One of the most famous trails in Zion National Park is the hike to Angel’s Landing. The route zigzags up steep, sandstone cliffs and rises 1,500 feet above the valley floor.
While the hike is magical and rewarding, it isn’t for the faint of heart. And if you plan on making the trek, you’ll need to get a permit first.
In this article we’ll share everything you need to know about navigating the Angel’s Landing permit system including how to score a permit during the busiest times of year, and what to do if you can’t get one.
Angel’s landing has quickly become on the of most popular trails in the National Park system. The overcrowding and potential dangers of the route have led to permit requirements which were first enacted in April, 2022.
The new permitting system spreads hiker’s start times throughout the day and reduces crowding and congestion. In 2022, the pilot program was considered a success with 200,000 permits issued and will continue to operate.
Even though permits can be a hassle to obtain, the new system enables a safer and less-crowded hiking experience for all. Here are a few facts about the permitting system:
- Permits are required year-round
- Park rangers can be stationed along the trail any time of day or night
- Permits cost $6 per application (non-refundable) and $3 for each winning entry
- Each application can include up to 6 hikers
- Permits can be canceled up to 2-days before your hike (a $3 refund will be issued)
- Winning permits will receive an email confirmation from Recreation.gov
- Permits are non-transferrable and dates cannot be changed
To keep the permit system fair, there are two ways to apply: through a seasonal lottery, and a day-before lottery. For the best chance at scoring a permit, we recommend applying through the seasonal lottery first, then trying the day-before lottery if you fail.
2023 Seasonal Lottery
Angel’s Landing permits are issued through an online lottery system located on Recreation.gov. You can apply for a permit up to 2-months in advance of your hike. The system uses a ranked choice lottery to allocate permits.
When applying, you can pick up to 7 days and times or ranges of days and times that you are available to hike. You should list the dates you want most, first.
Winners will be notified by email and a permit will be issued when the lottery closes.
|Hike Dates 2023||Lottery Dates||Permit Issued|
|Mar 1 – May 31||Jan 1 – Jan 20||Jan 25|
|Jun 1 – Aug 31||Apr 1 – Apr 20||Apr 25|
|Sep 1 – Nov 31||Jul 1 – Jul 20||Jul 25|
|Dec 1 – Feb 29, 2024||Oct 1 – Oct 20||Oct 25|
If you do not win a seasonal lottery ticket, you should apply using the day-before lottery. You can enter this lottery on Recreation.gov between midnight and 3:00 PM (MT) the day before your scheduled hike. Winners will be announced at 4:00PM.
How to win the lottery
There’s no sure-fire way to game the system, but here are a few tips to increase your chances of getting a permit:
- Apply for a variety of days and times
- Enter during the winter or peak summer: Less people apply for the lottery during these times of year so you’re more likely to score permits. BUT, don’t forget that hiking during these times can be dangerous, so you may have to call off the hike if conditions are bad.
- Use large groups to apply: Each application allows up to 6 permits. So if you gather a group of friends, each person can apply for various dates and increase your chances of winning.
- Try the day-before lottery: If you don’t win the seasonal lottery, don’t forget to enter the day-before lottery.
- Be flexible with your dates: If you have the ability to wait until the next block of lottery blocks opens up, wait and try again.
- Take an alternative route: Keep reading for the best alternative hiking routes to Angel’s Landing.
What if you Can’t Get a Permit?
There’s nothing worse than planning the trip of a lifetime only to lose out on the Angel’s Landing lottery system. Fortunately there’s still a few things you can do to maybe get to the top:
Hike to Scout’s Lookout: Check out the map above and notice that you can hike all the way to Scout’s Lookout without a permit. That’s 3/4 of the way up to Angel’s Landing! Scout’s lookout will give you most of the views without the hassle of planning ahead.
Ask other hikers for a pass: Tickets are non-transferrable for the “group leader” but within the group you can shuffle people around. Oftentimes group numbers will change or hikers will chicken-out when they get to Scout’s Lookout. This is a good place to wait at the top and see if you can join a group.
Angel’s Landing hike alternatives
If you can’t get a permit for Angel’s Landing, there are two hikes where you can get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the valley with less danger and lower crowds.
The hike to Observation Point gives you spectacular views without the overcrowding and danger. It’s located 730 feet above Angel’s Landing, so you’ll actually be looking down on the hikers below.
The hike is 8-miles round-trip and has 2100ft of elevation gain so it’s longer than Angel’s Landing. But the path is wide, and sturdy. And the best part is, no permit’s required!
