Angels Landing

  • Shuttle Stop 6, [Via West Rim Trail The Grotto]
  • Estimated Roundtrip Time: 4 hours
  • Distance: 5.4 miles/8.7 kilometers
  • Elevation Change: 1488 feet/453 meters

About Angels Landing

angels landing fluttering_shutter
Angels Landing, by fluttering_shutter on Instagram.

Named for its fantastical setting and ethereal beauty, Angels Landing was described as the heavenly perch of the angels by an early explorer in 1916. More than a hundred years later, we won’t disagree with him. Angels Landing is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Zion National Park, and is among the top entries of any list of most spectacular hikes.

The dedicated portion of Angels Landing trail is a half mile jaunt from the West Rim Trail but the entire hike from the Grotto Trailhead is two and a half miles. We consider this a round trip of five miles as there is no loopback, once you reach the end of the trail you come back the way you hiked in.

angels landing izakamargo
Angels Landing, by izakamargo on Instagram.

Catching the park shuttle or bus service to the Grotto picnic area, or depending on the season, driving to the same area and parking in the lot, you begin the Angels Landing hike by following the markers to the Kayenta Trail/West Rim Trail and walking the bridge over the Virgin River. Where the trail splits with the Emerald Pools via Kayenta on your left, this is where we take the right and begin the West Rim Trail.

The paved trail follows the river northeast up to Refrigerator Canyon where the river cuts east and we continue north, more or less after all the cutbacks and meanderings… To your immediate northeast is the intimidating cliffs of Angels Landing. If you’re not intimidated by its imposing form, consider the next leg of the trail which brings you up to that elevation. Looking up at the spine you will have an all new appreciation for the view once you reach the top and look down at this very spot.

angels landing tetonkasey
Angels Landing, by tetonkasey on Instagram.

Take respite in Refrigerator Canyon as the cliff’s shadow, wind and rain patterns create the coolest spot perhaps in the entire park. Temperatures reflect the name of the canyon as it is easily ten to twenty degrees cooler in the shadows than back out on the trail. Lush vegetation grows here in a natural oasis from the desert scrub in the surrounding areas.

The West Rim Trail will be fairly steep up as we trek into the crevice, but as the trail turns back southeasterly, we now we embark on the set of twenty-one switchbacks named “Walter’s Wiggles”. As you climb you’ll see the trees thinning out and the temperatures return to their normal heat as you emerge from the Refrigerator. This portion of the trail will put a healthy burn in your legs and transport you to the top of the canyon rim up to Scout Lookout. There are facilities here at the lookout so be sure to take advantage before venturing out to the peak.

angels landing eddie.jo
Angels Landing, by eddie.jo on Instagram.

This is where we leave the paved West Rim Trail and begin our final 500’ ascent out on the spine itself and approach Angels Landing proper. This trek out along the spine of the fin mountain is unpaved and often exposed. There are safety chains but one should never let down their guard. Making it out to the peak is a rewarding experience that offers clear and unobstructed circular views in all directions. Standing here you will know why it is named Angels Landing.