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Hiking the Zion Narrows- Everything you Need to Know

USA Travel

A friend asked me which hike I’d pick if I had to choose between Angels Landing and The Narrows. Of course, the best choice would be to do both, but if I could only choose one? The Narrows is definitely it. You can’t beat the unique experience that is hiking the Narrows. Canyon walls towering above you, the milky blue Virgin River- it’s a dream! Checking this iconic hike off of my bucket list was indescribable. You HAVE to do it! Ok, now that we’ve settled that, let’s get into the juicy details…

A woman is standing in the river in a narrow portion of the canyon called "Wall Street"

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Logistics:

Let’s start with the obvious- getting there. Chances are, you’re going to be hiking the bottom-up route. The 16 mile top-down route is supposed to be amazing, but it does require a permit.

The bottom-up route begins at the Temple of Sinewava, which is Stop number 9 for the Zion park shuttle. I was going to talk about the shuttle system here, but my best advice is to check the park website. Shuttle service has changed as of May 28th, 2021 to a first come first-served basis (there were previously tickets issued in advance). At least for summer months, this change has resulted in long wait times to board the shuttle, so keep this in mind and aim to start out as early as possible.

A woman is standing in the Virgin River next to a waterfall on the Narrows hike

The Route:

From the Temple of Sinewava, you’ll hike 1 mile on whats called the “River Walk.” It’s a paved path that takes you to where you’ll actually enter the Virgin River. From here, you can expect to be in anywhere from ankle to chest- deep water! Did I scare you? Sorry! Most of the time, the water won’t be above your waist, or even your knees. There are only a few points where the water gets really deep, and they’re a decent ways up river.

A woman is walking through waist-deep water in the Virgin River on the Narrows hike in Zion National Park

You can make this hike whatever you want it to be- from a few hours to an entire day. From the entry point in the river, you have the option to hike up to 5-6 miles to Big Springs (the final stop on this route). To make it to the final point, you’ll likely need 8-10 hours, especially if you want to stop off and and soak in the views (or, you know, eat). I say 5-6 miles because it’s hard to tell exactly where you are…our gps watches didn’t work very well in the canyon, likely because we were hiking through water.

A tip? Have the map with you so you can at least identify the major features (Floating Rock, Wall Street, etc.). You HAVE to at least go through Wall Street. This is where the canyon is the most narrow- it’s very cool! Also, this is a no brainer, but the farther out you go, the fewer people you’ll see. Having this scenery (mostly) to yourself is straight magic.

Gear:

What should I wear to hike the Narrows? Let’s touch on the critical stuff first…

    • Footwear: We rented the neoprene socks and boots from one of the local outfitters in Springdale (see next section). I’d definitely recommend those. I also saw people in sneakers and Tevas…as I left them in the dust. You’re walking through the river on smooth stones, so it’s really helpful to have good footwear.
    • Poles: Get the walking stick with your gear rental. It helps a lot to keep your balance against the current and on slick rocks (and I still fell…twice)
        • A sun hoodie was the single best item I took on the whole trip. Early morning in the canyon was chilly, and the afternoon was sunny, so it was perfect all day. I love mine from Mountain Hardwear because its so thin, but many companies make them. They protect against UV rays!

          Clothing: Quick dry everything! Hiking shorts/pants are a thing- get ya some! Preferably ones with zip pockets. Also, LAYERS.

    • Dry pants– You can rent them from an outfitter as well, but it’s personal preference whether you need them. Water temp was 63ish mid-May, and I was perfectly fine in shorts.
    • Dry bag: Again, highly recommend one for your belongings- it’s an all day affair in the water, which does get deep in spots.
    • Phone bag: Remember I said I fell? Thank goodness I had just put my phone in my clear plastic dry case! I hung it around my neck, so I was still able to access it quickly for photos.

Everything else is probably self-explanatory. Sunscreen, water (lots), food, sunglasses, etc… The usual hike essentials. Croakies (for your sunglasses) are helpful, but I still hate how fugly they are. Always take more water than you think you’ll need in the desert, and make sure you have the ten hike essentials!

A woman standing in a milky blue river amongst towering rock formations with unique striations

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

Water temperature will vary by season, so check into that beforehand. Like I mentioned above, you may or may not want to keep dry. Mid-May through November is when the water is usually warmest and dry pants are not necessarily recommended.

Keep in mind that this hike does close if the river conditions are too dangerous (e.g. after heavy rain). There has recently been a drought in Utah, but don’t underestimate flash flooding.

For our gear rentals, we went with Zion Guru (not sponsored). We had a great experience with them. They fit us for our gear and let us take it home the night before so that we could head out early the next morning. We also used their private shuttle service, and I’d recommend seriously considering it. We missed out on park shuttle tickets (back when they were released in advance), so we didn’t have much choice, but it was worth the extra money to know we had a ride and not have to wait in line!

Check out the rest of our trip itinerary here.

*Remember to leave our parks better than you found them and practice Leave No Trace!

A man stands in the river amongst narrow canyon walls

I hope you enjoyed this post! If I missed anything, do let me know.

Happy hiking!

A woman standing in the Virgin River with a hiking stick amongst towering canyon walls

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