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How to Hike The Narrows, Zion National Park

How to Hike The Narrows, Zion National Park

Ready to discover everything about hiking The Narrows at Zion National Park? Treading the waters of the Virgin River might sound like the perfect way to cool hot hiking feet, but this trail offers a few challenges in exchange for the delights it has to show. 

We might be biased – after all, we love Zion National Park – but we think that The Narrows hike is one of the most unique the park has to offer. And we’re not alone – it’s one of the most popular. 

That’s why we included it in our fantastic 2-day itinerary for Zion… And we’d never steer you wrong! 

But you should know a few things before you get pumped up for this memorable hike. Let’s get started.

Why Hike The Narrows in Zion? What’s So Special About the Trail?

The Narrows trail in Zion National Park

While there are plenty of dusty and rocky trails to traverse throughout Utah, The Zion Narrows Trail is a unique slot canyon hike through the Virgin River. It’s not one you can replicate in any other park. 

Working your way upriver along slippery submerged rocks with sheer canyon walls reaching 1,000 feet skyward on either side of you is an awe-inspiring, mind-blowing experience. Especially when it gets as narrow as 20-30 feet in width. 

It’s a challenge to your stamina and makes for a unique memory you’ll carry with you for a lifetime. Not only that, there are spectacular views along the way that you won’t want to miss.  

Hiking The Narrows Trail: In Detail

The Narrows Trailhead

The trailhead for The Zion National Park Narrows starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the last stop of the Zion Shuttle. You’ll take a short hike on Riverside Walk one mile north alongside the bubbling Virgin River until you reach the point where you jump into the water. 

And that’s where your aquatic adventure begins.

The Narrows Trail Hike

We’ll give you fair warning: This hike is not for those who can’t swim. 

Most of the way, you’ll be trudging through knee-deep to waist-deep water with bits of riverbank that may be sandy or rocky at various points on the hike. There *might* even be pockets where the water gets as deep as chest height, so prepare yourself to get wet. 

It’ll all be worth it, though – we promise. Less than half a mile into The Narrows Hike in Zion, the trail begins to show off. Your first encounter is with Mystery Falls, a gorgeous spot where water runs in pretty rivulets down the sandstone from the canyon above, adding their contents to the Virgin River. 

Take a moment – or five – to enjoy the ambiance before continuing. Around the two-mile mark, you’ll find the start of Wall Street. 

It’s the narrowest section of the trail and aptly named for its towering water-carved canyon walls squeezing in on you. This is where the path cinches into 20 feet wide in some places, and you’ll be hiking in the water constantly. 

Many people turn back after experiencing Wall Street, but you’ll want to take it the extra few miles to the finish point. It may not be as sumptuous — the canyon stays gloomy, and the view can get tedious, but the crowds thin out. 

Then a hiccup comes along in the form of a boulder field. Large rocks lie strewn along the canyon floor, blocking parts of the river. 

Do you know what that means? Alright, we’ll tell you. This means it’s time to put those shoes to the test and scramble up and over any obstacles in your path — but none are insurmountable. 

Once this adventurous section ends, you’re through the worst of it, and the going gets a bit easier. Half a mile more, and you’ll be at your turn-around point.

The Narrows Finish Point 

The Narrows, United States
Photo by Frances Gunn | Unsplash

The finish point — which is the turn-around point, as this is an out-and-back trail — is Big Springs. It’s an enchanting pool where several waterfalls of various heights gather together to form a fairytale haven of crystal waters and lush foliage. Remember your camera – keep it dry though.

Enjoy a well-deserved rest at this nature lover’s paradise or take a dip in the waters (watch out, they’re cold!) before turning around and heading back the way you came. 

Practical Tips for Hiking The Narrows, Zion National Park

  • You’ll need good shoes to counteract the slippery underwater conditions. The Tropicfeel Canyon shoes are perfect for this as they’re water-friendly (and look pretty impressive to boot). 
  • Bring a dry bag for your electronic equipment ( you’ll want your phone and maybe a camera to catch all that incredible scenery). 
  • Wear the right clothes as the water can sometimes reach chest height. Quick-dry clothing or a drysuit is perfect for the warmer months, but something like a fleece or wetsuit might be necessary for colder weather. 
  • While it’s not necessary, a trekking pole will be a great asset to help you probe for unexpected deep pockets in the riverbed and unstable rocks. It’ll also help you maintain your balance and footing while walking against the current. 
  • If you’re hiking during summer, check with the visitor center on the state of the trail before you go. Summer thunderstorms can cause dangerous flash floods that make the trail impassable. 
  • This trail has “leave no trace” ethics, so don’t carve your name into any rocks or leave muddy handprints on the canyon walls. 
  • The best time of day to do this hike is in the morning. If you’re staying in or near Zion, getting that early start will be easier. 
  • Use the bathroom before embarking on the trail, as none are available once you begin. 

The Narrows Hike Zion National Park: FAQs 

How Long is The Narrows Hike?

While you can turn around at any point and head back to the trailhead, the full hike is a 10-mile round trip. It takes about 6 hours to complete, depending on the water level and visibility. 

There is a top-down version of this hike that is 16 miles long and takes as long as 1-2 days to complete. It starts Chamberlain’s Ranch and ends at the Temple of Sinawava, where the bottom-up version detailed in this post begins. This version of the hike requires a Wilderness Permit

How Hard is the Narrows Trail?

Ok, so the main question is: Can I actually do this hike? Well, probably yes. 

The Narrows trail is moderately strenuous to strenuous because you’ll be hiking in water of various depths against the current for a decent portion of the hike. Don’t let that put you off – as long as your comfortable in water and fairly fit you will be ok.

When Should I Attempt The Narrows Hike?

The best time to hike The Narrows in Zion National Park is summer or fall, from June to October. Summer is the most popular, so prepare for crowds to descend this trail to enjoy the pleasant water and air temperatures. 

However, it’s also a popular time of the year for thunderstorms which can cause flash floods in the slot canyon, so check conditions with the rangers at the Visitor Center first.

The Narrows Zion Map  

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