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One Photo, One Story: A Family Hike Up Angels Landing in Zion National Park

One Photo, One Story: A Family Hike Up Angels Landing in Zion National Park

By Michael Lanza

Just a few weeks ago, en route to a family backpacking trip down Paria Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border, we had a few hours to kill in Zion National Park—a great place to kill a few hours. So we took a late-afternoon, family stroll on one of the most beloved and thrilling dayhikes in the National Park System, Angels Landing. Besides having beautiful weather, gorgeous light for the incomparable views of Zion Canyon, and few other hikers at that time of day, the outing marked a fun, little family anniversary: nine years since the first time we hiked Angels with our son, when he was five.

Nate was the youngest person we saw among the crowds on Angels Landing that first time he summited, with my wife and me, so he was a source of amusement to many hikers we passed (and no doubt a source of concern for others, given the exposure on the upper section of the Angels Landing Trail—where I shadowed Nate every step of the way). On this recent hike, Nate, now 14, and our daughter, Alex, 12 (who was three and not quite ready for Angels nine years ago), delighted in the steep, exposed scrambling to the summit. I got the above shot of Nate shortly before we reached the top.

Put the five-mile, 1,500-vertical-foot hike up Angels Landing high on your list of priorities when visiting Zion—as long as you don’t have a problem with heights. I recommend heading up in mid- to late afternoon if you’re confident of finishing the hike in three to four hours, because most of the hundreds of hikers who venture up there daily are coming down by then, the trail is shaded (it bakes in hot sun in the morning), and the early-evening light on Zion Canyon is glorious.

This weekend marks the start of National Parks Week, celebrating America’s best idea. See all of my stories about Zion National Park and all of my stories about national park adventures and my stories about family adventures at The Big Outside, plus my popular story “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids,” “My Top 10 Family Adventures,” and my “10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Safe Outdoors.”



About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.


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  1. Avatar

    I just took my 4 year old up Angels Landing. She did great! I put her in a full body harness and she wasn’t scared at all. I think she might hold the record for the youngest ascent.

    • MichaelALanza

      Great story, Aimee, congratulate your daughter for me. I’m not sure what the record is for youngest hiker to summit Angels Landing, but she beat my son, who was five when we hiked it with him.

  2. Avatar

    GREAT TIMING! I’m heading to Zion this May! I really appreciate the tips on avoiding the crowds. Now having Clouds Rest, and Half Dome on our resume, my wife and I are feeling more confident about our abilities. Any additional hazards here? Or similar to the ones i mentioned?

    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Paul, as I responded to a commenter just recently asking at how Angels Landing compares to Half Dome: If you’ve done Half Dome’s cables with no problem, you’ll find Angels Landing is easier. It’s not as steep or exposed, not to mention that it’s a much shorter dayhike. People uncomfortable with heights and exposure probably would not like it, but in reality, you’d really have to be quite careless to actually fall off of Angels Landing. In that way, it’s similar to Clouds Rest in Yosemite. Have a great time in Zion.


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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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