Dangerous Hikes: Angels Landing in Zion National Park

There are some hikes that are just iconic. You know the ones we’re talking about because they’re the ones everyone is talking about. The top of everyone’s outdoor “to do list”, the type of hike that people get excited over and practically scream in your face, “OH MY GOSH, YOU HAVE TO DO THAT ONE”. Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park is undoubtedly one of those hikes. In fact, people had made such a big deal out of this trail, that we found ourselves wondering as we started up the trailhead if it could possibly live up to all the hype…

Check out our experience in all it’s cinematic glory:

If you’re wondering  if you should hike Angels Landing here’s 4 things you might want to consider:

1. Hiking Angel’s Landing Is Dangerous

As of this year (2019) 17 people have died on this trail as a result of a fall. The last and chained portion of the trail above Scout’s Lookout is where the real danger lies. Take a slip here and it’s a straight 1400 foot fall to the bottom of Refrigerator Canyon.

Keep in mind; we are not ones to frighten someone out of doing something. We believe strongly that fear should not rule your life or your choices. However, a healthy amount of fear is a good thing it keeps your humble and aware of your limits. While 17 deaths is a relatively high number much higher than most National Park Trails, there are literally thousands of people who hike this trail every year and survive.

2.Crowds, Crowds, And More Crowds

Crowds on popular trails in National Parks are to be expected but the Angel’s Landing Trail takes the meaning of crowded to a whole new level. If you’ve ever seen photos of the lines of climbers on Mount Everest, then get ready for a similar scene once you reach the chained, technical and dangerous portion of the climb past Scout’s Lookout.

Crowds on the chains at Angels Landing in Zion National Park

It goes without saying that the sheer number of people on the chains at one time only increases the danger of this portion of the hike. Looking up and observing the line of people wearing crocs and other inappropriate footwear, sitting down out of fear or even worse not moving at all while grasping for dear life to the chains, unwilling to let others pass was pretty shocking. It was enough to make us seriously doubt whether continuing on was worth it.

Traveler’s Tip: Avoid as many of these crowds as possible by taking the first shuttle bus of the day to the trailhead. A mix up regarding what time zone we were actually in had us spinning and we missed our chance at this. Learn from our mistake!

3. Do You Have A Fear Of Heights?

There will be a lot of people who will tell you that if you have a fear of heights not to hike this trail. We’re not those people. Yes, the trail goes up, and up and up some more but aside from the last quarter mile of the trail which follows the chains along the ridgeline there is plenty of space away from edges, for those wary of high places to feel safe standing and the views at Scout’s Lookout are without a doubt worth the exertion even for those not interested in going all the way to the end of the trail via the chains.

DO NOT go further than Scout’s Lookout if you do have a fear of heights.

Looking down into refrigerator canyon from Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Beyond Scout’s Lookout is the technical portion of the trail. The Park Service does have chains in place to make climbing here a bit safer, however, we firmly believe in the idea that if you couldn’t comfortably make the trek without the chains you shouldn’t be up there at all; Partly for your own comfort and safety and partly for that of other climbers.

We witnessed first-hand numerous people who had been pressured into the experience by either their own ego or a bad friend, paralyzed by fear while on the chains. Not only did they put themselves in a dangerous situation, but they also blocked the trail for others creating a bottleneck of climbers and increasing the danger for everyone.

Pushing your own boundaries is cool. But, it’s important to always know your limits. Never let anyone talk you into something you’re not ready for.

4. Hiking Angel’s Landing Isn’t Easy

Is this a hard hike? Yes, for sure. This one is most definitely a calf burner. 1500 feet in 5 miles is a significant amount of elevation to have to gain, and by the time you reach Scout’s Lookout, you will feel every single foot of it.

The most intense portion of the climb comes once you reach “Walter’s Wiggles” a series of 21 intense and tight switchbacks. The good news is once you crest the last of these you’ve officially made it to Scout’s Lookout.

Angels Landing Hike In Zion National Park

Fatigue adds to the danger once you begin the chained section of the climb. If you are feeling overly exhausted or suffering from shaky muscles do not continue on. Enjoy the view from Scout’s Lookout and then make your way back down.

Quick Facts About Angels Landing:

Distance: 5.4 Miles

Total Elevation Gain: 1500 Feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

Length Of Time Needed: 3 to 5 Hours

When To Go: Open Year Round

Getting There: Hop on the Zion Bus to The Grotto, Stop #6, the trailhead is across the street.

Final Thoughts, And Our Personal Experience:

We usually try to stay away from throwing out too much of our personal opinions because they live in the gray zone of personal objectivity versus hard fact, but this is, after all, a blog right, and not a Frommer’s guide, so every now and then a personal opinion is bound to show up. You trust us right? Hope so, cause here’s what we really thought of Angel’s Landing…

We loved it and we hated it. Having missed the early shuttle bus we caught the crowds, and that seriously impacted our experience. We weren’t able to go any further than Scout’s Lookout because of the number of people on the chains and the serious back up along them. While we felt perfectly comfortable with our own abilities seeing others slip and slide along the narrow portion of the trail was not confidence inspiring., and we definitely did not feel the need to have an accident at that height. Total bummer, but the views from Scout’s Lookout are totally swoon-worthy so that helped ease the pain. One of these days we’ll go back and we’ll get to the end of the chains, we’ll just make sure we go early to beat the chaos!

The good news is if you’re still interested in visiting Zion National Park, but are thinking a trip up Angel’s Landing might not be for you, there’s plenty more to explore in this amazing place! Want to know more? Check out this post: The Perfect Time To Visit Zion National Park!

What do you think? We’d love to know! Ever been face to face with a hike or an experience you weren’t sure about? How did you deal? What did you do? Tell us about it in the comments!

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