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the narrows vs. angels landing

The Narrows Vs. Angels Landing

by | Feb 15, 2024

As the third most-visited national park in the country, Zion is known for its incredible red rock peaks, stunning views, and wide variety of landscapes. The park is home to dozens of trails that span a wide array of distances and difficulty levels. But when it comes to Zion’s most popular and famous trails, two often come to mind; The Narrows and Angels Landing.

Both trails are difficult. However, what really makes them stand out is how unique they are. Not just compared to Zion’s trails, but also compared to other popular hiking trails in national parks across the country.

If you have the time for just one during your stay at Zion Wildflower Resort, you might be wondering which deserves a spot at the top of your list. Keep reading as we compare these two iconic trails, and why one might be a better choice for your visit.

Angels Landing

Angels Landing is arguably Zion National Park’s most well-known trail. In fact, Angels Landing in Zion might just be one of the most famous hiking trails in the country. Part of the reason why it’s so well-known is its reputation for danger. In the more than 100 years since the park was founded, at least seven people have died on the trail

The trail is strenuous. It covers over five miles with more than 1,500 feet of elevation gain. The challenging trail can be dangerous to the unprepared hiker. But the real danger is in the steep drop-offs that are the trail’s signature feature. Hikers have to traverse a narrow ridgeline, with only a single chain handrail on one side to help you keep your balance. 

But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with arguably the best view in the park. If sweeping, panoramic views of the national park are what you want to experience during your stay in our Zion National Park hotel, Angels Landing is the clear winner over The Narrows.

The [New] Challenge of Hiking Angels Landing

You may have made up your mind that Angels Landing is your top choice for your next visit to Zion Wildflower Resort. However, there is a new challenge that anyone hoping to hike the trail has to overcome; getting a permit.

In response to growing numbers of hikers on the trail causing crowding and lines, the National Park Service launched the Angels Landing Pilot Permit Program in 2022. Under this program, hikers hoping to go past Scout Lookout must present a valid permit for that day. Permits are available through two lotteries; the Seasonal Lottery and the Day-Before Lottery.

As the names suggest, the Seasonal Lottery opens four times a year. It awards permits for the following season. The Day-Before Lottery is held daily. This lottery distributes a smaller number of permits.

How difficult it is to get a permit depends on when you plan to visit. You can increase your chances by entering the Seasonal Lottery. But if you don’t get a permit, don’t worry. There are tons of other incredible trails to enjoy—including The Narrows.

The Narrows

While The Narrows might not have the panoramic views of Angels Landing, it’s no less unique. Instead of climbing the park’s towering peaks, you’ll head deep into the narrowest part of Zion Canyon; hence the name, The Narrows.

One thing that is unique about The Narrows is that it’s actually two trails in one. One is far more popular than the other, mostly because it’s much more accessible to a majority of the park’s visitors. 

The first trail is the Bottom-Up hike. To enjoy this side of The Narrows, visitors ride the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the last stop before it turns around. Here, you’ll hike the short Riverside Walk trail. At the end, you’ll find a few steps down to the banks of the Virgin River—and the start of The Narrows. From there, you can hike upstream into the canyon as far as you’d like, before turning around to hike back out.

The other option is a Top-Down hike of The Narrows. This is far more challenging, and involves getting transportation to Chamberlain’s Ranch, a private land parcel with access to the Virgin River. After getting dropped off, hikers have to traverse 16-miles through the river to end up back in the park. 

It’s a difficult trek, and one that requires the right gear, as well as a Wilderness permit. These are easier to get than a permit for Angels Landing, but this trail should only be attempted by those with advanced hiking experience and the right gear for the elements.

Hiking Angels Landing Vs. The Narrows

Angels Landing and The Narrows might be the most famous trails in Zion National Park. But they couldn’t be more different. If you’re looking for a difficult, but more attainable trail with panoramic views of the park—and you get a permit—Angels Landing is a great choice. But if you prefer canyon views and the unique element of trekking through the river, The Narrows offers a fun challenge to experienced and new hikers alike.

Either trail—or both!—could be an excellent addition to your itinerary during your stay at Zion Wildflower Resort. Ready to start planning your next visit? Book your stay today!

Wildflower Blog

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