We hiked the West Rim Trail to reach the stunning vistas at Scout Lookout in Zion National Park. Scout Lookout is the starting point of the treacherous Angels Landing, which many consider to be one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States.

Here are the details of our experience hiking to Scout Lookout, which is sometimes called Scout Landing, but the official name is Scout Lookout.

west rim trail with curvy section
Curvy section of West Rim Trail on way to Scout Lookout

Zion National Park

Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is known for its dramatic landscapes.

Primarily know for its steep red cliffs, Zion also includes high plateaus, rock towers, mesas, and deep sandstone canyons. The park also features a range of diverse range vegetation zones, from deserts to coniferous forests.

Red cliffs in Zion National park
Red cliffs of Zion National Park

The park is well-developed, and includes a visitor center, campgrounds, shuttles, and other infrastructure.

The town of Springdale, right outside the park’s boundaries, offers a wide range of lodging and restaurants. The Zion shuttle goes to Springdale, making the town a good base for visiting Zion National Park.

Canyon view Scout Lookout
Canyon viewed from the West Rim Trail

History of Zion National Park

In the 1850s, Mormon settlers came into the area, naming it Zion, a biblical term meaning “a place of peace and refuge.”

They started to establish farms and communities around the perimeter of what is now the park. (Another good example of early Mormon settlers is the Lonely Dell Ranch where you can pick fruit for free from its remaining orchard.)

zion national park sign
Zion National Park sign

Zion was first protected as Mukuntuweap National Monument by an executive order from President William Howard Taft in 1909 due to its remarkable scenery and geology.

In 1919, the monument was enlarged and redesignated as Zion National Park by an act of Congress, with additional expansions in later years.

Today, Zion National Park covers approximately 299 square miles of land in Utah and is one of the most popular National Parks.

Scout Lookout via West Rim Trail

west rim trail on way to scout lookout
Beginning of the West Rim Trail, as viewed from above

Scout Lookout, perched on the east side of Zion Canyon at an elevation of 5,785 feet, offers panoramic views of the canyon, including the Virgin River and the surrounding sandstone cliffs.

This lookout is one of only two hikes in Zion National Park classified as strenuous by the National Park Service (NPS), according to their guide which categorizes trails as easy, moderate, or strenuous.

Located as close as one can get to Angels Landing without a permit, Scout Lookout provides a similar scenic experience.

The trail to Scout Lookout is a challenging 4.2-mile round trip, climbing over 1,000 feet in just 2.1 miles.

west rim trail with no handrails
West Rim Trail with no handrails and steep dropoffs

The path, mostly paved, features steep and narrow sections without handrails or fences, making it unsuitable for children or those with a fear of heights.

west rim trail cliff
West Rim Trail on the way to Scout Lookout
west rim trail to scout lookout
Paved section of West Rim Trail
west rim trail through canyon section
Hike in canyon on way to Scout Lookout

The only respite along this demanding hike is Refrigerator Canyon, a shaded (depending on the time of day) and relatively flat stretch that offers a brief break from the strenuous climb.

West rim trail in Zion national park
Section of West Rim Trail

Along the way, you will pass some interesting terrain, including the cave below.

cave on west rim trail
Cave on West Rim Trail

The trees in Zion are also very innovative. Check out the roots of the tree below!

tree with roots growing into cliff
Tree growing along West Rim Trail

Endangered Mexican Owls on West Rim Trail

You will go through a section where there are signs to be quiet as Mexican Owls live in the canyon.

These owls are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

mexican spotted owls quiet zone sign near scout lookout
Sign for Endangered Mexican Owls in Zion National Park

This section is a small canyon area of the hike. It is one of the few areas on the West Rim Trail that is shaded.

hike down from scout lookout
Shaded area of West Rim Trail

We were lucky to spot one of the owl’s nests high up on a cliff wall. The photo below is very zoomed in.

This nest was located on the left-side canyon wall as you climbing up toward Scout Landing.

mexican spotted owl nest in zion national park
Mexican Spotted Owl nest in cliffs near Scout Landing

Walter’s Wiggles near Scout Lookout

As you near Scout Lookout, you’ll go through a series of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles.

walters wiggles on way to scout lookout
Walter’s Wiggles section of the West Rim Trail

Walter’s Wiggles is a famously steep and challenging section of the hike to Scout Lookout.

It consists of a series of 21 tight zigzags that climb the side of a cliff. This part of the West Rim Trail is named after Walter Ruesch, the park’s first superintendent who helped design and construct the West Rim Trail in the 1920s.

The switchbacks here gain elevation quickly. It’s a strenuous final section of the trail before you reach Scout Lookout.

