Hiking Angels Landing and The Narrows in one day is tough, but doable. Both hikes are must-dos when visiting Zion National Park. Completing both hikes in one day requires an early start, a high level of physical fitness, and pure determination.
Ideally, travelers would have an endless amount of time to explore Zion National Park. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Add in the crowds and logistics of catching the shuttle and you may be happy to spend only one day exploring Zion’s main section.
Make the most of your time in Zion by using the tips outlined in this guide to help you conquer both hikes in one trip.
In this travel guide, I will explain how to successfully hike Angels Landing and The Narrows in one day, what to expect, what to pack, how to navigate the park, and general things to know before heading to Zion.
Ultimate Guide for Hiking Angels Landing and The Narrows in One Day
Can you hike Angels Landing and The Narrows in one day?
Yes! Hiking Zion National Park’s two most popular hikes in one day is possible.
Both Angels Landing and The Narrows are difficult hikes and require a high level of physical fitness. As with all hikes, visitors should adequately research each hike before beginning. Planning ahead and preparing is one of the seven Leave No Trace Principals, and a crucial one in ensuring your safety as well as the safety of others.
Is it best to hike Angels Landing or The Narrows first?
Begin your day by hiking Angels Landing first.
There are many benefits to getting an early start on Angels Landing. The trail is most beautiful, most enjoyable, and safest early in the morning.
When it comes to time of day, there is a little more leeway when hiking The Narrows. The earlier you start The Narrows the less people you will also encounter. However, safety and sun exposure are less of a threat on this hike.
If experiencing The Narrows is your primary bucket list item for visiting Zion National Park, hike it first. Otherwise, I recommend starting on Angels Landing.
I talk more about what to expect when hiking Angels Landing and The Narrows below.
Things to Know Before Heading to Zion National Park
Over four million people visit Zion National Park every year. Planning and preparing for your trip is crucial in making the most of your time in the park.
In an attempt to have a go-with-the-flow road trip across Utah, we didn’t do much planning before we arrived. Why on earth I ever think not planning a trip is a good idea, I have no idea.
Here are things we wish we would have known before our trip:
Zion National Park is Busy.
As I mentioned above, Zion National Park is extremely popular. Obviously, we did know this prior to visiting the park but we were still not prepared for the massive amount of people on each trail.
If you have visited lesser known parks in Utah, such as Natural Bridges National Monument, you might have even found yourself alone on some trails. This will not be the case while exploring Zion’s main park section.
Consider hiking or backpacking La Verkin Creek Trail if you want a more off-the-beaten-path experience in Zion. Backpacking to Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail was our favorite thing we did in Zion National Park.
Personal Vehicles are Not Allowed on the Zion Scenic Canyon Drive (March – November)
Personal cars are not allowed to drive on the Zion Canyon Scenic Road for the majority of the year. Wintertime is the exception. The park eliminated the use of personal cars throughout the park’s main section to help manage traffic.
All visitors must park in the Visitor Center (or in Springdale) and ride the shuttle into the park. Since you cannot drive your own vehicle extra planning is required.
The Visitor Center Parking Lot Fills Up Early
Parking at the Visitor Center fills up very quickly. The parking lot is usually full by 9:00 a.m. During the busy months, this time can be much earlier. If you only have one day to explore the park, plan to arrive before sunrise.
If the parking lot is full, you must park in Springdale and take an additional shuttle into the park. The first shuttle from Springdale into the park is 5:30 a.m. (May – September) and 6:30 a.m. (October – April).
The Shuttle Line Backs-Up Before 6:00 A.M.
As of May 2021, visitors do not need to reserve shuttle tickets. The shuttle now operates on a first-come, first serve basis. As a result, visitors begin lining up for the shuttle well before it’s running. For the first shuttle (6:00 a.m.) people will begin lining up before 5:00 a.m. Consequently, the parking lot can become full by this time also.
The silver lining? It’s free!
There is Little to No Cell-Service
For the most part, there is no (or very little) cell service in the park. Make sure you have downloaded offline maps and saved articles with useful information (a.k.a. this one!) before entering the park.
Best Time to Start Hiking
You must get an early start in order to hike Angles Landing and The Narrows in one day. There are two main ways to access Zion National Park’s main section: via shuttle or bike rental.
The time you are able to start your full day of adventuring will depend on the option you choose.
