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Hiking The Zion Narrows

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Location : Zion Nation Park, UT

Parking : Park at Visitor Center, take shuttle to trailhead

Trail type : Out and Back

Trail Length : Varies

Elevation Gain : 193 ft

Difficulty : Easy

Trails traversed : The Zion Narrows Riverside Walk + Zion Narrows Bottom Up to Big Springs

Pro Tip : Wear ankle support hiking boots. Hiking poles (wooden sticks) are available at the start of the Narrows hike. You dont need to rent any special shoes or equipment in Springdale.



The Narrows is one of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park and Southern Utah, It is so named as it is the narrowest spot in Zion Canyon. This hike is like none other anywhere in the United States, as it requires hiking through the waters of the Virgin River in a rocky canyon with walls a thousand feet tall. Water levels can vary from ankle deep to chest high, and as with all slot canyons, caution should be used and the weather forecast should be checked. Hiking the Zion Narrows has always been in my bucket list for many, many years. Not having had the time to do it during my first two trips in the mid 90s and mid 2000s, I made it a mandatory goal of mine to visit Zion when we found ourselves in Kanab in September of 2022.

 

>> Got a question about the Zion Narrows that you need answered quickly? DM me on Instagram @SolaraStills and I’ll be happy to help! I only accept DMs from followers, so hit the follow button before sending.

 

Parking: From March to November, the Zion Shuttle service is operational throughout the park. During this period, visitors are expected to park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or in the town of Springdale, and access the various points in the park via the shuttle. The very last stop on the shuttle route, stop #9 at the Temple of Sinawava, is where you would need to get off to access the trail to the Narrows. Flush toilets and water stations are available at the shuttle stop which is directly across from the trailhead.

The Trail: The Narrows can be accessed via the Riverside Walk. The Riverside walk trail starts at the Shuttle Stop #9 (Temple of Sinawava). It is an easy and almost flat, mile long walk to the start of the Narrows. The picturesque, well paved trail meanders through the canyon, with the Virgin River flowing on one side, and the tall canyon walls on the other. Many benches have been strategically placed along the trail for the weary traveler. As you walk on the path, you will notice people returning from the opposite direction with wet clothes and shoes. This indicates you are getting close to the start of the Narrows.

The trail dead ends where the Narrows begin. There are steps to the left of the trail that lead to the water. On the banks of the river, to the right of the stairs, you will notice a number of wooden poles left by previous hikers. Grab one of the poles, tighten your shoe laces and head into the water.

"Modeling" my hiking pole and ankle length boots

When we hiked in the late afternoon in mid September, the water temperature wasnt too cold. In fact, it was just right for the warm day. I have read that if you go early in the morning, to beat the crowds, the water can be icy cold. We got lucky with the water temperature, but not so lucky with the crowds. There were lots of people all along the Narrows, no matter how much further we went.

The rocky river bed

The hike in the Narrows was like nothing I had done before. You basically hike up the Virgin River, against the currents. In mid September, when we went, the water level came only up to my shins in most places. There were spots where the water came up to chest level, but we could easily circumnavigate around those areas and avoid getting fully soaked. Most of the hike involved crisscrossing from one side of the river bank to the other.

Crossing from one side of the river bed to the other

The river bed is covered with slippery rocks of various sizes and shapes. So it is imperative you wear ankle length boots and watch every step you take in the water. But also, take time to look up, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the river gushing between 1000ft tall sandstone cliffs towering over you.

The towering walls of the canyon on either side of the river

This is the kind of scenery that makes the Narrows the uniquely unforgettable adventure that it’s known for.

Within the first half a mile, you will come across Mystery Falls. The amount of water in the falls, of course, depends on whether it had recently rained or not. Most folks turn back at this point.

Mystery Falls

We hiked for about 2 miles in the river, hoping to get away from the crowds. But the crowd didnt seem to thin down, no matter how far we went. After about 2 miles, when we reached the bend in the river, we turned around and headed back to the starting point. Since we were walking in the same direction of the current, our hike back took much less time. Another reason for that could be that we didnt stop to take as many pictures as we did when we were hiking in.



When we reached the trailhead, we gave our poles to a couple of elderly ladies who were bravely trudging along without a hiking stick. Our walk back to the shuttle stop, along the Riverside trail was uneventful. Despite many warnings of long lines, we were able to board a waiting shuttle bus within minutes of reaching the stop.

In summary, this easy upstream hike from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop, is suitable for people of all ages, just as long as you watch your footing on the slipper rocks. No permits are required (as of 2022), and the views and experience are like no other!

 

>> Got a question about the Zion Narrows that you need answered quickly? DM me on Instagram @SolaraStills and I’ll be happy to help! I only accept DMs from followers, so hit the follow button before sending.

 

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