Guide to The Zion Narrows
Anyone who has visited Zion National Park will know how busy it can be at pretty much anytime of year. When we got on the first bus of the day at 6am, it was full of people excited to start a day of hiking, even though it would be through cold, sometimes rushing, waters. Once you get to the start of The Narrows and take your first few steps in, it quickly becomes clear why we were all crazy enough to wakeup before the sun to do it though.
The scale and beauty of this place is unmatched. With every bend in the river you’re met by an array of colours and textures that just don’t seem real! As you make your way through the Virgin River you can't help but look around constantly at the transforming landscape around you.
Location: Zion National Park
Distance: 2-10 miles (out and back)
Time: 2-8 hours
We definitely got our feet wet, and it got pretty uncomfortable at times, but as always, it was more than worth it to experience this incredible place.
If you want to experience it for yourself, here is everything you need to know to plan your own adventure in The Narrows...
Frequantly Asked Questions
When is the best time to go?
The waters are generally lower and warmer from late spring, through summer. This is the most popular time to hike The Narrows. However, it also when storms create a greater risk of flash floods.
It is possible to go in both autumn and winter, though the days are shorter and the waters colder!
NOTE: The Narrows often close during spring when snowmelt causes the river to rise considerably.
Which Shuttle Stop do you get off at?
Shuttle Stop 9 - Temple of Sinawa
Do you need a permit?
For the Bottom Up hike from Temple of Sinawa (Shuttle Stop 9), no permit is required. If you're planning to do the Top Down hike, or any other wilderness hiking in Zion, you need to purchase a permit from zionpermits.nps.gov.
Do you need to walk in the river?
Once you enter the Narrows the entire hike is through the Virgin River. Except for a few rocky banks here and there, you'll be wading through water the whole time. Alternatively you can just enjoy the Riverside Walk, which takes you right up to the entrance. However, if you don't get your feet wet you'll miss the best and most beautiful parts of The Narrows!
How high is the water?
The water levels change constantly season to season, day to day, and all throughout the hike. It can quickly go from being around your ankles, right up to your chest/shoulders. During our time in The Narrows (8 hours roundtrip) it didn't get much higher than our waist. However, depending on rainfall or snowmelt things can change considerably. Check recent conditions at the Visitor Centre.
NOTE: If the river flow goes over 150 CFS, The Narrows will be closed to all travel.
Do you need any special equipment?
Technically, no. The Riverside Walk is short and easy and if you don't venture far into The Narrows, you'll be ok with a pair of trainers and light/hiking clothing. However, if you plan on doing any further hiking in to The Narrows, these items will help a lot:
- Hiking Pole
- Canyon Shoes
- Dry Bag
- Neoprene Socks
During autumn/winter you can also rent dry pants or a dry suit to help you survive the colder waters.
NOTE: You can rent all of the equipment mentioned from zionadventures.com.
How far can I walk?
How far you go is really up to you! You can turn around after an hour and have seen many of the most beautiful stretches of The Narrows. Or you can make a day of it and hike as far as Big Spring (10 mile roundtrip). Know your limits and prepare to change your plans if you get tired or the weather changes.
What temperature is it in The Narrows?
We visited in the middle of Summer. Surprisingly, even though it was blisteringly hot everywhere else in the park, The Narrows remained cool and sometimes even cold! With little opening for the sun to shine through, most of the time you're walking in shadow. We wore a coat for the majority of the hike, right up until we got back to the Riverside Walk, when it very quickly got hot again. Pack a coat, just in case.
Is there risk of flash floods?
There is a very real and serious risk of flash floods in The Narrows. If there is any forecast of rain it's simply not safe to hike in this area. There may still be blue skies above you, but if it rains down river, things can quickly take a turn for the worst. Don't risk it. Be prepared to change your plans and check at the Visitor Centre for current weather and river conditions before you go.
For more information about Utah's first National Park, including shuttle schedules, current conditions, and lodging options, visit nps.gov/zion.
WHERE TO STAY:
During our trip to Zion National Park, we stayed at the Watchman Campground. Only a quarter mile from the Park entrance and walking distance from the shuttle station, it was the perfect spot to make the most of our time.
There are both tent and electric sites available all throughout the year and with over 150 sites, there is plenty to choose from.
NOTE: Everything gets booked up very quickly. Reservations can be made up to 6 months before your trip and you'll need to book yours as soon as you can!
We stayed on site C28 which had stunning views of the surrounding mountain peaks and was walking distance to both the Visitor Centre and Shuttle Station. Each site comes with a fire pit, picnic bench, and incredible front row seats to a sky full of stars.
Check-in time: 12:00pm
Check-out time: 11:00am
Park Opening Times:
The park is open all day and night year round.
Visitor Centre: 8:00am - 7:00pm
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Zion National Park was the fourth stop on The Big Trip. Click here to follow the rest of our journey as we spend 3 months exploring America’s most beautiful National Parks. You can also become a patron for The Big Trip and help support us as we continue our adventure, sharing more photos, stories and travel guides as we go.