Question about trail to top of Angel's Landing in Zion


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Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 23, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
A colleague of mine is planning a family trip to Zion next week. The six adults are planning to hike to the top of the Angles Landing. However, one of the partipants has heard that the trail is nearly vertical and that you have to use the chains. She is not afraid of heights, but is nervous about her arm strength.

I was last in Zion 40 years ago, so I can only look at pictures. It looks very exposed, but the chained parts seem to traversing on low angle slabs above cliffs and along the arete with drop offs on both sides. In any case, I cannot image anything other than walking on your feet and using the chains for balance.

Can anyone give me a better picture of what is entailed?

Would it work to provide a self belay by runnig a loop around the chains to a swami? Would a biner fit around the chains?
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Apr 23, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
The exposure is high on that trail. The chains are there for balance mainly. One may need a slight bit of strength to overcomea couple spots, but generally, the strength needed is just the leg strength to hike up hill and the mental strength to endure the fear of heights that the trail can engender.

People do fall off that sucker almost every year...
Captain...or Skully

Apr 23, 2013 - 02:35pm PT
No. They are 1/2 chains, so a 'biner wouldn't help. Maybe a running sling? It's not a bad trail. We hiked it with 6" of snow on it, & we didn't die. We took a non climber gal with us, too. An Aussie chick. Her BF wouldn't go, but she dug it.

Apr 23, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
I hiked it three years ago when I was 73. There are sections with chains for safety where there are drop-offs, but it's pretty much all in the legs. It is quite a workout!

I had gone to the top in 1963 when the trail ran up the side of the formation, complete with scaffolding and huge exposure at times. A lot more fun then!

Trad climber
Portland, Or
Apr 23, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
I've seen families up there with their harnesses on and carrying a small piece of rope for belaying. There are certainly spots where if you slipped, it's all over (even with the cables).

The first viewpoint (at the saddle) is a reasonable stopping point, too.

Trad climber
Apr 23, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Some pix of my SO going up Angel's Landing Trail. This will give an idea of what the chains are like and steepness of the trail. The bottom part is paved and switchbacks.

Credit: wivanoff
Credit: wivanoff
Trail goes up this rib
Trail goes up this rib
Credit: wivanoff
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Apr 23, 2013 - 02:50pm PT
I think if you think you need a running anchor then you probably shouldn't be there. Just go to Scouts Landing and walk along the rim. It's still a great trip.

The path out to Angels Landing is well built and safe, providing you apply some common sense and treat it accordingly.

Social climber
Apr 23, 2013 - 03:02pm PT
A google search for images reveals a ton of photos of the trail and the chains. They tell their own story, better than words:

It's a busy trail most days so trying to do some kind of belay might get in the way of others.

Perhaps a more relevant question is the experience/self-awareness of the person in question.

I've hiked the Fisher Towers trail and encountered adults in the prime of life and health who seemingly found the even the easy parts of this challenging.

Otherwise, Angels Landing (no apostrophe) is one of the great hikes of the world. Yeah! I'd recommend it to anyone.

Apr 23, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
IMO, if you're cautious and follow the chains, you would have to really mess up to have any serious risk of falling. For someone relatively comfortable hiking on uneven terrain and not afraid of heights, you barely need the chains at all honestly.

That being said, I've been up there behind an older German couple who were certainly not enjoying themselves along the more exposed parts. "Scheisse! Scheisse! Scheisse!" Still, if someone is in good enough shape to make it to the top without being completely exhausted, the chains shouldn't be an issue (unless he/she is really acrophobic).

Santa Monica, CA
Apr 23, 2013 - 04:28pm PT

Do you think she can hang on with her body weight? Or do a little pulling up of her body weight with her arms?

The footing can have "assbustamite" on it (sand, scree, pebbles) so sticky shoes help and the ability to use one's legs (does she have hiking experience, more than just on flat trails?) and balance are necessarily. This is where the chains come in - there are "slick rock", non-horizontal parts of the trail and there are some spots with drop offs. Slow and steady. There are some places where it is pretty vertical - like big steps up (and down on the way back).

She can certainly stop and turn around at any point. The views are awesome from just the first part of the trail too. This time of the year it will be hot - best to do this hike in the early morning especially since the whole first half getting up there will be in the sun by midday and it's steep uphill. It also can get really windy up top and out on the point in the afternoons.

Looking back towards the beginning of the trail.
Looking back towards the beginning of the trail.
Credit: crusher
Slick rock "steps"
Slick rock "steps"
Credit: crusher

Another great (and long) hike without anything scary is Observation Point. Another one to start early in the day if it's going to be warm and fantastic views.

back east
Apr 23, 2013 - 05:37pm PT

The National Park Service info page for Zion has a good multimedia presentation for the Angels Landing hike.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - May 10, 2013 - 05:11pm PT
Just a report on the outcome.

I called Zion Park and talked to a ranger about the trail. He pointed out that many hikers did the hike without any issues and that sliding an unfamiliar contraption along the cables, would be a distraction. After I thought about that, I recommended that my colleague walk to Scout's Landing and then walk up to the top if she felt comfortable or sit in the sun and wait for her family. I did tell her how she could use a harness and sling to create a self-belay if she wanted it, so she could choose.

Yesterday she returned and said it was a great hike and she had no trepidation. There were lots of hikers and it was fun and beautiful. She thanked me for providing her lots of information and encouraging her to only make up her mind at the last minute.

Now she is planning a trip to Yosemite with a hike up the cables on Half Dome.

Thanks for all the advice.



Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 10, 2013 - 05:23pm PT
My wife did it - 'nuff said.

Trad climber
May 10, 2013 - 07:33pm PT
Many years ago my (then) 6 year old daughter ran up it passing people holding onto the chains for dear life. She passed them on the exposed outside and had no problems.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 10, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
It's not verical, just an exposed trail. My 9 yo did it a few years ago. Wouldn't reccomend it for those who are spooked by heights.

Trad climber
Portland, Or
May 10, 2013 - 08:30pm PT
Good to hear it worked out.

But let's be clear: this is indeed a very, very exposed trail. There are several spots where a moment of inattention woudl result in a thousand foot fall. A climber's perception of risk can be very different from a non-climber's.

No way I would have allowed a 6 year old free rein on that part of the trail. (I have a 6 year old who is a good climber, so I know what I am talking about.)

Ice climber
Soon 2B Arizona
May 10, 2013 - 08:33pm PT
I hiked that trail years ago, and don't remember anything being scary.
Observation Point trail is a nice hike. A bit steep in places

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 10, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
It's not too bad, I did it when I was around five years old. I have seen some people freaking out up there, however.

Sep 26, 2016 - 08:30pm PT
Did you see this Awesome Video of Angels Landing?


Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Sep 26, 2016 - 08:37pm PT
Did anyone here go up long ago when the trail was essentially up the other side, with suspended sections and great exposure?
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