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Scout Lookout in Zion National Park: The Best Alternative to Angel’s Landing

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Zion National Park has some iconic trails, including the harrowing Angel’s Landing, where you’ll hike along the narrow spine of a mountain whilst clinging to chains to prevent you from falling over 1,200 feet to the canyon floor below.  If the thought of that makes your palms a bit too sweaty, though, not to fear—there’s actually an awesome alternative, Scout Lookout, which takes you up to the same stunning viewpoint over the Zion Canyon that hikers completing Angel’s Landing climb to before continuing on their journey along the aforementioned sketchy ridgeline. 

Here’s everything you need to know about hiking to Scout Lookout in Zion National Park, the best alternative to Angel’s Landing. 

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View of Angel's Landing and Zion Canyon from Scout Lookout in Zion National Park
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About Scout Lookout in Zion National Park


3.6 miles

Elevation gain

1,115 ft


Hard—there’s nothing overly technical about this trail, but you do gain a fair amount of elevation in a short distance. 

Couple holding hands and looking at Angel's Landing along Scout Lookout in Zion National Park

Average hiking time

I’d budget for two to three hours to complete this trail. 


Like most national park trails, Scout Lookout is not dog-friendly.

Trail map

Psssst... before lacing up those hiking boots, be follow these key hiking safety tips that you need to know before hitting the trail.

How to get to Scout Lookout in Zion National Park

Scout Lookout is located in Zion National Park in the southwestern corner of Utah, about a two hour drive northeast of Las Vegas or three hours and 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City. I’ve visited Zion as both part of a road trip from Las Vegas and as a bigger road trip to the Mighty Five, each of Utah’s five national parks, and don’t think you can go wrong with either! 

Man standing on the road in Zion National Park as the sun is setting

Unlike some of the other national parks, like Mount Rainier or Glacier, there’s currently no need to have a timed entry permit or reservation to enter Zion National Park. However, it does cost $35 per private vehicle per week or is free(!!!) with an America the Beautiful Pass, an awesome program that gets you into all of the national parks and over 2,000 federally managed lands for just $80 a year!

How you actually get to the Scout Lookout trailhead, located in the heart of Zion Canyon, will depend on when you’re visiting. 

Visiting Zion National Park in the Winter

If you’re visiting from late November through February, you can just drive right up to the Scout Lookout trailhead, located here—easy peasy! 

Snow on the red rock cliffs in Zion National Park

Just be aware that this is one of the most popular trailheads in Zion, so parking here can fill up early, especially on weekends. Accordingly, if you’re visiting on a weekend or near the winter holidays, I’d suggest showing up around 7 AM to ensure you can snag a spot.

Visiting Zion National Park Outside of Winter

From March through late November, the road down Zion Canyon to the trailhead is closed to private vehicles. During this time, you can either ride a bike (rentals are available in the nearby town of Springdale, like this ebike rental) or park at the Zion Visitor Center and take the Zion Shuttle to the Scout Lookout trailhead. 

Shuttle in Zion National Park with the Watchman Mountain in the background

The park’s complimentary shuttle departs from the Visitor Center every 6-10 minutes and makes several stops before the one for the Scout Lookout trailhead, called the Grotto (Stop #6). The first shuttle departs from the Zion Visitor Center at 7 AM from September 16 through May 18 and 6 AM from May 19 through September 15. 

While there’s tons of shuttles running, Zion is POPULAR (in fact, the third most visited national park in the United States!), so lines can get super long here. Accordingly, I’d suggest getting here EARLY—for example, the first time that I visited the park, I arrived at the Visitor Center at 6:30 AM on a Thursday and STILL had to wait about 45 minutes for a shuttle.

The parking lot here usually fills up by 8 AM most days, so there’s also a free shuttle from the nearby town of Springdale that will take you from a number of hotels and paid parking lots around town right to the entrance of Zion. 

Road leading through Zion National Park

Once you’re done hiking to Scout Lookout, you’ll obviously need to catch a shuttle back to the Zion Visitor Center. The last shuttle of the day leaves from the Grotto stop around: 

  • 7:25 pm from March 3 to May 18
  • 8:25 pm from May 19 to September 15
  • 7:25 pm from September 16 to November 2; or
  • 6:25 pm from November 3 to December 1

However, I’d strongly recommend getting back to the trailhead at least half an hour before the last shuttle leaves. If the shuttles happen to be full, your only option will be walking almost five miles down the canyon back to the Visitor Center! 

Trailhead for Scout Lookout with Angel's Landing in the background in Zion National Park

What to Expect on Scout Lookout in Zion National Park

Once you’re at the trailhead, you’ll find a water refill station and restrooms.