Exploring Zion National Park via Shuttle
The first group of park shuttles begin running at 6:00 a.m. In order to get on the first round of shuttles, you need to arrive at the park 45 minutes to an hour early. Doing so, ensures your best chances at snagging a parking spot at the Visitor Center, as well as a spot on the bus. I recommend arriving no later than 5:15 a.m.
We arrived at 5:15 a.m. and still had a couple hundred of people in line before us. Luckily, we still managed to get on the 4th shuttle.
You will also want to get an early start to beat the heat. Temperatures can be extremely high during the summer months. To avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration, start early.
Exploring Zion National Park via E-Bike Rental
We recommend renting E-Bikes to explore the park. We did not realize you could bike freely around the park and were extremely envious when we saw other travelers doing so!
You can enter the park and hit the trails well before sunrise when you are biking. You also get to skip the shuttle lines, avoid squeezing onto the bus, and stop and go as you please throughout the park.
I recommend starting your bike ride about one hour before sunrise. Yes, your first 30 minutes or so will be spent biking in the dark. However, if you start before sunrise you can arrive at the Angels Landing Trailhead before the shuttle begins dropping off hikers.
You will be among the first on the trail and have your choice of seat at the summit to watch the sun rise over Zion National Park.
How to Prepare for a Full Day of Hiking Angels Landing and The Narrows
In order to hike Angels Landing and The Narrows in one day you must plan and prepare well. I always do trail research, pack my bag, and check the weather the night before a hike.
You should always research the trail before starting any hike. I rely on AllTrails to provide accurate trail information and reliable reviews. Always check the difficulty rating, distance and elevation gain before attempting any hike.
Packing your backpack the night before is also a great habit to get into. Gathering your things the night before a hike eliminates the risk of forgetting essentials.
Essentials for any hike include plenty of water, durable hiking shoes, grab-n-go snacks, and sun protection. Preparing the night before also helps avoid unwanted hiccups like discovering you have a dead camera battery while trying to photograph the sunrise.
Has this happened to me before? Yes. Many times.
Lastly, knowing the weather helps you dress accordingly, and ensures the trail will be safe to hike.
What to Expect Hiking Angels Landing
Distance: 4.4 miles | Time: 2 – 4 hours | Level: Hard
Shuttle Stop: The Grotto
It was evident many hikers on the trail did not know what to expect when hiking Angels Landing. This is not an easy hike despite its popularity.
The first 1.8-ish miles of the trail are paved as you walk along a portion of the West Rim Trail. During the paved section of the trail you will gain over 1,000 feet of elevation. You will be very out of breath and your quads and calves will be burning.
The path is wide during this portion of the trail. Hikers can pass one another easily and step aside to take breaks when needed.
Around 1.5 miles into the trail the switchbacks begin. You will traverse nearly 30 switchbacks before reaching the true beginning of Angels Landing Trail.
There is a bathroom at the top of the switchbacks before you begin the chain section.
Once you begin the chain section the real fun begins. Cole and I actually expected the entire trail to consists of chains. We had no idea only the last 0.5 miles were like this.
The chain portion of the hike is absolutely stunning and adrenaline pumping.
Please note that neither Cole or I have a fear of heights. I without a doubt do not recommend completing the chain portion of the hike if you have any fear of heights. I also highly discourage anyone from attempting the chain section that is not a confident hiker.
The trail narrows significantly once you reach the chains. There are many areas with steep inclines that are accompanied by dramatic drop-offs. We saw many people paralyzed with fear when crossing these parts of the trail.
It is very important to know your own abilities when beginning the chain section of the hike to not only ensure your own safety but the safety of others.
With that being said, the chain portion is not as daunting as it is made out to be. Again, researching a trail before hiking is very important. I feel many horror stories of the trail’s chain section come from unprepared hikers.
Angels Landing Summit
You will almost immediately forget that you were ever afraid or tired once you set eyes on the view from the top of Angels Landing. The 360 degree views of the park are stunning and worth every moment.
Remember, regardless of what time you started the hike you will most likely encounter traffic on the chains when coming down. The trail becomes very crowded after sunrise and remains that way for the rest of the day.
Seeing the sunrise from the top of Angels Landing is only a small part of why I recommend it be your first hike of the day. Safety is the main reason it should be prioritized.
To ensure everyone’s safety on the hike is it very important to be patient, remain calm, and share the trail.
The trail is very steep and there is no sun coverage. You must come prepared with plenty of water. One water bottle is not going to cut it. The general rule is one liter per two miles. You should be packing at least two liters of water when attempting this hike.
Again, the earlier you go the less hot it will be.
Is hiking Angels Landing worth it without doing the chain section?
