Hiking The Narrows - Zion National Park
The Narrows is one of the most famous adventure hikes in Zion National Park because well, it's amazing!!! The trail starts as you step off the paved Riverside Walk trail, and start wading up the Virgin River into the canyon. The walls close in quick and you are surrounded by 1000 foot cliffs. In the summer this hike is the perfect reprieve from the intense summer heat but this hike can even be done year round with special gear.
To get to the turn around point at Big Springs (a permit is needed to go any further) it is 4.5 miles one way, including the paved hiking on Riverside Walk. To make it to the famous section in The Narrows called Wall Street it is 2.5 miles one way.
The difficulty of The Narrows lies in all the climbing up, over, and around all the big and small rocks in and out of the river. It is easy to twist an ankle or scatch up your legs pretty good on this hike if you're not careful. With that being said it is a family friendly hike if you have good little hikers that love the water. It's even worth it to go up just a short way if you are nervous about how your kids will do.
To get to this trail you will get off on the very last shuttle stop, Temple Of Sinawava. It's a 40-minute scenic shuttle ride from the visitor center and only accessible via the shuttle the majority of the year. You will hike the Riverside Walk trail to get to the start of The Narrows.
Always practice Leave No Trace principals and leave the places you visit the way you found them. Better yet, bring a clean-up bag with you and leave it BETTER than you found it!
The majority of the trail you will be hiking in knee-deep water along the Virgin River and crossing from one side to the other depending on the rocky condition and depth of the river. Around every corner, you will be greeted by views that will take your breath away. If you make it 2.5 miles in you will come to the famous Wall Street section of The Narrows. This is the tightest section of the slot canyon. A little further up you will reach a small slot canyon offshoot called Orderville Canyon. This canyon can be explored for a short distance. You will know you have reached the turn around point when you come to an area called Big Springs that has waterfalls coming right out of the walls on the west side of the canyon. Past this section is by permit only. Scroll through for tips and additional information.
GOOD TO KNOW
At the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop, there are water fill stations and bathrooms. Make sure to use the restrooms here. If you do need to go pee in The Narrows it is better to do it in the water than on the shore. If you need to go #2 while in The Narrows you MUST pack it out.
WHEN TO GO
The most comfortable time to hike The Narrows is in the Summer and early fall when the temps are warm and the cold water of the Virgin River is a refreshing respite from the heat. Summer is definitely the most popular time to go and the crowds get pretty intense. You can hike The Narrows in the winter to avoid crowds but you will need special gear, see below. During spring runoff (typically April-May) and after a rainstorm, the water levels in The Narrows get too high and the park service closes the trail. Storms are frequent during the monsoon season in July & August. Always pay close attention to the flash flood warnings issued by the park.
If hiking The Narrows in the summer you will need good hiking shoes, preferably boots, that you are ok with getting wet and have really good traction. If you are unsure about your shoes you can rent hiking boots specifically made for hiking in the water from a number of different outfitters in Springdale. My favorite here. You can also rent a walking stick. The walking stick is great to help with balance and checking water levels in the river. I especially recommend taking a walking stick if the water is at all muddy from a recent storm. The walking stick will be invaluable.
During the winter a full-body drysuit, special canyoneering shoes, neoprene booties, and a walking stick are a must.
TIPS AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Always leave these places better than you found them and pack out all your trash. Do not make mud drawings or handprints on the walls of the canyon. Do not carve or scratch your name or anything else into the rock formations. Do not build cairns or other decorative formations out of the stones.
If you need to pee do it in the water and if you need to go #2 then pack it out.
If hiking The Narrows in the summer try to be on the first shuttle out in the morning. This is your only shot at having a little bit of solitude. On your hike back out, as you pass hoards of people, you will be so glad you got up early.
Always pay attention to the flash flood warnings issued by the park.
Take plenty of snacks and water for the hike.
In the earlier and later parts of the summer bring a sweatshirt to pull out if you get cold.
Be prepared that this is a very slow hike. Crossing the water and carefully navigating the rocks takes time.
Wear clothes that are comfortable to hike in when wet. Chaffing from hiking in uncomfortable wet clothes is not fun. I often see people even hiking in swimming suits.