The Zion Narrows is one of the most iconic hikes in all of Zion National Park. In fact, it was rated one of the top 10 hikes on Earth! It is a tremendous place to visit for those willing to venture into it. You’ll get to walk through beautiful cascading water as you strain your necks looking up at the beautiful canyon walls. With pictures like these that showcase the incredible scene that you’ll be greeted with, it is well worth the trek.
The Zion Narrows Q&A:
What is The Narrows?
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. It is a slot canyon with thousand-foot walls that tower over you. The narrowest section of the canyon with these towering walls is appropriately known as Wall Street where the canyon walls are over 1500 feet tall and the river only 22 feet wide.
The Narrows was created by the Virgin River cutting through rock over millions of years. So in order to make the hike, you are going to have to get your feet wet. The trail is the river.
Is there only one way to hike?
There are two ways you can hike the Narrows: Bottom Up or Top Down. Hiking from the Bottom Up is a popular choice for casual hikers who want to still want the experience. This route is about 10- miles round trop and still allows you to see of the most famous parts of the canyon, such as Wall Street (2 hours in) and Mystery Falls (about 1/2 mile in).
Photo Credit: My Utah Parks
Two added bonuses to this route choice are: #1 you can make the trip as easy or hard as you choose, because you can choose to hike for 1 hour or the full 10-miles and #2 you are not required to purchase a permit if you go as far as Big Spring.
If you choose to hike from the Top Down, you are required to purchase a permit. This version of the hike is 16-miles downstream and can be done in 1-2 days. If you choose to take it a little slower and camp overnight, you get to choose from one of the designated camping sites when you purchase your permit. This hike actually starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch which is quite a ways outside the park, so arranging transportation is another requirement. If you are an experienced hiker and in great shape, you can complete the hike in one day, but it does take between 12-14 hours, so be prepared to keep up a good pace!
How wet will I get?
The water levels fluctuate greatly from year to year and even day to day, due to temper-mental weather conditions that come with the area as well as the variable snow melt. When the river is a little lower, walking can still be moderately difficult with water as deep as your knees and pools that can drop you up to your waist.
Water levels are measured in CFS or cubic feet per second. A good way to gauge the level of the hike is by using this chart that we found:
When is the best time to hike?
The best time to hike is completely subjective. The season for hiking is completely dependent on the water levels and is typically closed between mid-March to late May because of the snow melt higher in the mountains. However, most people choose to hike the Narrows in the summer, because the water is warmer and water levels start to drop. Those who aren’t afraid to rent a wetsuit can avoid the crowds by going a little earlier or later in the year, when the water is colder.
Please keep in mind that even though Zion is in a desert climate, it is subject to heavy rains that pose a serious risk of flash floods. There are times when then hike can be closed if the water levels rise too high. If you choose to hike during this time of the year, we highly recommend doing your research on flash floods.
What gear do I need?
The gear you need varies on the time of year and the version of the hike that you choose. If you go in the fall or early spring, when the water is cold, you will probably want to look into insulated hiking shoes and a wet suit. However during the late-spring and summer, these are not necessary. Keep in mind that even in the summer, the canyon walls and water make the hike a little cooler than anywhere else in the park, so make sure to take that into consideration when choosing your clothing.
Close-Toe hiking shoes and a hiking stick are always recommended due to the slick, uneven rocks that you are going to be hiking over. Hint: If you get to the entrance of the hike early enough, there are often free walking sticks! If you are hiking from the top down and planning on taking 2 days to complete the journey, backpacking gear is going to be needed. This should include a sleeping bag at minimum. We also recommend taking extra food, water, first aid kit, an emergency blanket, and a headlamp….just in case. A dry bag is super helpful in keeping all your gear that you don’t want to be wet (camera, wallet, sleeping bag, etc.) dry.
Again, the hiking conditions do vary depending on the season and the water levels, but this video can give you an example of what you can expect on your hike in the Narrows and hopefully help you plan more appropriately. As an added bonus, there is a little piece at the end about another popular hike, Emerald Pools.
The Narrows in Zion is an extremely popular hike that can be dangerous at times if you aren’t prepared and aware of the risks. But still many people are willing to brave the dangers of this canyon because the rewards and what await you are simply stunning. We recently had a comment on our Facebook that I believe sums up the Narrows far better than we can. Kate Matson Glasson (on Facebook) said:
“A wonderful family bonding experience. We hiked it in August 2011 with 6, 7 and 9 year olds. There were challenging points where the adults were in neck-deep waters. There were many times during the hike we were tempted to turn back but we all persevered to Wall Street. To this day, we all still talk about The Narrows as our favorite family hike.“
If you can push through, you’ll be able to look up at those massive canyon walls or the beautiful scenery, like these beautiful cottonwoods, and admire at what has been created here.