You can get to Observation Point by getting off at Shuttle Stop #7 at the Weeping Rock Trailhead.
Zion Canyon Overlook
The Zion Canyon Overlook is perfect for families with kids or older adults who are not up for the challenge of Angel’s Landing. This easy hike is only 1-mile roundtrip and includes many guardrails along the path so you won’t have to worry about any steep drops.
The views from the overlook are stunning, and you’ll get an expansive view of Zion Canyon, including Angel’s Landing in the distance. The trailhead is located alongside Highway 9, right outside the Mount Carmel Tunnel.
The Best Season To Hike
Spring and fall are the best time of year to hike Angel’s Landing. During this time, the temperatures are cooler, crowds are smaller, and the days are typically warm and sunny.
During summer, temperatures in the park can reach 100°F which makes the hike dangerous and extremely unenjoyable. In the winter, the trail will get covered in ice and snow which makes it nearly impossible to scale.
Historically, arriving early has been the best time to hike Angel’s Landing so you can avoid the crowds and travel in cooler temperatures. However with the new permit system in place, the tourists will be dispersed across the multiple time slots.
The best time to go is when you have a permit.
Zion is an extremely popular park and it’s not very large. So even if you have a time slot later in the day, you should still plan to get there in the morning because the shuttle can get backed up and it can be hard to find parking.
The first shuttles of the day start at 8:00am.
The Angel’s Landing Hike
- Total Distance: 5.4 miles (out and back)
- Estimated Time: 4 hours
- Elevation Change: 1,500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: Strenuous
- Permits: Required as of April 1, 2022
Getting to The Grotto trailhead
The most popular path to the top of Angel’s Landing is via the West Rim trail which begins at Shuttle Stop #6 (The Grotto). The free shuttle runs continuously throughout the day and it’s the easiest way to get to the trailhead.
From the shuttle stop, cross the footbridge across the Virgin River and start your hike on the West Rim Trail. You’ll immediately be greeted with a breathtaking view of the Court of Patriarchs and Angel’s Landing.
The first two miles of the hike rise slow and steady up the West Rim Trail. This area is known as “Refrigerator Canyon” because in the afternoons it is cool and shaded. Oftentimes hikers get to experience a relaxing breeze along this section.
Despite the cooler temperatures, this part of the hike is not easy. But it does have plenty of fantastic views along the way.
Make sure to look back at all the progress you’ve made on the way up. You’ll need the motivation when entering Walter’s Wiggles.
One of the most grueling parts of the Angel’s Landing Hike is the Walter’s Wiggles section. This part of the trail includes 21 tight switchbacks that zigzag upward to Scout’s Lookout.
The switchbacks climb 250 feet in elevation over 0.25 miles.
Even the most strong and seasoned hikers will have to make multiple stops on the way up to catch their breath and rest their legs.
Fortunately the path is wide and paved so it’s easy to find your footing and go around slower hikers.
At the top of Walter’s Wiggles after you’ve concurred the last switchback, you’ll arrive at Scout’s Lookout. This is a popular turnaround point for those with a fear of heights because it’s the first place where you can view The Spine to the summit.
If someone in your group has a fear of heights, it’s a good place to split up and re-group at a later time.
Whether you decide to continue to the summit or not, Scout Lookout is one of the best overlooks in Zion.
Plenty of hikers decide to relax with a bottle of water and watch the more thrill-seeking members of society climb up the chains from here.
From Scout Lookout onward, permits are required to hike the last 1/2 mile section up the chains to Angel’s Landing. Even if you weren’t able to win the lottery, you can still get excellent views of the valley.
Make sure to bring a copy of your permit with you on the hike. Park rangers will be checking permits at Scout Lookout!
The final hike from Scout Lookout to the summit of Angel’s Landing is known as The Spine. It’s only 500 feet long, but it’s the steepest and scariest portion of the hike.
Both sides of the trail are exposed and drop off sharply to the valley floor below. The trail is only a couple of feet wide and has uneven footing.
The worst part about summiting Angel’s Landing is navigating all of the other tourists along the way.
Chains drilled into the sandstone help guide you all the way to the top, but passing slower hikers is going to require you to let go and scoot around them.
Take your time when hiking The Spine and be prepared to make frequent stops. Don’t let go of the chains unless you have to because the dramatic views can give you vertigo.
Once you get past the chains along The Spine, the path widens and there is plenty of space to move around on the summit of Angel’s Landing.
