Why you should hike in Zion Narrows
Zion Narrows is the awe-inspiring hiking trail in Utah´s Zion National Park. The trail winds through the canyon for 16 miles, by crimson sandstone and lush hanging gardens, ponderosa pines and turquoise waters.
The trail isn’t for the fainthearted as more the half the trail is in the Virgin River, and sometimes hikers walk in waist-high water on slippery stones. Mostly though, it will be ankle-high. Especially during the hot summer, this might not be a bad thing.
The trail attracts plenty of hikers, ideally camping overnight at one of the 12 camping sites. It is possible for athletic hikers to march through the trail in about 10 hours, but the overnight stay is an adventure in itself. The gorgeous trail with serene atmosphere is perfect at night. Cuddle up in your sleeping bag, beneath a blanket of stars, and let the soothing atmosphere settle over you.
The Narrows, Day Hike
Zion Narrows is the narrowest section of the canyon, and the gorge with thousand feet walls, is one of the best hiking trails in the USA. If the long walk in the Virgin River seems too strenuous, there is a paved path stretching for about a mile. That path is wheelchair accessible, enabling all to enjoy the beauty of this trail. Visitors do not require a permit to enjoy this walk.
Some hikers continue about two hours upstream from the end of the paved trail, in order to reach Orderville Canyon. From there, its 2,5 miles to Big Spring, making an enjoyable roundtrip with no permits necessary. Be aware that it is prohibited to go beyond this point, or travelling into Orderville Canyon.
When to go
Normally the trail is closed during spring, due to snowmelt causing high water levels. Late spring and summer is generally the best time to go as the water is warmer and the water level lower, though beware of floods and check the National Weather Service before venturing out.
For short and long trips alike, prepare carefully and speak to park rangers at the visitor center for current conditions. Flash floods can be caused by storms miles away, and can be life threatening.
Keep in mind that it´s a slippery path through the Narrows, and wear appropriate hiking boots. Skip the sandals if you don’t want to risk twisting an ankle. Even with good boots, it’s easy to fall into the water and belongings should be water-proofed.
Hikers going the full 16-mile should bring extra flashlight, first aid kid, plenty of warm, spare clothing, extra food and drinking water. The river water is not safe to drink as it has passed over rangeland. If you have no choice; boil it or filter it.
Some advice before travelling:
Zion National Park should be contacted beforehand to reserve a permit for the full 16-mile hike or overnight camping. The Zion Rock & Mountain Guides provide shuttle services for the one and a half hour ride to start the walk at Chamberlain´s Ranch. They also rent dry bags and trekking poles, and can generally offer some good advice for your journey.
Day hikers should be aware that there are no toilets in The Narrows, so it’s wise to use the restroom beforehand to avoid some embarrassment, as the paved trail can be both crowded and narrow.