Trail Guide: The Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah


United States / Thursday, February 21st, 2019
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The Narrows Hike Summary

In the popular Zion National Park, The Narrows is one of the most hiked routes, and for good reason. It’s by far one of the most unique hikes I’ve come across as you literally hike upstream in the river!

Due to the shade the canyon walls provide and the cool water which lowers the air temperature, it’s the perfect hike to complete on a scorching Utah day. This hike has its risks, so it’s important to gather all the necessary information before attempting to hike The Narrows.

Zion National Park is located in southern Utah near the city of Springdale, close to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Late spring is the best time of the year for hiking due to the long hours of daylight and lower water levels in The Narrows.

Thunderstorms and flash flooding are most likely to occur between July and August. It is monsoon season between mid-July and mid-September.

Flash flooding is a real danger as it can happen quickly and there isn’t anywhere to run to once you’ve begun the hike. It’s incredibly important to check the forecast and talk to the information office before setting out, no matter what month it is.

It’s common for the trail to be closed during winter and spring when the water levels are high due to melting snow.

Zion National Park

The Narrows Information

Quality wet boots or hiking boots are recommended for this hike. You can wear water sandals but full foot coverage is better as there are plenty of sharp rocks in the river.

If your route requires you to walk upstream, note that you are burning more calories than a regular hike. Take this into consideration when packing food. Even on hot days, a light jumper is recommended.

Try to be prepared before attempting this route. The best things to wear are fast drying clothes, shoes with good grip and ankle support, and lightweight synthetic shorts that won’t chafe when wet.

I didn’t use one, but a sturdy stick was a very popular choice and I must admit it would’ve helped at a few points when the current was strong. They sell them at the tourist center but for earth’s sake, find a fallen branch in nature instead and leave it at the entrance for the next person to use.

As the water was only waist deep for me, I was assured my backpack would stay dry and didn’t bring a dry bag. I spotted a few vertically challenged hikers dragging the bottoms of their packs in the water without realizing. If you’re not confident in your balance, a dry bag containing your valuables inside your backpack is the best option.

The best piece of advice I can give is not to rush this walk. It is more than easy to roll and ankle. We saw the rescue team carrying one man out on a stretcher. Don’t let this be you.

This is one of the most interesting hikes I’ve done and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to take up the challenge.

Zion National Park

The Narrows Hiking Route

Route 1

There are three ways to complete this hike with the most popular being “Bottom to Top”. This route is the only one that doesn’t require a permit. It’s also the most accessible as you can hike as far in as you want then turn back when you feel you’ve had enough. There are many kids and teenagers who do this hike accompanied by an adult.

To access the trailhead you’ll need to take the complimentary park shuttle bus to the Temple of Sinawava stop, then walk approximately a mile up the paved walkway until you reach the end where you’ll discover a flourish of people and their walking sticks.

On busy days a ranger can be spotted at the entrance who can answer any questions you may have. From here you start your hike up The Narrows. In the beginning, it is quite crowded, but as you continue further, the trail quietens.

After approximately 2 hours you will find yourself surrounded by the spectacular beauty of Orderville Canyon. Up to this point, the water is as high as your waist, but beyond here it gets much deeper reaching your chest, or even higher.

Zion National Park

Route 2

The second option to completing this hike is a day walk consisting of 16 miles of hiking from the top to bottom. This trail requires a specific country back permit from the authorities. Permits are only available online, with only 80 permits issued for each day. Needless to say, it’s advised to book at least a few days, even weeks in advance.

The hike will take around 12 hours to complete and proper wetsuit pants and shoes are recommended as the water can be extremely cold, especially for that period of time. The positive is that you’re walking with the current, not against it.

Before hike day, you will need to organize a shuttle to Chamberlain’s Ranch in the early morning as you finish the hike at the Temple of Sinewava. A shuttle back to your car will also need to be organized.

Zion National Park

Route 3

The third option of The Narrows hike is an overnight hike from top to bottom. This also requires a permit to be booked long in advance as there are only 12 campsites. You are only allowed to camp one night and the various sites are a first come first serve situation. Like option 2, a shuttle will also need to be organized to get to from and to your car.

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