Angels Landing is a hiker’s dream. You hear about this short but steep hike a lot among outdoors enthusiasts. They talk about the ridge walk, clutching the chain while looking at the straight down drop, and how it’s a once in a lifetime experience. And they aren’t over exaggerating, this hike lives up to the hype. But there is one important element people don’t mention- the hordes of other hikers and the congestion.
Angels Landing Stats
Distance (roundtrip): 5.4 mi
Elevation Change: 1,488 ft
Estimated Hiking Time: 4 hours
Deaths from Falling since 2014: 13
Zion National Park is a bustling place in the summer. Even at the end of July, extreme heat doesn’t deter people from all over the world, all ages, and all walks of life from coming and checking out this stunning mountain park. To hike Angels Landing you have to have a permit. You can book one in the spring or you can enter their lottery system 24 hours before you would like to hike.
We knew this was a busy one, but still put our names in on a Sunday night for the Tuesday morning permit lottery. We were very happy when our permits were granted to us. It may have to do with the fact that we opted for the before 8 am start time, or we were just plain lucky.
They have two park rangers at the beginning of the hike and at the beginning of the ridge walk to double check permits. So if you think you can sneak past the rangers at the beginning, the ones near the peak will meet you.
Up, Up, Up
When you start the hike and look at the peak you wonder how anyone could possibly make it up there. It goes up, up, up.
So up we headed. I was very excited to see that my cardio training for that half marathon paid off because though it was tiring, my muscles and lungs held up ok.
This hike is a steady uphill the entire way. Calves were burning and we had no qualms taking many short breaks and many great pictures.
The worst bout of it were the crazy short and steep switchbacks before the ridge. We didn’t stop for pictures, we just slogged up as best we could.
The Chain Walk
When we got to the top I was shocked at how busy it was! We saw some groups on the way up, but this was a full house. We showed our permits to the second set of rangers and began the fun part!
I’m not afraid of heights and am very sure footed when hiking and scrambling. The man in front of me was not. He was really struggling and made it maybe 20 meters in before he told his son (around 19) he couldn’t do it. His son offered to go back with him but Dad told him to go on adding anxiously “Be very careful!” I told Dad I would take care of his son, and just like that Craig from Memphis joined our hiking party! Ha ha!
This walk was so cool! The views on each side were epic. But the PEOPLE!!! I cannot stress this enough- this is NOT a hike for inexperienced hikers, people who are in poor physical shape, or people with injuries. The hike up is technical and very tiring and so narrow that you can’t pass. This created a ton of different bottle necks as people went up and down and rested and struggled. And I’m not a patient woman.
We made it to the top and took some time to rest and take in the views. The sheer drop down was incredible and I was actually surprised that more people didn’t fall on this hike.
Not ones to sit around for long, we took a few shots and began the descent back down. It went faster going down because there was a line-up of about 14 hikers heading down and like a caterpillar, we pushed our way down while others moved to make room for us.
More and more hikers added themselves to the caterpillar and I was starting to feel very claustrophobic.
When we finally made it down, we delivered Craig back safely to his dad as promised and booked it down.
What is your gait when you hike downhill? Do you go heel toe? Mid strike? Or do you walk down on your toes like my sister Laura and I? The way down was absolutely wrecking our quads and we wondered if it had to do with the fact that we’re toe walkers.
At one point, Laura realized that if we walked down backwards it was faster and saved our quads some strain. I wish I had pictures but I do have lots of video of us backwards running down the trail, laughing like idiots, and embarrassing our other sister Leilani.
We finally finished Angels Landing safe and sound. It was an incredible experience and one I would highly recommend to anyone who is experienced, injury free, and in halfway decent shape. Otherwise, The Narrows is an amazing experience too!