One notable feature is the tens of tiny cairn’s built along the edge. Most people will choose to spend an extended period of time up here resting and taking in the views.
Even though the hike up may seem the most daunting, remember that you’re only halfway there. The way down is more dangerous than the way up because hikers get tired and let their guard down.
Later in the day, you’re going to experience more intense crowds and higher temperatures which can lead to missteps. Remember to keep your vigilance.
Tips For Hiking Angels Landing
Permits are only required for the last half-mile section of the Angel’s Landing hike so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get one. There are still plenty of other amazing hiking opportunities in Zion including the trail to Scout Lookout.
Check the weather before you go. Even if you’ve waited months to try and obtain a permit it’s extremely dangerous to do this hike during thunderstorms. The trail gets slippery and you could attract lightening. If there is any chance of rain, do not hike attempt the Angel’s Landing hike!
Get some exercise before attempting this hike. The route is very strenuous and not recommended for beginners. Do yourself a favor and get some miles under your belt before attempting to summit.
- Your permit: download or print a copy of your permit ahead of the hike. Cell phone service is spotty or non-existent throughout the park so don’t rely on it when you get there.
- Sturdy shoes: Flip flops are not going to cut it for this strenuous hike. Make sure you’ve got grippy hiking shoes because there is a lot of uneven terrain along the way.
- Gloves: Many hikers benefit from packing a pair of gloves for the chain section. Not only do the chains get hot in the middle of the day, but gloves will help keep your grip when sweaty hands become a problem during the hike.
- Sunscreen: This hike gets plenty of exposure, especially as you get near the top.
- Lot’s of water: Pack at least 2 liters of water per person before hiking Angel’s Landing
- Snacks: The hike takes about 4-hours round trip plus all of the extra time you’ll want to spend admiring the views. Consider packing some sandwiches, protein bars, or nuts to keep your energy levels high during the hike.
Angel’s Landing FAQ
Are kids allowed at Angel’s Landing?
There are no age restrictions for the Angel’s Landing hike. But it is not recommended for young kids under the age of 12. Instead, consider hiking with the kids to Zion Canyon Overlook which offers excellent views without the danger.
Can you hike angel’s landing in winter?
Angel’s Landing is open year-round, but in winter months (November, December, January, and February) the path becomes extremely slippery and icy. March-October is the best time to hike.
What is the best camping spot for an Angel’s Landing hike?
What are the best spots to get Angel’s Landing hike pictures?
Walter’s Wiggles is a great spot to get pictures on the Angel’s Landing hike. Turn around and point your camera towards the valley floor. Scout’s Lookout and the Angel’s Landing summit are also great photo spots.
How difficult is the Angel’s Landing hike?
Angel’s Landing is a strenuous hike and typically takes tourists about 4-5 hours to complete. You should not hike Angel’s Landing if you are a beginner or have a fear of heights.
Is the Angel’s Landing hike dangerous?
9 People have died on the Angel’s Landing hike since 2010. However, more than 300,000 people hike Angel’s Landing per year so the chances of a dangerous fall are low.
Can you get to Angel’s Landing without the shuttle?
You can hike or bike to the trailhead of Angel’s Landing without using the shuttle system. But, it is 4.8 miles so it’s best to use the park shuttle.
Where to park for the Angels Landing hike?
The closest parking to Angel’s Landing is at the Zion Visitor Center. But, parking fills up early in the morning so it’s best to park in the city of Springdale and take the shuttle in.
Observation Point or Angel’s Landing Overlook: Which is better?
Observation point is an easier and shorter hike. It’s also taller than the Angel’s Landing Overlook. Observation point is best for beginners, and Angel’s Landing is better for advanced hikers.
Half dome vs Angel’s Landing Hike: Which is harder?
The Half Dome hike is harder than Angel’s Landing because it’s about 3 times longer, has a higher elevation gain, and steeper climb.
When is the Angel’s Landing hiking season?
The Angel’s Landing hike is open year-round but you’ll want to avoid hiking in the winter because of snow and ice. During the summer, it is too hot to comfortably hike so you should hike in the spring or fall.
after the hike
Relax! There are plenty of things to do in Zion National Park, from horseback riding to scenic drives, and other breathtaking overlooks.
If you’re someone who wants to get really immersed in the park, consider camping in Zion so you can hit the trails first thing in the morning.
There are also plenty of dispersed camping sites in Utah where you can spend the night for free.
If you want to get away from the crowds, check out the Kolob Canyon area which has some incredible emerald pools and canyoneering opportunities.