When you talk to other hikers about hiking slot canyons, it won’t take long until you discuss The Narrows hike in Zion National Park. This is one of the most popular slot canyon hikes in the entire country, for a good reason. If you’re creating a bucket list of hiking adventures, this hike in and along the Virgin River has to be on it!
Today, we’re sharing six reasons we think you should put The Narrows hike in Zion on your bucket list. Let’s get started!
Where Is Zion National Park?
Zion National Park is one of the “Mighty Five” national parks in Utah. Zion sits in the southern portion of the state. It’s approximately 35 to 45 minutes from Hurricane, Utah.
A majority of the park sits at an elevation of approximately 4,000 ft. However, Horse Ranch Mountain is the park’s peak at 8,726 ft, and Coal Pits Wash is the lowest point at 3,666 ft.
Additionally, the park is only a two-hour drive from the north entrance of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
How to Get to The Narrows Hike in Zion
You can get to The Narrows hike in Zion by taking the shuttle or driving by car (in the winter). If you plan to utilize the park’s shuttle, you can hop on at the Zion National Park Visitor Center.
The visitor center is Stop 1 of the shuttle system, and you’ll need to ride the shuttle all the way to Stop 9, which is The Temple of Sinawava. Look for the Riverside walk trailhead, and it will lead you directly to the narrows.
If you’re able to drive your car, which is typically only an option in the winter months (December to March), drive through the park for approximately 1.5 miles until you reach the Zion Canyon Scenic Route. Turn left to follow the route, and you’ll go about 6.1 miles to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.
Rangers will close the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive once cars occupy all legal parking spaces. So make sure you have a backup plan just in case.
→ Rest up for your The Narrows hike at one of these 7 Best Places For Epic Zion National Park Camping This Year.
Where Does The Narrows Hike Go?
There are two options for hiking The Narrows, and which one you choose will determine where you start and go. The first option is to start at the Riverside Walk and follow the trail for approximately 5 miles. You’ll eventually reach Big Springs, the furthest you can go without needing a permit.
This is a very popular option, especially during the summer months. Don’t expect to do this hike alone, as most people who couldn’t snag a permit for the whole hike will opt for this one. This can make it very crowded during the busy season, and you likely won’t get the canyon to yourself. However, you get to experience the canyon walls towering above you and most of the narrowest portions of the canyon.
Starting from the top is the most popular option but requires a permit. The permits for this hike go insanely fast. You can take this 16-mile hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava. This typically takes approximately 12 hours, which means, for most people, it’s going to be a two-day hike. You will need to reserve a spot at one of the 12 campsites along the river when reserving your permit.
How Hard Is The Narrows Hike in Zion?
Hiking The Narrows in Zion from the bottom up isn’t difficult. Choosing to start at the bottom means it’s an out-and-back trail. You can cut the trail short if it’s too difficult or the water is too deep. You don’t have to complete it to have an incredible experience. Most hikers will hike a mile or two before turning around to come back.
On the other hand, if you get a permit and choose to hike from the top-down, it’s 16 miles. This will take most people two days to complete and require camping overnight. There are several river crossings, and some portions of the river can be in waist-deep water, which might not be for everyone. You should only attempt this hike if you are confident you can physically handle it.
No matter which route you take, you need the appropriate hiking gear. Proper footwear, hiking poles, a drybag, and comfortable clothing are essential items. If you’re doing the entire trail, you’ll also need to include camping gear and extra food. So make sure you do yourself a favor and bring the appropriate equipment.
Pro Tip: While hiking in Zion, keep an eye out for all the amazing wildlife. We made a Traveler’s Guide to Zion National Park Wildlife to help you know what to look for!
6 Reasons Why The Narrows Hike in Zion Should Be on Your Bucket List
The Narrows hike in Zion is a hiking experience that’s hard to beat. You’ll be amazed at the tall, narrow canyon walls and the shadows they create as light from the sun peaks around the corners. The Virgin River cuts through the canyon and adds to the excitement of this hike.
