoyed hiking for many years, so I enjoy sharing what I know and tips about places to hike.

Holding Up the Tree

This lone dead tree provides relief from the crowds as well as a spectacular view of Zion Canyon, photo by author
This lone dead tree provides relief from the crowds as well as a spectacular view of Zion Canyon, photo by author

Hand-Chiseled Walkways

During the construction of the switchbacks, the Park Service used natural materials and methods to create a path to the top.
During the construction of the switchbacks, the Park Service used natural materials and methods to create a path to the top.

About Zion Park

Located in southern Utah and created in 1919, Zion National Park is one of our most visited parks in the United States, number 5 to be exact. It is part of the five national parks located in southern Utah on the Colorado plateau, not far from the Grand Canyon. Within this park, there are many attractions that include a mile long tunnel, a beautiful desert river (the Virgin River), many canyons and unusual rock formations, along with numerous hiking trails. Of all the hiking trails, the one to Angels Landing is one of the most challenging and spectacular.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel Poster

In this 2010 creation, John Clarke gives tribute to the 1930 opening of  Zion tunnel.
In this 2010 creation, John Clarke gives tribute to the 1930 opening of Zion tunnel.

On the U.S. Registry of Historic Places

Angels Landing Trail is one of 28 places in Zion National Park that are currently listed on the U.S. Nation Registry of Historic Places. Along with the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, this steep trail up the rocky pinnacle are probably some of the best known sites in the park. The Angels Landing Trail earned this honor, due to the numerous switchbacks on the lower end and also by the many lengths of metal chain on the final ascent from Scout's Lookout to the very top.

The Rock

Angels Landing is a massive rock pinnacle that can be climbed on a Park Service trail that does not require technical gear, photo by author
Angels Landing is a massive rock pinnacle that can be climbed on a Park Service trail that does not require technical gear, photo by author

Early Ascent of Angels Landing

Angels Landing received its current name in 1916, when an exploration party first got a glimpse of the sheer pinnacle. One of the group, Frederick Fisher exclaimed, "only an angel could land on it." Even though this group never made it to the top, the name stuck. Before 1916, Angels Landing was known as the Temple of Aeolus.

Probably the first recorded ascents of Angels Landing, occurred in 1924, just five years after Zion National Park was officially designated by Congress. This amazing feat accomplished by Harold Russell, a park ranger, who did not have access to the paved switchbacks, chiseled rock cuts and iron chains that aid today's modern hiker. The very next season, the park service began the construction of the trail. By the end of the 1926 summer season, the Angels Landing Trail was open to the public. The trail has not changed much since then except for the fact that it is now used by a large number of outdoor enthusiasts.

Walter's Wiggles

Walter's Wiggles refers to a series of 21 consecutive switchbacks designed by park superintendent, Walter Ruesch.
Walter's Wiggles refers to a series of 21 consecutive switchbacks designed by park superintendent, Walter Ruesch.

Walking Through the Wiggles

Originally, the switchbacks, including the Wiggles, were paved with a mixture of oil, sand and rock pieces. The oil was hauled up the mountain by horse back, while the sand and rock pieces were gathered in place. Then in 1985, the NPS paved the switchbacks with concrete, which is still present today. At first this construction material was also transported on horseback, but the Park Service soon resorted to helicopter drops.

"Walter's Wiggles" actually refers to those switchbacks, which are situated above Refrigerator Canyon, leading up to Scout Lookout. They are a compact unit, which are easy to negotiate. The numerous walls of stonework might make you think you are climbing an ancient Inca temple. Nonetheless, the "Wiggles" perform their task admirably and allow the hiker to reach Scouts Landing with relative ease. After that the real climbing begins.

The Actual Summit

This natural rockpile is the true summit of Angels Landing. As a result climbers sometimes wait in line to have their picture taken.
This natural rockpile is the true summit of Angels Landing. As a result climbers sometimes wait in line to have their picture taken.

At The Summit

Once on top, those who made it will find a long, narrow and flat top that supports a few twisted and stunted junipers. Most will search out a nice shady place, where they can sit down, drink some water and partake in a few snacks. Others will find their way over to the beehive-like rock tower that marks the absolute zenith of Angels Landing. Here, they will climb the rocky perch just to have their picture taken. Not surprisingly, on popular holidays, there may be a short line for this precious photo opt.

On a Crowded Day

On a crowded summer day the trail to the summit of Angels Landing can be quite crowded.
On a crowded summer day the trail to the summit of Angels Landing can be quite crowded.

Climbing Angels Landing Today

Nowadays, an incredible number of day hikers make the steep 1500 foot ascent to the flat-topped "landing" area at the summit. Despite the difficulty of the climb and the vertical dropoffs at the top that rival the Empire State Building, hikers flock to this renowned trail from all over the world. On a busy summer day, hikers move up and down the long links of chain like ants at a picnic. While one group inches their way up the chain, the other patiently waits for those to pass, so they can begin to movement in the opposite direction.

Falling Deaths In Zion NP

Emerald Pools
7
Angel Landings
5
Lady Mountain
2+
Canyon Overlook
2
Hidden Canyon
2
Observation Point
2
The Watchman
2
Cathedral Mtn.
1
Checkerboard Mesa
1
Crazy Quilt Mesa
1
Deer Trap Mountain
1
East Rim Trail
1
Mt. Kinesava
1
Mt. of the Sun
1
According to the National Park Service more hikers have fallen to their death at Emerald Pools than Angels Landings. P.S. The Park Service does not include suicide or homicide in their statistics, so you may find other sources with a higher number of

Tips For Climbing Angels Landing

Some Helpful Hints

Though falling may appear to be the biggest obstacle, hikers on the Angel Landing Trail need to be most concerned with dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. To avoid these all-too-common ailments, anyone attempting this trail should leave early in the morning and carry at least a quart or two of water. There is no water available on the entire route. Snacks and energy food help in many ways and a broken-in pair of hiking shoes are a must. Don't forget your sunscreen and camera and enjoy, for this is truly a spectacular and memorable trail.

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