Though I love traveling with kids, I’m the first to say that at times I do miss the days of traveling pre-kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love having them there and wouldn’t have it any other way, but there are usually things we’d like to do that are impossible with kids. I do not often like to admit that things are “impossible” with kids, but hiking Angels Landing definitely falls into that category.
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I knew from the start that going to Zion National Park with kids would likely mean that hiking Angels Landing was out of the question. But I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I wanted to find a way to do it or even just hike up to Scout Lookout.
I did plenty of research, reading everything I could find on Angels Landing and whether hiking to Scout Lookout with kids was possible. I thought maybe we could all hike to that point then I could leave my husband and kids for a bit while I finished up the Angels Landing portion.
I spent an entire day thinking about all the different ways we could do this hike, but in the end I knew that I would either have to do it by myself and leave the kids with my husband or not do it at all.
He had no interest in doing it nor did he really want to sit up at Scout Lookout while I finished it. After being there, I don’t blame him – wrangling these two up there (and away from the edges) solo wouldn’t have been fun.
I felt incredibly guilty leaving him for the day with the kids to go off and do my own thing. After all, this trip was about experiencing the Mighty 5 – Utah’s National Parks – with kids.
But in good husband fashion, Dan insisted I take a day to myself and go do something that I really wanted to do. The same way I insist he does things he really wants to do when we travel. We both agree that if it is something we would regret not doing, then we need to take those opportunities.
After humming and ha-ing about it, I finally decided to do it. I was nervous! I’ve done one, maybe two hikes, without kids in the past 6 years. Most hikes are at a kids pace these days, which isn’t fast.
I started to question myself…Would I be able to do it? There’s no doubt it would be a hard hike.
What about the heights and chains on Angels Landing? I don’t have a fear of heights, but hiking Angels Landing solo would mean no support. Add to all the nervousness about hiking Angels Landing that I have never hiked solo. But I also believe in doing things that scare me, so with my family’s support I was going to do it.
To minimize the logistical problems with driving to the Zion Visitor Center and leaving my husband without a car, we made a plan that we would all go together in the morning and take the shuttle. I would get off one stop early to hike Angels Landing while my husband would take the kids to do a couple more of the kid friendly trails in Zion NP.
Angels Landing Hike in Zion NP
What is Angels Landing
If you’ve never heard about Angels Landing, it’s a world famous hike in Zion National Park. It’s also the most popular hike in Zion and for good reason. The Angels Landing hike should be on every hiker’s bucket list.
The trail, cut into a 1,488 tall rock formation, takes you along narrow sections called the Hogsback with incredible steep drop offs all the way to the Angels Landing summit. There are chains bolted into the rock to hang onto along these precarious parts of the trail.
Who Should Attempt the Angels Landing Hike
After having done it, I can say that anyone in average physical condition should be able to complete this hike, however please don’t attempt it if you have any fear of heights. This hike is more about your mental capabilities than physical.
The most physically challenging part of the hike is the 21 switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, but even this section is not that difficult.
How to Get to Angels Landing Trail
The Angels Landing Trail starts at the Grotto trailhead in Zion National Park. You take the shuttle from the Zion National Park Visitor Center and get off at shuttle stop 6: The Grotto. It’s approximately a 25 minute drive on the shuttle from the Zion NP Visitor Center to the Angels Landing trailhead.
Hiking Angels Landing
Distance: 5 miles / 8 kilometers return
Elevation: 1,488 feet
Difficulty: Anyone of average physical shape should be able to complete this hike.
Duration: It took me 3 hours to complete the hike, but average is 4-5 hours.
This trail starts out relatively flat and even paved for a majority of the ascent up to Scout Lookout, so a large section of the hike is doable with kids. Do not attempt the section past Scout Lookout with kids.
Make sure to stop use the restroom when you arrive at the Grotto trailhead. There are toilets at Scout Lookout as well.
You start hiking to Angels landing from the Grotto trailhead. It starts out relatively flat and the trail will take you into the shady and cool Refrigerator Canyon (not just a clever name). From there you’ll climb Walter’s Wiggles (21 switchbacks) up to Scout Lookout.
From Scout Lookout is where the fun really begins. You’ll be hiking along the narrow ridge with steep drop-offs, climbing up section and holding on to the chain as you make your way to the Angels Landing Summit.
My Experience Hiking Angels Landing Solo
As I mentioned before, my biggest fear about hiking Angels Landing is that I wouldn’t be able to do it or that I might panic somewhere along the trail. Which is a bit silly in hindsight since that’s never happened to me, but I’ve never hiked a trail like Angels Landing nor had I done a solo hike.