The Most Spectacular Hike in Zion – Which Is Saying Something
Zion National Park has some epic hiking opportunities, and this hike is at the top of the list. Every twist and turn in the “trail” will provide a new unique view. Watch the shadows dance across the sandstone as the sun moves across the sky. The massive thousand-foot canyon walls can ignite a sense of adventure in you as you’re sure to feel like you’re walking on another planet. The scenery is unlike anything you’ll experience elsewhere.
Unique Hiking in the Water
Most hikers try to do their best to avoid getting wet while hiking. However, when you’re hiking The Narrows in Zion, there’s no use in trying to avoid the water. You should come prepared to get your feet wet. You can avoid some of the deepest sections of the river, but there’s little chance you’re leaving with dry feet.
Hiking in the water is a unique experience. It can be a great way to stay cool when hiking in the summer months. If you plan accordingly and wear the proper footwear, you may enjoy hiking in the water.
Renting the Proper Equipment Is Easy-Peasy
There are many local businesses, like Zion Outfitter, nearby in the town of Springdale that can equip you with everything you need for the hike. They make it incredibly easy for you to reserve your gear ahead of time, so it’s waiting for you when you arrive at the park.
You’ll want a pair of high-quality boots, a walking stick, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Using a local supplier can ensure you have the proper gear for the time of year you’re planning to hike.
Constant Breathtaking Views of Thousand Foot Tall Gorge
Zion National Park is full of beautiful landscapes. However, the views in The Narrows are unlike anything else in the park. By hiking through this massive gorge, you can enjoy the water rolling down the sandstone at Mystery Falls or the narrowest section of the trail at “Wall Street.” The hike provides unforgettable views that will constantly amaze you.
Experience the Narrowest Portion of Zion Canyon
You can pass through the narrowest point in the entire canyon, “Wall Street.” This is the most photographed section of the entire hike and likely what you’ve seen in pictures.
The canyon walls tower more than 1,500 ft above you on both sides. You’re likely going to have a hard time not pausing here to take in the scenery and snap a picture or two. Two distinct boulders indicate the end of the Wall Street section of the trail. However, the incredible views don’t end there.
Coming Back Down Is Easy
For many, the hardest part of the hike is fighting the current. Having a force push against you as you trudge through the water makes it exponentially more challenging. Once you arrive at Big Springs, it’s smooth sailing from there. Yes, you’ll still have to cover the 5 miles back to the trailhead, but you’ll have the assistance of water flow.
When you turn around, it’s practically a whole new hiking experience. You may have walked there, but it provides a new perspective. Seeing the sunshine through The Narrows from a different angle can be even more inspiring and exciting.
Do You Need a Permit to Hike The Narrows in Zion?
You need a permit to hike The Narrows in Zion if you start at the top and do the entire 16 miles of the hike. Those that start at the bottom, make their way to Big Springs, then turn around do not need a permit.
Getting a wilderness permit for The Narrows can be very difficult, especially for overnight camping. These typically get snatched up almost immediately and rarely go unused. If you are able to get one, consider yourself extremely lucky!
Pro Tip: The Narrows isn’t the only amazing hike in Zion! Check out these 7 Easy Hikes in Zion to Experience the Red Rocks.
When Is the Best Time to Hike The Narrows in Zion?
If you plan to hike The Narrows, it’s best to consider doing so from May to October. The water levels typically are low enough that it’s not a major issue for most hikers. September and October are great because you can see some of the leaves change, and crowds are slightly lower due to schools being back in session across the country.
Keep an eye on the weather during the summer months as flash floods have the potential to occur and can be very dangerous. If water levels are too high or rain is in the forecast, the national park will close the canyon altogether. However, if you take the proper precautions, you can have an epic time hiking The Narrows in Zion.
Will you put The Narrows on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!
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