hiking the narrows in zion national park
Updated: Mar 17
Ok ok... name a more iconic hike. You can't, right?! Well maybe Angel's Landing, but if you're here and just hearing about The Narrows at Zion Nationa Park, WOW I AM HONORED. If not, I'm super glad you're here anyway to read about our experience and our favorite hike in Zion (and we've hiked almost everything here!) The best part about The Narrows is that you can hike this gorgeous trail at any level if you do your research + prepare appropriately. It's a truly stunning hike that is all bout the entire journey, not destination, that will BLOW your mind.
ABOUT THE NARROWS
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon (ha!) that you can hike up and into via the Virgin River. As you head into the gorge, you'll see walls a thousand feet tall and a river that can sometimes be 20-30 ft wide. It's one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park.
There are two ways you can do this hike, from the bottom up or the top down. The bottom up route that begins at the Tempe of Sinawava is the most common and does not require a permit. It's an out and back hike and you can end up hiking about 9.4 miles total (4.7 each way). The top down route requires a permit and is 16 (!!!) miles. Some folks can do it in a day but you can also backpack and split the trek into two days. There are some adventure companies that offer guided backpacking/hiking tours for this!
Whichever way you take, you'll spend at least 60% of the time walking, wading, and even swimming a bit in the Virgin River! It's such a cool experience that is load of fun. You'll hit everything from fast-flowing to calm water, plenty of rocks to maneuver around, and even some water all the way up to your chest.
GETTING THERE Zion National Park has a shuttle that typically runs throughout access along the scenic drive to the popular West Rim Trail, Emerald Pools, as well as the Narrows. With Covid-19 safety measures in place, you'll need a ticket to ride and will want to book in advance as early as you can. They do have some day-of slots, but it's always better to plan ahead. If you want to avoid crowds, there are a few places that have access with private shuttles, which is what we did through Southwest Adventure Tours. If you're visiting during the off-season, the shuttle system doesn't run so you're wild and free to drive wherever you wish, but The Narrows might also be super cold!
No matter where you're hiking, you always want to check the weather! The Narrows are often shut down due to flash flood potential. If it has been raining, the water can be high and super intense. If there's rain in the forecast, there is big chance of a flash flood, which is not something to take lightly! Make sure to be safe and do not hike The Narrows if there is any sign of danger.
WHAT TO WEAR + THE GEAR
What you're wearing can totally depend on the time of year and time of day you go, but we always recommend dressing in layers when you hike. We started the hike off pretty early in the day in September, so we both had light jackets on which were then stripped to tees later in the day as it heated up. Try to avoid wearing cotton since it soaks up cold water and stick to fabrics that are water-resistant friendly. Your bottom half is an entirely different story! While sneakers and regular hiking shoes can do the trick here, you'll be 10000% more comfortable with the canyon shoes, neoprene socks, and hiking poles. TRUST US! The neoprene socks are a game-changer and keep your feet pretty warm - imagine a wetsuit but just on your feet! The canyon shoes have a great grip and are malleable so you can wade around rocks comfortably. Lastly, we had our own hiking poles (two are such a life-saver, again) but most of the rental companies will throw one in with the shoe rentals. We got ours from Zion Outfitters. If you get super cold easily or are going during the colder months, You can also rent fancy dry pants or even a dry suit since some areas that are super far into the canyon can have water that reaches your neck.
If you're going during a time where the water is higher, you can also rent a dry bag to keep your camera, phone, or any water-sensitive items in. The current can be surprising in spots, so don't be surprised if you tumble a bit. Just remember to take your time. One slip could mean a nice dip and a wet hike back!
Always remember to practice Leave No Trace. Pack out what you bring in, take your trash with you and respect the park.
If you can, bring two poles! It made balance so much easier.
The earlier the better. Believe me when I say this area gets super crowded. Get there as early as you can to have the place all to yourself and watch the morning sun filter through the gorge.
Don't forget lots of water and snacks!
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN ZION
We've been to Zion, A LOT. If you're curious about other things to do, we wrote a previous post about one of our other hikes to Observation Point HERE along with our stay at Ponderosa Ranch Resort. If you just want the high-level list, I'm dropping some points below!
Hike Observation Point
Hike Angel's Landing
Hike Canyon Overlook Trail
Bike through the park
Walk the Pa'Rus trail
Drive Mount Carmel Highway
Drive the Kolob Canyons
Watch the sunset at The Watchman
Any other questions? Leave us a comment or DM us on Instagram!