Zion National Park - The Narrows

Wall Street section of Narrows Hike

author of photo is Jon Sullivan
Credit: http://www.public-domain-photos.com/travel/zion/zion-narrows-wall-street-free-stock-photo-4.htm

Wading, Walking and Swimming The Narrows in Zion National Park

Zion National Park, Utah's oldest national park, draws hikers and backpackers from all over the world. They come to see and photograph the amazingly colorful canyons, sandstone grottos, hanging gardens and natural springs. 

One of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park is The Narrows. It is one of the world's best slot canyon hikes. Approximately 60% of the time you'll be wading, walking and possibly swimming the Virgin River. Chest-deep spots in the river are not uncommon. The best time to hike the Narrows is when the river is low, fairly warm and the weather forecast is for sunny skies. Hiking is not allowed if flash flooding is forecast or if the river current is too swift. 

Options for Hiking The Narrows in Zion:

 Short Day Hike

This is the best choice for first-time or casual hikers. It is an easy or moderate Summer-time hike.  To begin, take the courtesy park shuttle into Zion Canyon and get off the bus at the Temple of Sinawava parking lot. Walk one mile to the North Fork of the Virgin River. Begin wading, walking and swimming up the river through the canyon! You'll be totally mesmerized by the majesty of this colorful canyon and beautiful river. Be aware that you must turn around and go back to the starting point to complete the hike. A permit for the short day hike is not necessary.

 Long Day Hike and Shuttle Back

Hiking the entire 16-miles of The Narrows under good conditions takes about 12 hours. This a strenuous hike even for people in good condition. Trying to hike the entire length in one day permits little time to enjoy the surrounding beauty. Hikers need to make advance arrangements to have a shuttle vehicle waiting at Chamberlain's Ranch trailhead for the return trip. If you are traveling in a group, 12 people is the limit allowed and you will need a backcountry permit. You can get a backcountry permit from the visitors center the day before you plan to hike. The visitors center only issues 40 permits each day. Permits are not issued if the river current is too strong or if flash flooding is forecast. 

Hike, Camp Overnight and Shuttle Back

Hike the entire 16-miles of The Narrows, spend the night in the canyon gorge and make arrangements to return via shuttle. You'll be able to enjoy the journey at a much more leisurely pace and sleep under a blanket of stars. Be aware that there are only 11 campsites available and you should make reservations during peak season and weekends. Again, your need a favorable weather forecast, a permit from the visitors center and group size kept to no more than 12 people.

An alternative starting point for the 16-mile hike is to drive to Chamberlain's Ranch and hike in toward the Temple of Sinawava. Chamberlain's Ranch is a 1.5 hour drive from Zion Canyon.


Other Considerations for Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park:

  • Sturdy water-friendly footwear is important to protect your feet from injury.
  • Hiking poles or a hiking stick will help you keep your balance on slippery rocks.
  • The best time of the year to do this hike is May through September.
  • The best light for photography is between 10 am and 3 pm. 
  • Summers in Zion National Park are very hot and dry. Carry plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 
  • Wear clothing made of quick-drying material. This is especially important if you plan to hike the entire 16 miles. Cold water can cause hypothermia. 
  • Campfires and pets are not allowed in the backcountry.
  • All trash must to carried out to leave no trace of human visitors.
  • For long day and overnight hike options, you'll need a light-weight backpack with supplies such as a sleeping bag, small tent, food, flashlight and water-proof bags to protect all your gear.

No matter which option you select, The Narrows river hike in Zion National Park is one you won't soon forget!