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The Narrows in Zion National Park is a unique hike that takes you on a journey through the water up the Virgin River. The walls of the canyon stand roughly a thousand feet tall and are only twenty to thirty feet wide at some of the narrowest points. This is one of Zion’s most popular hikes.
Time Required: 3-5 Hours
Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava
Distance: 16km (10 miles) round trip
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Difficulty: 4/10 – Hiking through water
Season: Year-round. Spring and fall are most pleasant. Summer can be very hot and busy. Winter can be cold
Additional Requirements: If attempting in winter, dry suits are highly recommended.
From St. George: Travel on the I-15 North towards Salt Lake City, after 11 km (7 miles) merge onto UT-9 East via exit 16 and travel 20km (12.5 miles) through Hurricane and then up to La Verkin. Take a right turn in La Verkin to continue on the UT-9 East for 32km (20 miles) until you come into Springdale. Follow that same road until you pull up to the Zion park entrance.
From Arizona: Travel US-89A North through Fredonia, AZ and Kanab, UT. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take UT-9 West to Zion’s East Park Entrance.
From the North: Travel the I-15 South past Beaver, UT and exit on Hwy 20. Head east until you reach US-89, then head south to the Mount Carmel Junction. Take UT-9 west to Zion’s East Park Entrance.
WHAT TO BRING
- Footwear: Bring shoes that can get wet! In the summer water shoes are a good idea. In the winter we recommend the boots and neoprene socks that come with a dry suit rental from Zion Adventure Guides. The water will be cold!
- Water: This hike is long and tiring. Be sure to bring enough water for 8-10 hours of physical exertion.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well as a light lunch for when you arrive at the turnaround point. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: Depending on the time of year you do this hike it could be very hot, or quite cold. Check the water temperature as well as you will be walking through water that can be waist deep.
- Swimsuit: If you do this hike in the summer it is advisable to bring a swimsuit as you will get wet!
- Dry Suit: If you are doing this hike in the wintertime, bring a dry suit. You will need it to walk through the cold water. You can rent them from the Zion Adventure Company in Springdale.
- A walking stick: A walking stick will come in handy to keep your balance on the rocky terrain underneath the water. Sometimes walking sticks can be found at the trailhead, they can also be rented from Zion Adventure Company
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Flash Floods: It’s important when hiking through water flow areas (The Subway and The Narrows), to check the local forecast for rain and always be on high alert for noticeable changes in the weather. The Zion Visitor Center posts river flow rates for these hikes and can advise when they are safe to do. If flow rates are too high the National Park will close The Narrows. Flash floods are a real danger and can sneak up on you when you least expect it. If you do find yourself in a flash flood situation, get to high ground on the side of the canyon as quick as you can to stay safe.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
ZION SHUTTLE SYSTEM
Zion Shuttle System: During the busy months (March to November), Zion National Park has a free shuttle system to help move large numbers of visitors around the park. When the shuttle is in operation Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles so visitors must rely on the shuttle service. The shuttle departs from the Zion Visitor Center and stops at nine locations in the park. The shuttles run very frequently between 7am and 6:15pm and you should never have to wait more than 10-15 minutes. Although you can park at the Visitor Center, the lot fills up quickly so it is best to park in the town of Springdale and take the Springdale Shuttle to the park gate.
The Springdale Shuttle leaves from the Majestic View Lodge and stops at the Zion Canyon Theatre. From the Zion Canyon Theatre, cross through the National Park Pedestrian Entrance to pay the entry fee, then catch the Zion Canyon Shuttle from the Visitor Center.
There are many Springdale Shuttle stops between the Majestic View Lodge, and Zion Canyon Theater. Walk to the nearest stop from your accommodation or drive and park in a marked “Shuttle Parking” area.
Summary: Hiking the Narrows from the bottom up is a very straight forward hike. From the Temple of Sinawava you follow the Virgin River upstream till you want to turn around, and then you follow it back to the temple.
There is an option to do this hike from the top down (which requires a permit). It is a 16 mile full day adventure but we will focus on the bottom up route. The bottom up route does not require a permit and is nice because you can go as far up the river as you’d like (up to 5 miles) before turning back and making your way out. This hike starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the last stop of the shuttle service (Route marker #1 on the map). From the temple there is a paved trail to follow that will take you to the Virgin River. From there you follow the river upstream into the canyon. In some places the water is only ankle deep but there are other sections when the water can be up to your waste. Be careful of your footing, take your time and enjoy the scenery.
The most spectacular section of The Narrows is known as Wall Street (Route marker #2 on the map). This is the narrowest section of the canyon where the walls extend thousands of feet above you. The high canyon walls block out most of the daylight giving this section of the hike an eerie feeling.
From the temple, you can walk up the river for 5 miles before it is required that you have a permit to go any farther. That leaves a 10 mile round trip, and plenty of canyon to explore. The turnaround point is a place called Big Springs (Route marker #3 on the map).
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Have fun out there!