If you’ve wanted to visit Zion National Park in southern Utah so you can take the famed Angels Landing hike but have always been put off by the crowds, the National Park Service (NPS) has some good news for you.
Beginning April 1, 2022, everyone who wants to take the Angels Landing hike will need a permit. And the only way to secure a permit is to be awarded one through a lottery run by the NPS.
Overcrowding on the trail creates a safety hazard because the trail is very narrow and runs along the edge of a sheer cliff. Using a lottery to distribute permits to hike the trail will reduce crowding on the trail and also be fair to visitors, Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion’s superintendent said, an Associated Press story reports.
The Scenic Vista
Accessing Zion National Park’s Angels Landing via West Rim Trail is strenuous. The trail itself is 5.4 miles long and steep — with an elevation change of 1,488 feet. And after hiking to the top, visitors must then hike back down the steep trail.
However, the NPS also cautions that the hike is also “mentally challenging.” Part of that challenge is due to the section of the trail where a chain is bolted into the sandstone so hikers may use it as a handrail. The views are amazing — including the 1,500-foot sheer drop to the floor of Zion Canyon below.
Now, about that name. The name comes from Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher, who quipped that “only an angel could land there” when he first saw the spot in 1916, according to the NPS.
The number of people visiting Zion has grown rapidly in recent years. While the park received 2.8 million visitors in 2011, that number grew to a staggering 4.5 million in 2019, according to the NPS.
Angels Landing is one of the most sought-after destinations and more than 300,000 people hiked it in 2019, according to park officials.
The trail itself can be dangerous due to the section that crosses the narrow ridgeline using the chain as a handrail. When you combine that challenge with the sheer number of people on the trail, the result is that many visitors don’t feel safe hiking, Susan McPartland, Zion’s visitor use manager, said last year.
To reduce overcrowding, and consequently make the trail safer, the NPS began considering implementing a reservation system for the hike last year. The pilot permit program, which may be adjusted as needed, is built on feedback and lessons the NPS learned while it metered the number of hikers on the trail in 2019 and 2021.
How The Lottery Will Work
The permit system will be used specifically for the narrowest part of the Angels Landing hike, which is the section with the chain handrail.
There will be two lotteries: One will be seasonal while the other will be the day before your planned hike. Each drawing will cost $6 per person to enter and people who win must pay a $3 per person fee. That will cover the cost of running the lottery and for rangers to check permits on the trail.
For the seasonal lottery, you’ll be able to pick 7 ranked days and times you would like to hike Angels Landing. You can learn more about the seasonal lottery, including how to enter the lottery, here.
If you’re interested in the daily lottery, you can apply for a permit the day before your planned hike. On, and then after, April 1, 2022, the lottery will open every day at 12:01 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. Mountain Time (MT).
You can learn more about the daily lottery and also how to enter it here.
Know Before You Go
After you’ve won a permit to hike Angels Landing, the NPS wants you to prepare yourself for the hike. That means keeping in mind that most people take at least 4 hours to complete the 5.4-mile round-trip hike, which gains 1,488 feet in elevation. It’s also important to check the shuttle schedule before you leave so you won’t miss the last shuttle, and to print or download your permit.
You can find more advice from the rangers, including tips on how to treat your feet properly, stay hydrated, and watch wildlife here.
Be sure to read the rest of our Zion National Park coverage, including: