In complete contrast to the level Zion Narrows trail, the route to Angels Landing, one of the high mountains of Zion National Park, ascends 1,500 feet over a distance of 2.5 miles to the slickrock summit, which is ringed on three sides by the Virgin River far below and has amazing views in both directions up and down the canyon. This is generally considered the best high elevation viewpoint in the park, slightly superior to Observation Point opposite since more of the upstream canyon is visible. The round trip can be done in less than 2 hours, though the NPS suggest 4 hours is the average time.
Maps: Angels Landing topographic map, location map for Zion Canyon.
Start of the Trail: The trail to Angels Landing is popular and well maintained but rated strenuous and not recommended for anyone fearful of heights, a warning which applies mostly to the last section, as the path starts unspectacularly just north of Zion Lodge halfway along the scenic drive (shuttle stop number 5 - The Grotto), and initially follows the road through shady, tree-covered land then crosses the Virgin River on a footbridge. This part is the southern end of the West Rim Trail, a long cross country route that has a northern terminus at the Wildcat Trailhead near Lava Point in the far north of the park - 14.5 miles away. The path is paved at first and fairly level, before leaving the shade of the pine/oak trees and climbing steadily up the west side of the main canyon via many sharp switchbacks and then turning away along Refrigerator Canyon, a cool, sheltered side valley with dark, vertical walls of Navajo sandstone. Tall Douglas fir trees grow here, one of the few places in the park where this species can be seen.
The Main Ascent: An even steeper series of switchbacks ('Walter's Wiggles' - 21 tight bends as the path ascends nearly 500 feet) leads up the east wall of Refrigerator Canyon to a narrow ridge, where the surfaced trail ends, although the West Rim Trail continues northwards. This bendy section is named after a former superintendent of Zion National Park, Walter Ruesch, who helped design the route. At the trail junction on top of the switchbacks (Scout Lookout), the last half mile of the path - the Angels Landing Trail - ascends southwards along the ridge to the summit, and is marked only by rock cairns, occasional steps carved in the rock and chains which have been fixed for safety at several particularly steep places. At some points, the ridge is only a few feet wide, with sheer drop-offs at either side, so great caution is advisable. In terms of statistics this might be the most dangerous trail in any national park; on April 27th 2010, a woman in her 60s fell 1,000 feet to her death from Scout Lookout, the ninth fatality here since 1983.
The Summit: The summit feels like the top of the world, although there are slightly higher cliffs visible in the distance, in all directions. The views up and down Zion Canyon are of an almost mythical landscape of red and white mountains, with the river far below winding into the misty distance. The route to Angels Landing is rightly regarded as one of the most remarkable trails in the whole national park system.
|This famous trail climbs steeply up the cliffs on the west side of Zion Canyon for a panoramic view over the surrounding landscape. The final 0.5 miles is along a narrow ridge with sheer drops on either side; chains are provided to assist the ascent
Length: 2.5 miles
Elevation change: 1,500 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Type: One way. Most of the route is along the West Rim Trail, which continues northwards for many miles
Season: All year, but spring and fall are best. May be icy winter, and very hot in summer
Trailhead: The Grotto - shuttle stop 5; 37.259361,-112.950731