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The Other Way In

Hike to life-list hot spots without waiting in life-list lines. These under-the-radar trails deliver everything but the crowds.

Angels Landing
Zion National Park, UT

X    Trade route Angels Landing Trail from Grotto trailhead
→   Sneak route West Rim Trail
Key stats 19.4 miles point-to-point, 3,100 feet of downhill
Off-radar cred Single-occupancy campsite 2.9 miles from the summit trail

When you reach the pinnacle of this 1,200-foot-high sandstone fin jutting out into the middle of the sheer red walls of Zion Canyon, it’s like standing on a pulpit in a cathedral of redrock. No surprise, then, that hordes of pilgrims line up to climb the Angels Landing Trail. The 2.5-mile path—which ascends quad-busting switchbacks and via ferrata chains—starts at the Grotto shuttle bus stop. See the iconic view without the crowded approach by coming in from the top, via the West Rim Trail, on a quiet overnight that connects with the Angels Landing Trail just .5 mile from the summit.

Do it
Catch the Zion Shuttle at 6:50 a.m. at the Zion Adventure Company, .7 mile west of the main park entrance in Springdale, and get off at Lava Point. Detour out to Lava Point overlook to check out the teaser view of your route into the top of Zion Canyon before you head down the trail, then connect with the West Rim Trial via a .2-mile shortcut (look for Barney’s Trail on the left side of the Lava Point lookout). From here, the West Rim stays on top of Horse Pasture Plateau, then climbs up and out of a depression called Potato Hollow at mile five to views of the white sandstone fins and peaks of Great West Canyon. Fork right at mile six to stay on the West Rim. Reach camp at mile 11.1, and choose site #1 or #2 (room for one tent) for the best views of the canyon and to get closest to Angels Landing. The next day, get hiking at dawn for the lowest traffic on the final push. Stash your pack at the West Rim/Angels Landing junction, 2.9 miles from camp, where you’ll meet the Angels Landing Trail (the dayhiking rush begins around 9 a.m., especially on weekends). Brace for dizzying exposure along the last .5 mile as you grab several segments of chains for support. Traverse the top of a sandstone fin to reach the 360-degree viewpoint, and keep an eye peeled for the Grand Canyon condors that have migrated here. Last spring, a BACKPACKER editor watched one clean itself for an hour in a tree just below the top. On the way down, grab your pack and follow the mostly paved path 2.5 miles back to the Grotto trailhead. Take the Zion Canyon shuttle to the visitor center, then the Springdale shuttle (both free) back to your car.

Get there Take the Zion Shuttle ($39, zionadventures.com) to the West Rim trailhead.
Map Buy the BACKPACKER PRO MAP
Permit Required; get at the Backcountry Desk one day before, or reserve the 5th day of the month, two months prior ($10; zionpermits.nps.gov).
Contact (435) 772-3256; nps.gov/zion

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