Yes! Hiking Angels Landing is still worth it even if you do not complete the chain portion. There are sweeping views of the valley once you get to the top of the switchbacks. You definitely have to work for the view but you’ll be glad you did.
We noticed several hikers stopping once they reached the top of the switchbacks. If you are not comfortable continuing through the chain portion of the hike, don’t stress! Take your time enjoying the views. You will still be blown away.
What to Expect Hiking The Narrows
Distance: 1 – 15 miles | Time: Varies | Level: Hard
Shuttle Stop: Temple of Sinawava
I want to preface this section with saying, I was very let down by The Narrows. Partly, I think, by the unrealistic expectations set by social media. Partly, by the overwhelming amount of people on the trail.
We had done our research and were aware that many travel bloggers refer to The Narrows as the “Disneyland” of the outdoors. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the madness.
More than once I nearly forgot where I was because the entire experience felt so removed from nature.
I do not want to sound pessimistic, just realistic. Had others been more forthcoming with their own experiences, I think I might have been able to enjoy The Narrows for what they are, rather than what I thought they were.
With that being said, had we started our day with The Narrows instead of Angels Landing, I do think there would have been less people. At least on the way in. Again, if you’re more excited about hiking The Narrows and care less about hiking Angels Landing, reverse this itinerary.
Is Hiking the Narrows Worth it?
Whether or not hiking The Narrows is worth it, is going to vary depending on the person. I still come across articles of travelers claiming it was the best hike they’ve ever done. For us, it doesn’t even come close to ranking. However, it goes to show that it’s one worth experiencing, nonetheless. You be the judge!
Despite the crowds, the canyon itself is beautiful. You are surrounded by towering red cliffs and boulders the entire hike. The “trail” itself is also very unique and requires you wade in the river for nearly the entire hike.
Hiking in the Virgin River
I did not expect hiking in the river to be as difficult as it was. The water is murky and the ground consists solely of loose, large rocks. It can be very difficult to feel secure in your footing. You’re forced to walk slowly and cautiously to avoid falling. Even so, you should expect to slip several times.
We hiked The Narrows mid-July and the water was mostly knee-level. A couple of times the water was at our waist but these portions did not last long.
We saw many people with the optional boot and walking stick rentals. The boots are not necessary in my opinion, but a walking stick would have been very helpful. Like I mentioned early, the rocks are slippery and unstable and the current can get strong at times.
In several areas, there are options to avoid the water and instead walk on land. However, make sure to remain on the designated trail at all times if opting to go around the water.
Another reason I suggest doing this hike second, when attempting both Angels Landing and The Narrows in one day, is because you are in control of how long you walk.
The entire length of The Narrows is roughly 16 miles total. Three miles in we decided to turn around. We had hoped by then the crowds would have lessened but they had not. We turned around at the split making it a six mile hike. How far you choose to explore is up to you (and your legs).
The Best Way to Experience The Narrows
If we could do it all over again, we would choose to overnight The Narrows and complete the entire 16 miles. Due to poor lack of planning, we didn’t even know this was an option.
To camp in The Narrows at the designated campsites you need to purchase a wilderness permit. Permits can be purchased online or at the Wilderness Desk at the Visitor Center. Keep in mind, even permits purchased online will need to be picked up at the Visitor Center.
Make sure to plan ahead accordingly to complete this trip. You will need to make shuttle arrangements, plan for food and water, and ensure you have the right gear packed.
If you prefer off-the-beaten path experiences, this is definitely the way to hike The Narrows.
Leave No Trace Reminders for The Narrows
Graffiti, trash and human waste are all issues facing The Narrows.
As a general rule of thumb, never take or leave anything when adventuring in the outdoors. This includes leaving behind empty water bottles, granola bar wrappers, cigarette butts, broken shoe soles, etc. Everything you bring onto the trail needs to leave the trail with you.
This rule also applies to human waste. The Narrows sees an excessive amount of visitors every day. Can you imagine what the place would look like if everyone was using toilet paper and shallowly burying poop? Carry human waste bags on hand in the case of an emergency.
Lastly, never carve, scratch, write or draw on the natural surroundings. Even washable materials like mud disrupt the environment and can remain for weeks or months at a time. Always leave the outdoors exactly as you found it.
If you have any further questions about adventures in Zion or general park questions, drop me a message in the comment section below. Also, make sure to check out my guide, 5 Epic Things to Do in Zion (That Aren’t Hiking) for the ultimate adventure trip in Zion National Park.
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