If there is one bucket list item everyone should complete, it's hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park. No hike has left me feeling so small in the world, and in awe of such epic natural beauty. There are two ways to see this canyon-- a top down overnight hike, or the more common and easier bottom-up day hike. The top down path requires a permit, so we opted for the latter due to that and time.
Overview: Bottom-Up Day Hike
Length: 8-9 miles RT| Level: Moderate - flat hike, but level can vary depending on river water flow and height. | Duration: 4-6 hours | Elevation: gradual ascent up the river | No permit required
First things first, check the park weather online for alerts, and with a ranger for flash flooding. The trail closes if there's a high threat of it, so you want to go when it's low and dry. Be flexible, as the weather can change at any time, though the rangers will tell you there is less risk for it in the earlier hours. The hike itself is fairly easy for most level hikers. The challenge is walking through the water as the whole trail you will be in it for 90% of the time. I recommend visiting Zion Adventure Company and renting the shoes and the walking stick. It is possible to do it without, it just makes it much easier for balance if you have them. I was able to focus entirely on the beauty of this hike, rather than worrying about my feet and slipping on the rocks.
The hike starts at the Riverside Walk Trailhead (above), so take the park shuttle to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava. I recommend starting as early as possible-- getting on the 6am, or 7am shuttle will ensure less people and allow you to see everything before the crowds. Make sure to use the restroom at the trailhead and fill up with water!
The first 3-4 miles of this trip are moderately low levels of water (if done in late summer or fall--spring is up to waist or more due to snowfall melt) as you make your way through the canyons. The weather at this time of year is hot, even under the shade of the rocks. Morning hours are in the low 60's, but as the day progresses it will get up in the 100s. Every step and corner turned throughout the trail is absolutely beautiful!
At about the 4 mile point, you come to what is known as Wall Street, and a fork in the road. This is a good turning point if you want to turn around, or you can tack on another mile or so in either direction for what I felt is the true heart of what I envisioned The Narrows to be. To the left is Floating Rock, and to the right is Veiled Falls. I did end up going a ways both left and right, but found that to the right--known as Orderville Canyon was more epic. This is where the slot canyon gets super narrow! It's also a great place to stop, rest, eat lunch and just take it all in!
The good news here is that most people don't make it this far-- a lot of them end up turning around at the fork. Continuing just a bit further does give you a chance to get some great photos. These two here (above and below) are to the right of the fork, just before Veiled Falls. The day I was there, crowds of people flocked to get a photo on Floating Rock, which is also why I was happy I went in this direction!
Quick Trail Tips:
Start as early as possible to avoid crowds
Rent the gear from a local adventure center like Zion Adventure Company
Pack a lunch - this hike can last up to 8 hours long
Check the weather -- flash floods are common and can happen all year
Do this hike in the late summer/fall to avoid higher water levels if you are apprehensive about waist high water
Avoid going here on a holiday weekend - you can wait in line for hours just to get on the shuttle even at 6am!
Bring a waterproof pouch or a drybag for cameras. I used this one for my iPhone.
By 11am the crowds tripled, so my time on the way out of the canyon was much faster since all the photo ops were now filled with hundreds of people! Seriously though, these photos don't even do the hike justice, you just have to experience how awesome it is for yourself. It is more than a hike, it's a journey, and one you won't want to miss!
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