The Narrows in Zion National Park competes for one of the top hikes in the national park system. Using the Virgin River as a trail, you walk up a breathtaking canyon where the walls, hundreds of feet in height come together at a scant 22 feet across. Lush plants hang along the walls and contrast the multi-colored sandstone. Conditions need to be right for a safe and enjoyable trip, but when they are, it’s tough to beat.
Our first trip to Zion National Park had us missing the Narrows hike as we simply ran out of time. We opted for backpacking instead, but knew that we needed to get back and hike it. On our trip the following fall had us getting the requisite hiking sticks and stepping into the Virgin River.
We took the bus to the Temple of Sinewava stop where we hiked the paved, Riverside Walk with the crowds. At the end of the one mile walk, it was time to step into the water. It’s important to look at the possibility for any flash floods before taking off on the trip. Water temperature and level are also key. If it’s too high, you may not want to go and if it’s too cold, you may need a dry suit. We had the perfect conditions with low water, warm water (and weather), and no flash floods projected.
We’d recommend a walking stick and closed-toed shoes as their usefulness become immediately apparent as soon as you step into the water to cross it. The walk is absolutely beautiful with a waterfall coming down from Mystery Canyon after only a hundred yards or so. From there, you cross the water from one sand or gravel bar to the other. Sometimes, the easiest way is straight up the river.
Along the bottom, lush trees and plants grow in the sand and cling to the cliffs while immense boulders create places to rest or obstacles to maneuver. All along, the walk is interesting and ever changing. The highlight is a stretch known as “Wall Street” where the walls go straight up for hundreds of feet and the canyon is barely over 20 feet. Being in this area is sublime and a little freaky as there is no escape if a wall of water were to gush down.
A permit is not needed if you start at the bottom and turn around at Big Spring and come back out. If your intention is to spend the night or do the whole canyon, you’ll need to get a permit. The Narrows is amazing no matter how far up you hike. We saw people of all ages in there, although it isn’t an easy hike. It’s definitely popular and busy, but a wonderful place to be when the temperature is skyrocketing.