The Zion National Park trail Angels Landing received its name in 1916 when a passing group commented that it was so high that only angels could land there. This trail has gained massive popularity over the years and thousands of hikers take on the challenge every season. Those who want to hike Angels Landing have heard the lore of “the scariest hike in America” and have been warned of its “strenuous” rating. But so many people make the hike every year that it can’t be that bad, right?
Novice hikers, I’m here to answer this burning question: should you hike Angels Landing?
Well, I did it. I’m a skinny 21-year-old girl who does a lot of reading and gaming but not a lot of hiking. I don’t work out often but am completely able-bodied and healthy. I found the hike strenuous and intense. I was too exhausted to start another hike afterward, but completed Angels Landing in just 3 hours. I was sore for days but absolutely loved the experience and am happy I took on the challenge.
Of course, my success doesn’t necessarily mean you should hike Angels Landing. I’ll give you some hard facts and details from my experience so you can decide for yourself.
What is Angels Landing like?
The hike is 2.4 miles each way or about 5 miles in total. The elevation gain is around 1500 feet and most of the hike is fairly steep. Many websites estimate that the hike can be completed in 3 – 5 hours, but advanced hikers can do it in 2 hours.
There are dozens of switch-backs (Walter’s Wiggles) up the mountain, and near the top, there are very steep, narrow paths with thousand-foot drops on either side. A few people have died hiking Angels Landing, but the path is mostly very safe. At the difficult parts, there are poles with chains for hikers to hold on to. Even if you don’t always need the chains, it’s nice to have them for a sense of security.
The vast majority of the hike is in full sun. There is one section that weaves through Refrigerator Canyon (it’s pretty cold down there) but the rest of the hike has very little shade. Hikers will be completely exposed to the sun, rain, wind, or whatever weather, so it is important to dress accordingly. I would not recommend hiking Angels Landing in inclement weather — it is difficult to get footholds when it is perfectly dry, never mind when it is wet or slick with ice.
Don’t bring a kid
I didn’t see any children get to the top of Angels Landing. They all stopped at Scout’s Lookout, which is basically the end of the easy part of the hike (before you have to start holding on to chains to pull yourself up the mountain). Parents expressed their stress and anxiety of just bringing their child to Scout’s Lookout.
I think an in-shape 12-year-old or maybe a very strong and experienced 10-year-old could make it to the top of Angels Landing, but mostly I’d only recommend this hike to teenagers and adults. Especially if you will already be worried about keeping yourself safe on the hike.
Do bring sunscreen, snacks, and good shoes
Hiking websites recommend bringing ample food and water on this hike as well as sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes. I agree with all of this. Angels Landing is not a sprint. I definitely took my time — stopping to sit down and eat snacks, take pictures, drink water or even just take in the view. I wore regular tennis shoes and found them to be frustratingly inadequate footwear. I wished I had real hiking shoes, especially as we neared the top. I got badly sunburned and should have worn sunscreen, and my hands hurt quite a bit from holding on to the chains. But, all in all, I still managed to complete the hike even being a little underprepared.