Scout Lookout

scout lookout sign
Scout Lookout sign

Scout Lookout is named for its role as a strategic vantage point or “lookout” spot on the trail to Angels Landing.

It serves as a staging area for hikers before they make the final ascent to Angels Landing.

scout lookout in zion national park
Scout Lookout at beginning of Angels Landing trail

The actual area of Scout Lookout is a relatively flat, sandy area with some shade, but there is no water available.

It is a good spot to stop and enjoy the views. Just watch out for the chipmunks who will attempt to steal any snacks you brought with you!

chipmunk in zion national park
Chipmunk thief

The photo below looks down on the flat area of Scout Landing.

We had hiked up further for a good vantage point.

scout lookout from above in zion national park
View from above Scout Lookout

There are some bathrooms located near Scout Lookout.

bathrooms at scout lookout
Bathrooms at top of West Rim Trail near Scout Lookout

Angels Landing

Scout Lookout is the gateway to Angels Landing.

Angels Landing is challenging and exposed, involving a narrow pathway and steep drop-offs.

angels landing sign
Angels Landing sign

The final stretch from Scout Lookout to the summit of Angels Landing is only 1/2 mile, so hikers to Scout Lookout get similar views.

We hiked up beyond Scout Lookout where we had a vantage point of Angels Landing from up higher.

people hiking above angels landing
Hike to above Scout Lookout area

The photo below shows the final 1/2 mile to Angels Landing on the cliff in the bottom left of the photo.

If you look closely, you can see three tiny people at the base of Angels Landing. This shows just how massive these cliffs are.

view of scout lookout and angels landing
View of Angels Landing from above Scout Lookout

Hikers use chains to help their climb along a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs.

chains on angels landing
Chains at beginning of Angels Landing Trail

Hikers need a permit to be able to hike the final 1/2 mile of Angels Landing.

When we visited in April, Angels Landing was closed for a few days for maintenance.

Otherwise we would definitely have done it… well maybe. It didn’t look too bad from the starting location at Scout Lookout, but we couldn’t see the remaining parts of the trail, which I’m assuming are far more narrow and scary.

virgin river from scout lookout
Virgin River in Zion

The video below shows Angels Landing from above Scout Lookout.

YouTube video

Getting There

To get there, you take the Zion Shuttle to stop 6 – The Grotto.

west rim trail sign
West Rim Trail sign

From there, you follow signs to the West Rim Trail.

When To Visit

With visitor numbers sometimes reaching over four million annually, the park has implemented systems such as shuttle buses to reduce traffic congestion and limit environmental impacts.

When we were there in April, it was spring break in many locations.

zion national park visitor center sign
Zion National Park Visitor Center sign

It seemed everyone went to Zion. It was crazy packed.

We had to park in Springdale and walk to the park, as parking was full at the visitor center.

zion national park visitor center
Zion National Park Visitor Center

We waited two hours for a shuttle from the visitor center, and over an hour on the way back.

The photos below show the line for the shuttle from the Zion Visitor Center. You can see that it far exceeds the actual pavilion space used to queue the line.

line for shuttle at zion national park
Line for shuttle at Zion Visitor Center
crowds at zion national park
The shuttle line goes in all directions

Given that the hike to Scout Lookout is considered to be strenuous, there were other hikers on the West Rim trail, but it definitely was not crowded.

So even if the park is packed, the trail likely will be less crowded.

We’d recommend hiking the West Rim Trail in the spring (preferably not during spring break) or fall. Summers can be insanely hot in Utah.

Strutting Turkey

While waiting for a shuttle on our return, we were entertained by a Tom turkey strutting his stuff and trying to impress his lady friend across the street.

tom turkey in zion national park
Tom turkey strutting his stuff
tom turkey in zion road
Tom crossing the street to see his lady friend

The poor Tom. His lady friend wasn’t impressed and wouldn’t pay him any attention.

female turkey in zion
Lady turkey ignoring the Tom turkey


No special permits are required to hike to Scout Lookout, but park entrance fees apply.

(A permit is required for Angels Landing.)

Final Thoughts

We made this hike while on the same trip that we went to the Sand Hollow OHV Area to ride ATVs in the red dune sand. It’s only about 30 miles away.

We also visited the much less crowded Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. There we hiked the 14-15 mile La Verkin Creek Trail to see the Kolob Arch, which is the second longest natural arch in the United States.

The hike to Scout Lookout via the West Rim Trail was fabulous. It was definitely uphill and strenuous, but overall was worth the effort.

The views to Zion Canyon along the hike and also from the top of Scout Lookout are impressive.