Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Angels landing

Angels Landing in Zion National Park. NPS Photo.

A California woman died in a fall Sunday from the popular site in Zion National Park known as Angels Landing.

The victim, 55-year-old Nancy Maltez of Glendora, California, was reported to be hiking with family members early Sunday when she fell at about 8:30 a.m. The accident was reported by another hiker by cell phone.

She was believed to have stumbled and fallen from the north side of Angels Landing. Media reports indicate she fell a distance of about 1,000 feet, and search-and-rescue crews reached her body before noon.

The West Rim Trail from the Grotto to Scout Lookout, along with climbing routes on the north side of Angels Landing, are temporarily closed while an investigation by the park and the Washington County Sheriff's Department is completed.

There has been considerable discussion on theTraveler in recent months about the safety of the Angels Landing Trail. Prior to today's incident, the most recent fatal fall at that location was in 2007.

The park website includes the following information in a description of the Angels Landing Trail:

Caution: The route to Angels Landing involves travel along a steep, narrow ridge with support chains anchored intermittently along the route. Footing can be slippery even when the rock is dry Unevenly surfaced steps are cut into the rock with major cliff dropoffs adjacent. Keep off when it is wet, icy or thunderstorms are in the area. Plan to be off before dark. Younger children should skip this trail; older children must be closely supervised.

This accident will almost certainly revive the debate about the safety of the popular trail. According to the park website, "about 5 people" have died due to falls from Angels Landing in the 100 years since the park was established, but it is not the most dangerous trail in the park. Emerald Pools holds that unwelcome distinction with seven victims.


My husband and I just returned from our hike to the summit of Angels Landing. After reading the above accounts I'm glad we waited till late, even though it meant walking the last mile back in the dark. We started our hike at around 6 pm so by the time we got to the last .5 mile, there were only a few people left anywhere on the mountain, and they were all headed back down. We actually had the whole ascent from Scouts to the summit all to ourselves, for which I was very grateful - the whole way up I kept thinking how much more difficult it would be with two-way traffic from people going up/coming down simultaneously, especially in the areas where exposure was extreme. I kept thinking about Krakauer's account of the bottleneck waiting to ascend the last part of the climb to Everest's summit. There are places where it seemed virtually impossible to have two people pass each other with even a marginal sliver of safety. It's amazing to me that the park allows this hike but I'm glad we did it. Would I do it again? Probably not!

Im so sorry about your loss. There is no doubt there is danger in this hike and you have to be very cautious. My wife her sister husband and I hiked to Scouts landind and only my sister inlaw and myself went the rest of the way to the top. Yes it scarry and dangerous.You have to be so careful and for sure some are not. Saw one walk inches from the edge just to get by. And another one pressure to stand on a rock just for a picture. I loved the view but would probably not do it again. Maybe observation point I here that view is great. I have done it no since pushing my wel you know. I would have been really nervous if my wife wanted to go the rest of the way. For those that want to try no your limits don't be pushed on by others. Remember life is a gift.

I am absolutely terrified of heights and had the dubious distinction of being the only one in my party of 28+ people to turn around on this hike. Like so many before me to say so, it would be a shame to restrict people from hiking this trail. While it is a trail I will never again attempt, I simply cannot focus and gain a steady grip on the chain, this trail (amongst others) personifies Zion National Park. People come to these places to test themselves against mother nature and truly enjoy all that comes with it. We are all thrillseekers. At the end of the day, 6 Flags closes a ride for a day or 2 only to realize that it was a freak accident and ultimately they open the ride again. While i prefer the Observation Point hike and a trek up the Narrows, Angels Landing cannot be something taken away from the Zion faithful. It's something I absolutely will never do and for those who have done it I have a great respect for. As the most athletic member of my party I had no problem calling it off on this hike. Everyone must know their limits. It is not up to the NPS to determine what limits belong to certain people. No one except for myself would have felt what I felt and knew that I could not focus enough to continue that hike. Chances are that if you have found Zion National Park, you know enough to hike with water and not Coca-Cola. As sad as that is, that is enough to make the conscious choice. There are enough things going on in Zion to keep yourself occupied. If you can't hack Angels Landing go to Emerald Pools. If you can't hack that do Watchman. If that's too much, enjoy the free bus and catch a movie at the almost "IMAX" theatre. No one should feel pressured into doing Angels Landing, I didn't, and I'm headed back to Zion for my 4th trip. I love Zion and prefer it to every other National Park. Would I like to do Angels Landing just to prove a point? Of course. Do I care that I know better? Nope. Observation Point is a challenge and puts my fear of heights to the test sufficiently. But, to each their own.

