Angel's Landing was amazing! However, after doing it myself there are a few things that other's should know before doing this hike. It will make or break your experience. If you're doing your research on Angels Landing right now, I've got you.
If you don't have much time here are the must knows. Photos and context below.
Zion Shuttle System: Zion has become so popular that you have to take a shuttle to get to any of the trail heads. You have to purchase a shuttle ticket in advance and they sell out quick! Official Ticket Information and Website to Buy Zion Shuttle Tickets. You can try to get them in advance when they go on sale either the 16th or the last day of the month (see Obtaining a Shuttle Ticket section), or you can try to get them the day before when they go on sale the day before at 5:00pm MT. They are sold in 1 hour blocks. I tried this and all 1200 or so tickets for the day were gone instantly at 5:00pm!
If you can't get a Shuttle Ticket: There are private shuttle companies that are allowed to operate along with the park shuttle. The only catch is that instead of $2 per ticket, it's about $40. We were able to book with Red Rock Shuttle & Tours (highly recommend, more below). Other shuttle services we looked at were Zion Guru and Zion Adventures.
GO EARLY! I cannot stress this enough. All shuttle tickets are in 1 hour blocks of when you are able to go. We got on the first one at 6:00am MT. We went in mid May so we got on the trail just after sunrise and got to see the sun rise into the canyon. Benefits:
You won't have to wait on the trail! There is only one very narrow way up and down on the second half to the top. When we went there was an easy flow of hikers all going to the top. On our way down was when the second and third shuttles were heading up and it was PACKED! And they couldn't get up until we got down. I could see the frustration all of their faces. It's a free-for-all system so you end up sticking in groups and all go down or up together while everyone else just waits. We heard from our shuttle driver that starting Memorial Day 2021 the park will actually be tracking how many hikers will be on the trail at once, and won't let new hikers on until others get down. Sounds like a shit show. Another reason to not deal with it and go early.
It's not hot. Zion can easily get up past 100F. Going early means you get the coolest part of the day.
You'll finish right when the brewery opens. The hike takes about 4-5 hours. It took my wife and I exactly 4 hours (6:30am - 10:30am). We didn't have to wait much on the trail and we spent about 30 minutes at the top to just soak it in, take some photos and eat a snack. The brewery right where the shuttle drops you off opened at 11:00am so it was perfect to get down, throw our stuff in the car, and go have a well deserved beer and lunch.
Parking: Ideally you want to park in the Zion Visitor's Center parking lot because it is free (although you have to pay $35 to get into the park), but it fills up around 9:30am according to other sources. Getting on the 6:00am bus we rolled up around 5:30am and there was plenty of parking. We had to pay our $35 when we were done and had to get back into the park from the pedestrian bridge gate to get our car.
Angels Landing is Tough:
If you're scared of heights at all, just don't do it. If you're not sure if you're scared of heights, boy will you find out on this trail!
The first half is hiking up the mountain with steep switchbacks. It is a well maintained paved trail which was very nice. At the top you have 'decision point' where there is a restroom and a large flat area to take a break before you do the scary part.
The second half is where it is very narrow with drop offs on either side. Rock scrambling with a chain rope to keep you centered and help you up. (hat's off to the brave people who installed those).
Getting to the Top is Absolutely Worth It: The crazy idea that you're basically at the center of this canyon almost level with the top is insane. You are basically on a small island with 360 degree views of the canyon. If you go in the morning you get to see the sunrise through the canyon. It was simply epic, and any photos don't do it justice.
The Full Experience
My wife and I had the opportunity to work in St. George for work for a week and didn't want to pass up the opportunity to experience Zion! So we made our plan to go that Saturday. Doing research at the hotel it became apparent that the system was a bit complex. A shuttle system, parking, which trails to do. The two most popular trails are Angel's Landing and the Narrows. With the Narrows you have to be in the water at some points so we decided on Angele's Landing for the skyline views. At 4:59pm the day before I was ready to get our shuttle tickets. As 5:00pm hit I added to cart... error. Refresh. ALL GONE! In a panic we started looking back into the private shuttle companies, and like myself, others must have been panicking too as those were quickly disappearing. If you're not on a tight budget, I do recommend going with the Red Rock shuttle. It was a great experience.
Getting to Zion, Parking, and the Shuttle
We stayed in St. George UT, where we had to work for the week. We tried to get a closer place the night before but they were all booked/crazy expensive. It added about 45 minutes to our drive which wasn't that bad. It is very easy to get to Zion. From St. George just take the 15 north to the 9 east, and take that all the way into the park. Red Rock Shuttles picks up at Zion Outfitters. As they suggested we parked at the Zion Visitor's Center parking lot. Walked across the pedestrian park entrance bridge and it was right there. Here's a map for my type A peeps.
It was so early that no one was at the park entrance gate so we just went through and parked with no problem. We walked across the bridge to Zion Outfitter and checked in the people outside. We waited like 10 minutes before getting on the shuttle and heading to the trail head. The check-in staff and driver were very nice and helpful.
You get dropped off at The Grotto where there is a bathroom and water if you need to fill up. The trailhead is right across the bridge. I'm from Los Angeles so seeing a deer right next to the bathroom was very cool. The All Trails App does a good job describing the different checkpoints. Although the distance and elevation are different from what is on the NPS website.
Starting the hike is a nice walk along the Virgin River where you get to see what you are about to accomplish.
Then you hit the fist set of switch backs. These are steep and you quickly see how high you are getting.
You know you're done with this part when you reach the small bridge. Next you walk back into the canyon and get to see some cool rock formations and trees.
Once you see the stone wall, you've reached the second set of switchbacks.... yay!
Once you've made it up, you reach 'decision point' which is a very nice large flat are you can rest, see some good views and there is a bathroom as well. And of course, you now see the next part that you will be embarking on. There is a sign to remind you that this is a strenuous trail and another sign with a counter of how many people have died on this trail since 2004. As of May 2021 when we went the count was 13. Not ominous at all...
You start with the first set of chains and make it to what we joked was the 'false summit'. On other hikes you'd think, "Ok that was tough, glad we made it to the top." NOPE. You look down and you see that you have so much more to go and you have to go down, and then back up even higher. I didn't get great photos or video. Honestly I was a bit scared myself and focused on the climb.
After all the climb you make it to the very top. Where you can then take a well deserved break, take some photos and walk out to the very end where you get beautiful canyon views on both sides. You are really in the middle of it all. And you can see what you've accomplished behind you!
Going down is the exact way you came up and you will begin to see lot of people trying to make it up.
One great tip is to not worry about taking too many photos on the way up. You have plenty of time to take them on your way down.
And of course. Once you're done. I highly recommend stopping at the Zion Brewery for a well deserved beer and lunch!
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the hike! :) Cheers!