I was confident that I was physically able to do it and that it would be a mental game. Knowing that I had two little ones who would want a full report was always at the back of my mind too. So I had no intentions of giving up.
I’m a fairly fast hiker (or at least I used to be) and I’m also accustomed to hiking with a kid on my back or by my side, so getting to hike on my own at my pace felt amazing! I tried to stop and take pictures, but I really just wanted to hike.
We were on the shuttle at about 8am and the start of the trail was still pretty quiet. I was on my own or passing the odd group of people all the way to Scout Lookout.
The wonderful thing about this hike is that it’s beautiful right from the get-go as you cross the Virgin River and start the climb up. It’s in the shade to start in the morning, so enjoy being cool. It won’t be for long as you start having to shed layers when you start the ascent.
From there you’ll enter Refrigerator Canyon before you start up Walters Wiggles. Walters Wiggles is a series of 21 switchbacks. It sounds intimidating, but it’s really not that bad. They are so short and you get through this section pretty quickly.
Once up at Scout Lookout, you can use the restrooms one more time before doing the Angels Landing section. You’ll also start to see crowds of people gathering here
After Scout Lookout is where the fun really starts to happen. This is where you start hiking along the edges with chains. Right from the start I was following a group of people. This is where patience needs to set in. If someone ahead of you is struggling you just need to wait.
There are a few spots where people can move to the side to let others pass but for the most part, you’ll be hiking in a line all the way to the top of the Angels Landing summit.
It can get a little scary when people are coming back down the trail and trying to squeeze through, but overall people were extremely courteous on this trail. Sometimes you need to wait for large groups to pass by before you can continue hiking up, but with such incredible scenery you won’t mind stopping for a minute or two to take it all in.
Since I was hiking on my own and I was hiking when there were a fair number of people on the trail, I don’t have a lot of pictures. That’s not a bad thing as I really got to enjoy the experience.
On the way up, I was following a continuous line of people. We climbed up the sandstone steps holding on to chains with the most epic drop offs to our side. We used the chains to pull ourselves up and over the large boulders.
There were a few sections that were more nerve wracking as the trail narrowed but as I continued on the trail it felt less difficult. I think this is mostly because I was feeling more confident in hiking with the chains and that I would be able to do this.
Someone had told us that the first part is really the hardest and I tend to agree – not just because it’s the narrowest but because it’s the first section with chains and it’s along the side of the slope.
At the top, I took a few minutes for that incredible view from the top I had been seeking. I watched as a couple got engaged, ate my granola bar, asked a stranger to take a picture of me, then went along my way back down the trail.
The two craziest things I saw on the trail to Angels Landing? One guy trying to run down it. Why?
And another holding a coffee… I recommend you carry all your stuff in a backpack and leave your hands free! There were several times when I needed both hands to climb up a large boulder or hold on to the chains.
This is a busy trail, no doubt about it, and I expect my experience was not seeing it at its worse. I was surprised that on my way back, I had large sections of the trail where there were only 3 or 4 of us that were on it at one time. We’d have to pause for groups going the other way, but we didn’t experience any real congestion until the very beginning portion.
Once I was back at Scout Lookout, the hike back down is a piece of cake! There’s no more climbing and you ride the sense of accomplishment all the way down.
I took the shuttle bus back to the Zion National Park Visitor Center and started up the Pa’rus trail, assuming I’d find Dan and the kids along the way. They were pretty surprised to see me so soon!
Tips for Hiking Angels Landing
- Carry all your stuff in a small backpack. You’ll want your hands free for holding on.
- Go early, this is more to escape the heat than the crowds.
- Do not hike the trail if it’s raining or a storm is looming.
- Make sure you have plenty of daytime left to finish up the hike.
- Be prepared to go slowly behind large groups. Don’t try to pass them, take this time to enjoy your surroundings.
- Do not attempt the ridge and chain section of this hike if you have an extreme fear of heights, however you can still enjoy a large portion of the hike up to Scout Lookout.
- The hike up to Scout Lookout is possible with kids. Do not attempt the remaining part with kids.
- Pack enough water, as there is no place to refill your water bottle after the Grotto trailhead.
- Take your time and enjoy every second of this exhilarating hike.
Zion National Park with Kids
For more Zion National Park things to do with kids, family friendly Zion hotels and campgrounds, visit our Zion National Park with Kids post.
Other Zion Canyon Hikes
Other family-friendly Zion Canyon hikes you may enjoy are:
- Enjoy the cooler air and pine forests hiking along the Northgate Peaks Trail
- Walk through a narrow, towering canyon with kids on the Riverside Walk
- Break a sweat for some incredible views while hiking Watchman Trail
- Walk behind a waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool Trail with kids