I’m going to do a typical recap of our whole family trip to Zion and Bryce, but as I was organizing pictures and thoughts, I felt the need to dedicate a post to the term I searched incessantly for the months leading up to our trip: hiking Angel’s Landing with kids.
From the moment we won a lottery spot to hike it, I asked everyone I knew and googled every post I could find on details about this hike and if the kids could do it. Now that we’re on the other side of the trip, I want to pay it forward and share all about our experience hiking Angel’s Landing with kids!
For those not familiar, Angel’s Landing is a 1,488 foot rock formation inside of Zion National Park. The 5.4 mile out-and-back hike is one of the world’s most renowned hikes, known for it’s tumultuous half mile chain section featuring narrow, steep, sheer-faced drop-offs. You can divide it into two distinct sections- before Scout’s Lookout and after.
Before Scout’s Lookout, it’s a moderate trail with some gentle canyon views and a walk though a narrow canyon. It culminates with Walter’s Wiggles, a set of quick switchbacks that take you to Scout’s Lookout, a wide overlook with plenty of bold chipmunks running around.
After Scout’s Lookout? That’s where the real excitement begins with what is known by many names- the chain section, the fin, the spine. Whatever you want to call it, the last half mile of the trail is a thrilling ascent up a narrow trail with sheer-faced canyon drop-offs and a bolted in chain to hang onto. There are no guardrails.
It’s an iconic hike that was on mine and David’s bucket list. We applied for a permit months prior and were thrilled when we were awarded one for our first morning of our trip. While I’m not a big fan of heights, I do love a challenge, so we were set on doing it. The only thing we weren’t sure of is whether or not our newly 12 year old and 9 year old would be game. I mean, can you hike Angel’s Landing with kids?
Though we have a fair amount of hiking experience and our fair share of adventure (remember our accidental off-path sunrise hike to Delicate Arch?), I still wasn’t sure about it given the known extreme terrain of Angel’s Landing.
Ultimately we decided to all hike to Scout’s Overlook and then let the kids decide for themselves. What happened next was predictable. Our careful twelve year old looked around with tears pricking her eyes declaring she was perfectly happy to hang out at Scout’s Overlook. Our adventure-seeking nine year old lit up like the fourth of July, almost too eager about marching forward to the chains.
So we chatted with a ranger (stationed at the top, since you have to show your permit to hike it), then set up Hailey with snacks, water, and comfortable perch before moving forward with an excited Kaitlyn.
Honestly, within the first 15 feet I almost lost my cool. Not for myself so much as that 9 year old piece of my heart walking outside my body and ahead of me, boldly taking on a sincere challenge with real consequences. David kept turning to check on me, to which I would reply strongly that I was fine but DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF KAITLYN.
Was I being a bit dramatic? Perhaps. Because objectively speaking, Kaitlyn was doing a phenomenal job. We had watched videos about the hike previously and discussed it’s sincerity, and she more than rose to the occasion. She was focused and though smiling and happy, she took it seriously and carefully. She listened to instruction, not always her strong suit, and proceeded with caution. She was peppered with compliments from fellow hikers in awe of her determination and stamina. She ate it up.
Honestly, she hiked it better than me and better than most of the people we passed along the way! We took our time and though it’s only a half mile in length, it took us a solid hour to get to the end of the trail and the final overlook down the canyon.
To all of us, going back was easier; perhaps it was knowing that to expect. Still, the chain section alone took us a solid two hours, about 30 minutes longer than we had estimated to Hailey. When we returned to her, she was relieved to see us and still very much pleased with her decision to sit this one out.
So, let me condense this into a couple bullet points, like I was looking for pre-hike:
Can you like Angel’s Landing with Kids?
I answer with a cautious yes. But here are a few guidelines I’d offer you based on my experience:
- Though not a physically challenging hike, it is very mental. You want your child to have the mental fortitude to be able to focus and listen under pressure. I feel like 9+ is a reasonable guideline, though I did see two kids that looked younger than 9 accomplish it.
- Hiking experience is important. Don’t make this one of your child’s first hiking experiences.
- Height matters. There are some areas you will need to reach out and/or pull up. I’m 5’1″ and handled it fine. Kaitlyn is roughly 4’5″ and I wouldn’t have wanted her to be much shorter than that for some of the parts.
- Hiking boots are a must. Don’t attempt with tennis shoes or anything else. You want thr good grip of a hiking boot.
- Ultimately you and your child know yourselves best. I recommend not committing fully until you get to Scout’s Overlook and see it for yourself.
If I missed anything you’re curious about, please ask. I scoured the internet and peppered friends with questions leading up to our trip so I could get an idea of what to expect, but ultimately it takes seeing it for yourself. I’m so proud of both my girls for honoring what felt right to them. What an incredible experience, and one I will never forget!