Hiking Angels Landing with kids is an interesting proposition. The Angels Landing hike at Zion National Park is one of the parks most famous and most challenging hikes. While it offers spectacular views from the summit of Angels Landing, what makes this hike so sought after is the amazing route you take to get to that summit.
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The trail follows a narrow ridge with steep, vertical drop-offs on both sides. Hikes hold on to a chain for most sections of the last leg of the hike. Additionally, crowding can make the already dangerous chain-assisted sections even more treacherous.
Angels Landing Hike Summary
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Duration: 3-5 hours
- Elevation gain: 1,500 ft
- Difficulty rating: Very difficult
- Safety: Steep drop offs on both sides of the trail; must hold on to chain for last leg. HIKE WITH EXTREME CAUTION.
This begs the question: can you complete the Angels Landing Hike with kids? In some cases, the answer is a resounding NO. In our case, it was a cautious YES. Of course, the answer to this question depends on your kids, their abilities, and your level of risk tolerance. We’ll share our experience hiking Angels Landing with kids and then our thoughts on what you should consider if you are looking at completing this hike with your family. We also have a good collection of 360 photos of the hike to explore.
Our Experience Hiking Angels Landing with Kids
We hiked Angels Landing as a family as part of our 21-park, 31-day National Park road trip. We did it in mid-June with our four children, aged 10, 12, 14 and 16. Abilities varied quite a bit: our 10 year old son was in average shape while our 16 year old was a varsity cross country runner. All our kids were experienced hikers, and we had trained during the spring for hiking Half Dome later on in this trip. They were also very good at following directions. As you debate whether you should attempt this hike with your kids, you’ll want to those things into consideration as well.
While we had long had hiking Angels Landing with kids on our bucket list, we actually completed the hike completely on a whim. We were staying at Capitol Reef for a few days before planning on heading to Death Valley National Park. Since we had visited Zion National Park the previous summer (and completed the Narrows Hike, highly recommended), we were not planning on visiting Zion on this trip and had not reserved a campsite. Campsites at Zion are highly sought after and must be reserved 6-months in advance (and by six months, I mean you need to be at your computer the instant campsites are released six months in advance to get a site).
However, the weather forecast for Capitol Reef looked rainy, so we decided to cut our stay short by one day and leave early. Looking for a nearly place to visit, I decided to check out Zion National Park just in case something was available. I pulled up recreation.gov on my phone and looked at the campground availability. Low and behold, there was ONE site available at Watchman for the entire month out, and it was for the next night. I immediately booked it, not believing our luck.
We arrived at Zion National Park the next day, checked in to our site and set up camp. We were then off to explore a few other amazing areas at Zion National Park.
Like most popular hikes, the secret to avoiding terrible crowds and the heat of the desert is to get an early start. We got up at 5:30 am and quietly, so as not to awaken our neightbors, broke down camp and packed up our vehicle. We then drove the very short drive to the Visitor Center parking lot to catch the shuttle.
Zion National Park uses a shuttle system to provide access to Zion Canyon. The shuttle system is efficient and free. If you’re hiking Angels Landing, you’ll want to be on the FIRST shuttle of the day. The time of the first shuttle changes based on the time of year, so you’ll want to check the schedule in advance. We joined a small line and soon were on the shuttle heading into the canyon.
We exited the shuttle at Stop 6, the Grotto. There are restrooms at this stop and we’d recommend taking the opportunity to use them, as well as filling up your water bottles if needed. Crossing the road, we the crossed the footbridge over the Virgin River to gain access to the West Rim Trail. We turned right on to the trail and could see Angels Landing towering in front of us.
West Rim Trail
The Angels Landing Hike starts on the West Rim trail. We followed this trail for about two miles in an uphill climb. It’s not terribly steep, but does move steadily uphill and is a decent workout. In the cool of the morning, it was a refreshing hike for us. I can imagine it would be a very hot hike in the middle of a summer day.
After the initial ascent we entered Refrigerator Canyon. This narrow canyon offers some wonderful shade and often a bit of a cool breeze. It was especially pleasant for us on the way down, since it provided some much needed shade and the chance for a break.
To leave Refrigerator Canyon, we began the ascent of Walters Wiggles. This section of the trail follows 21 switchbacks that weave their way up the side of the very steep mountain. The trail is well-maintained, and rock walls support the switchbacks in a picturesque zig-zag to the top. It is a steep part of the hike that definitely gave all of us a workout!
The Walters Wiggles switchbacks crest out at Scouts Lookout. We reached this location around 8:30 am. At this point we could see the rest of the trail to Angels Landing starting out on the ridge in front of us. There were also a couple of pit toilets available for the truly desperate.