We just hiked up part of Angels Landing but turned back after part of the trail with the chains. To me it just wasn't worth the risk especially when you have to get past other people. If you like thrills like roller coasters fine but that isn't my thing. We hiked up the West Rim Trail instead where you can get views down on to many peaks including Angels Landing without hanging on chains. It is more work but worth the effort.

I was amazed that so many people were taking their kids up there. I think someone should be old enough to be able to make their own decisions with full understanding of the consequences before they go up.

I think the big problem is that most of the dire warnings at parks are overblown and when one is real people don't take it seriously. For example the warnings about hiking down the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back in a day. If you are fit, have plenty of water and it isn't the middle of summer it is definitely doable.

Just my opinion.

I just got back from hiking A.L. last week. It was really exciting but obviously not for everyone. I did it in running shoes as I feel boots are too stiff to grab the rock. I like the flex of running shoes. I'm not surprised people die here but I do not want to see it all nannied and such. Let people take risks!
I feel terrible for the families and friends of people who perished here. But what an incredible experience. Like half dome, choose a weekday to do this hike. Don't join the traffic jam on Sat or Sun.
And when you are ascending or descending, don't look down.

I hiked Angel"s Landing last Wednesday.My wife and I were the first ones up the trail.As we entered the trail a man named Cliff walked up.I asked if he minded if we hiked together.My wife had already decided to stay at Scouts Landing.I am glad Cliff went the rest of the way.I dont thnk I would have tried it alone and it was nice to have someone to hike with past Scouts Landing.I would have turned back past the first ridgeline had I been alone.It is a breathtaking hike,and there are places with and without chains that feature sheer dropoffs on either side.I did this the first week of December it was nice having only 10 or so other people hiking the trail.I cant imagine trying to do this hike in the middle of summer with a bunch of other people to pass,or let pass.Cliff and I agreed to take it slow since we were "fat guys".The view from the top is spectacular..I would recomend to never do this hike if it were wet or icey.Start early in the morning and take your time.If you are scared of heights dont think of doing this hike.

have more chains been installed?

I hiked "almost" to the top in October 2003. There were 3 of us, early 30's and being respectful of our surroundings - kept a close eye on the weather and the inherit dangers of the trail, especially the clsoer you get to the top. We were probably less than 100 feet from the top of the trail and it began to rain .. the rock became very slippery and at that portion of the trail, I do not remember as many chains as I see in the pictures that are currently posted. Sadly, for our safety, we turned back - there were no more chains "in sight". I have always wanted to finish the hike, but now with 2 small children, I think it best to wait until they are upper teenagers. I just hope the trail will always remain open.

interesting reading, was just there on 5/25/12 and while we didn't hike Angels Landing, we did hike up to Hidden Canyon and beyond into canyon. There are chains on that hike too and the canyon is beautiful.

My daughter is in college now, but when she just turned seven I took her on this hike. We caught the first morning tram from the lodge and what a terrific hike it was. We were almost alone on the trail because of the time of the morning. When we got to the top and sat to eat what turned out to be breakfast I wondered about people maybe falling off and the wisdom of taking my 7 year old to the top. About that time a pediatrician from New Jersey showed up with his eight year old daughter. We both took pictures of the two girls together at the top. Those pictures and the video of my daughter's entire assent are treasured. I must say that this is not a hike for all children and certainly not for more than 1 child per attentive adult.

I have recently gotten into hiking. Heights have never scared me, though falling concerns me. Does that make sense? I enjoy pushing myself a little pass my comfort zone, though I am old enough not to have to impress any either. My question is how do you know how you will respond? If this hike is the most extreme you've done, then how do you know how your body will respond but more importantly how your mind will respond. Just asking....

The person who says that 100% of those who stumble die, you are wrong. I am 16, and I climbed Angel's landing this summber. I stumbled not once, but twice, and because i had at least one hand in contact with a solid surface, be it the chain or the rock itself, i simply stumbled and got back up.

I'm amazed there aren't deaths here every month. the last part of this hike is just too dangerous, and a cable should be rigged for the ENTIRE last 0.5 miles. I've done canyoneering and rock climbing and I wouldn't even THINK about doing this without roping in. but thousands of people, with no experience (mostly) do it every year. That doesn't prove that it's safe, it just proves that a) people are stupid and b) people are stupid. It's just not worth the risk for the endorphins or for bragging rights. As other people have noted, the deaths here are GROSSLY under-reported. A group from my college is doing it this weekend, 60 folks, ages from 16 to 60, and they're ALL going to feel ENORMOUS peer pressure to do this (group led by a crazy professor). NONE are going to rope in, and I really fear that a dear friend of mine will fall to her death because she's too macho to resist the peer pressure.