From here, you’ll follow a paved path across the Virgin River and should see signs for the West Rim Trail, with the path for both Scout Lookout and Angel’s Landing heading to the right.  As you start climbing up the paved path, you’ll notice a huge mountain ridge, jutting out of the ground in front of you—that’s the infamous Angel’s Landing! 

Woman standing along the Scout Lookout Trail with Angel's Landing in the background in Zion National Park

The trail will eventually transition into switchbacks, with the incline getting steeper and the views of the surrounding mountains getting better and better. 

About 1.2 miles in, the trail will flatten out and pass through Refrigerator Canyon. This portion of the trail is so named because a gentle breeze usually blows through this canyon, making it feel a few degrees cooler than the rest of the trail, and the surrounding trees and lush greenery provide welcome shade from the hot desert sun. By the time you reach the end of Refrigerator Canyon, you will have climbed about 1,000 feet in just one and a half miles! 

The last section along the trail, called “Walter’s Wiggles”, is my favorite—solely because the name is so fun. It’s named after Walter Reusch, Zion’s first superintendent, who built the section of the trail all the way back in 1926! Don’t be fooled by this section’s cutesy name— the climb here is pretty intense, with a series of 21 short and VERY steep switchbacks. 

Walter's Wiggles on Scout Lookout Trail in Zion National Park

Luckily, though, after 0.1 miles or so, the trail will flatten out and you’ll reach a large clearing, with Angel’s Landing rising in front of you and a huge sandstone outcropping (which is Scout Lookout!) that provides jaw-dropping views of the surrounding red rock cliffs.

Take a moment (or a hundred) to enjoy the spectacular views here and decide what you want to do next. You can:

Return to the trailhead

Simple enough—just trace your footsteps back!

Paved path on the Scout Lookout Trail with Zion Canyon in the background in Zion National Park

Continue on to Angel’s Landing

If you have a permit for Angel’s Landing, you can continue down the spine of the mountain. This will add about a mile (roundtrip) and an additional 500 feet in elevation gain to the Scout Lookout trail.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but Angel’s Landing is fairly technical and kind of dangerous—at least 13 hikers have fallen to their death here since 2000. So I’d really only recommend hiking this trail if you’re not afraid of heights and are confident at hiking along narrow ridges with extremely steep drop offs.

Ridgeline leading to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Continue on the West Rim Trail

Alternatively, you can continue to climb along the West Rim Trail, which runs for an additional 13 miles (one way), all the way to Lava Point, the highest point in the park. 

During Justin’s and my 2 days in Zion National Park, this is the option we choose, hiking along the West Rim Trail for several more miles past Scout Lookout, with the views of Angel’s Landing and Zion Canyon just getting more and more spectacular with every step. 

Woman looking from a rocky outcropping along the Scout Lookout Trail in Zion National Park

Just note that, unless you’re an extremely fast and experienced hiker, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hike the entire 30+ mile West Rim Trail in one day. If you want to complete the entire hike, I’d suggest doing this as a backpacking trip, which would require an additional permit

Tip: Most of Scout Lookout is quite exposed to the sun, so be sure to bring plenty of water (Justin and I each have one of these comically giant Nalgene bottles and LOVE them) and sun protection, like sunscreen and a hat. 

When to Visit Scout Lookout in Zion National Park

Scout Lookout, like most of the trails in Zion National Park, is generally accessible year round. However, I personally think the best periods to visit are the spring (March through May) and fall (mid-September through October). 

The park is PACKED in the summer months and can regularly see temperatures over 100 degrees. Plus, it’s monsoon season from July through mid-September, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and even dangerous flash flooding along the Virgin River. 

View of the Zion Canyon in Scout Lookout Trail in Zion National Park

Winter is definitely the quietest time in the park, but it’s not unusual for the Scout Lookout Trail to be covered in ice and snow, especially in January and February. If you’re visiting during this time period, I’d suggest bringing along microspikes for additional traction on the icy trail, given the number of steep drop offs and intense incline along the trail. 

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

  • Zion Lodge: Located in the heart of the Zion Canyon, this is the only hotel located inside of Zion National Park. Beyond its awesome location, this historic hotel offers a mix of cabins, with fireplaces and porches that offer views of the surrounding canyon, or spacious rooms. 
  • Driftwood Lodge: Located just two miles from the entrance of Zion in the town of Springdale, this hotel has everything you need during your time in the park, from a hot tub to soak those aching muscles after all that hiking to a little beach area along the Virgin River.
  • Flanigan’s Resort and Spa: If you prefer a more upscale experience, this bougie resort offers a perfect location, within walking distance of the park’s entrance, with luxurious amenities, like a beautiful pool and onsite spa. 
The Milky Way above the Watchman mountain at night in Zion National Park

I hope you enjoy hiking up to Scout Lookout in Zion National Park as much as we did! Do you have any questions about this trail? Let us know in the comments below!

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