We saw several families with young kids stop at this section of the trail. In some cases, one parent would wait with the younger kids while the other parent (and some older kids) competed the trail. This is a good option to consider if you’re hiking Angels Landing with kids and have kids of different ages. Keep in mind that there are still steep dropoffs near Scouts Lookout, so keep a close eye on younger kids if you elect to wait.
The Final, Chain-Assisted Ascent of Angels Landing
We took a quick break before beginning the last leg up to Angels Landing. The last 500 ft or so is what makes Angels Landing famous. The trail follows a narrow ridge up to the Angels Landing summit, tracing a dangerous path along both sides of the ridge. In most places, a heavy chain, supported by steel rods embedded in the rock, was in place to provide a necessary hand-grip as we traversed along the the cliffs.
Since we were hiking Angels Landing with kids, we took the opportunity to rehash our game plan with the kids before starting the final ascent. “Two hands on the chain” was our mantra, and we repeated it over and over. Despite our early start, there was a descent crowd already on the trail, us having been passed by several groups of faster hikers along the way up.
In some sections, we were starring directly down the cliff, with only a narrow ledge of rock to stand on. It was quite breathtaking to be able to look down 1,000+ feet to the valley directly below us.
As parents, this was a bit nerve-wracking. While we were confident in the ability of our children, we also knew that it was a dangerous trail and one mishap could mean disaster. We strategically placed ourselves among the kids so we could monitor and encourage them.
They did a great job. We were slow and steady. The other hikers were amazing, very polite and courteous of our kids as we made our way along the ridge. In many places there is only room for one-way traffic on the trail, creating backlogs as people wait for their turn to access the chains. It probably only took 20 minutes but seemed much longer.
Angels Landing Summit
After completing the chain section, we arrived at the summit. The views from the top were incredible. The sun had risen and now cast amazing shadows into the canyon. There was a descent crowd of maybe 30 people at the top, which ebbed and flowed.
We found a nice place to sit down and eat a snack, enjoyed the views, and took some obligatory summit pictures.
The Trip Back Down Angels Landing
After our brief rest at the summit, we started the journey back down. The descent along the chains was just as difficult as the ascent, perhaps even more so since the crowds had picked up considerably. We made our way back to Scouts Lookout, and then started the descent down Walters Wiggles, through Refrigerator Canyon (great place for a break!), and down the West Rim Trail.
The hike back was tiring and much hotter, but we were in good spirits. We reached the shuttle stop 3 hours 40 minutes after starting, with our GPS telling us that we had 2 hours 50 minutes of moving time with 50 minutes of stopped time.
Hiking Angels Landing with Kids: Should You Do It?
Is hiking Angels Landing with kids a good idea? This is a personal question that you’ll need to answer for yourself, but here are a few serious things to consider:
- HEIGHTS: If you or your children have any fear of heights, do not attempt this hike. There are extreme drop-offs, in some cases on both sides of the trail.
- MATURITY AND DISCIPLINE: Your children need to be mature enough to understand the risks and disciplined enough to follow precise instructions.
- AGE: Age is very relative, but generally speaking, young children should not do this hike. They can hike up to Scouts Lookout, but should not attempt the chain-assisted section. Our youngest was 10 at the time of this hike, and that is about as young as I would recommend. Furthermore, he is a mature 10 year old with a lot of hiking experience; I would not take most of this 10 year old friends on this hike.
- FITNESS LEVEL: This hike is very strenuous. By the time you reach the chain-assisted section you will have climbed 1,500 feet in just a few miles and will be tired. The fatigue add to the level of danger presented by the final ascent. The hike requires both strong legs, cardio, and arm/hand strength, as well as significant mental fortitude.
All things considered, safety should be your first consideration. If you are worried about your kids and their ability to complete such a hike, don’t do it. There are a ton of other amazing hikes to enjoy at Zion National Park.
On the other hand, if your kids are older and capable, and you’ve completed difficult hikes before, you should consider completing this hike. Our family has grown the most and built the best memories by completing hard things. In fact, it’s part of our family motto!
More Amazing Family Hikes
Hiking Angels Landing with kids is one of our favorite family memories, in part because it was so challenging and rewarding. If you’re looking for some other fun family hikes, here are a few more to consider:
- Half Dome at Yosemite National Park
- Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park
- Delicate Arch at Arches National Park
We love National Parks and have a goal to visit all of them. You can check out our progress and read about our experiences at various parks by checking our post about our epic 21-park, 31-day National Park road trip.
Zion National Park Logo
Are you visiting Zion National Park and looking for a logo? We have created our National Park logos for you to make custom family road trip T-shirts, hoodies and more. You can download our National Park Logos here.
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