Due to continuous high water levels, areas of the Narrows remain closed to hikers.
Every year, snowmelt in Zion’s Surrounding areas causes the Virgin River which flows through the Narrows to become dangerous with water levels increasing.
If the water flow exceeds 150 CFS (cubic feet per second) the water in the Narrows is considered high enough to be a safety hazard for hikers. During the past few weeks, the CFS has ranged from around 700 up to 1300 each day!
Normally the Narrows remain closed until late May, but each year factors differently depending on the amount of precipitation and snowmelt accumulated.
With weather being the determining factor in the closure, it is hard to predict exactly what the conditions of the river will be even a few days from now. It is important to stay up to date on what the conditions look like as they can change in an instant.
Narrows Closure sign located in Zion National Park | Photo Courtesy of the National Park Services
While the lower end of the Narrows is now opened to visitors, hikers should take into considerations the following conditions and challenges that come with the early-season hiking.
The river continues to run swift and remains cold. With the swifter current, hikers should be aware that the river bed is covered with large round rocks that help make the river slower, but also increase the possibility of slipping. Be sure to be prepared with closed-toed shoes that have enough ankle support, as well as with gear to help protect yourself from the cold water. Drybags (such as ziplocks) can be used to help keep your items dry while hiking and provide a way to pack out trash.
The depth of the river varies depending on your location along the path. The water levels can be anywhere from ankle deep to swimming depths. Walking sticks will help you keep your balance and avoid slipping and getting wet. Please refrain from breaking or cutting branches to use as walking sticks! There are various locations throughout Springdale that can rent the proper equipment that should be used while hiking.
At 70 cubic feet per second (CFS) most crossings along the hike are around knee deep. Higher flows mean higher water and stronger current, and will likely require wading in waist-deep water and multiple swims. The Narrows is currently flowing at around 130 CFS.
Less than a mile after entering the river, you’ll be hiking in one of the narrowest sections of canyon. This section gives you a pretty accurate feel for what the remainder of the hike is like.
You can turn around at any time to avoid deeper and fast moving water. The route is beautiful the entire way. The maximum distance you can travel is roughly 10 miles round trip after turning around at Big Spring. This distance is rather uncommon when the water flow is high.
Remember, your safety is your responsibility. The most difficult time to attempt this strenuous route is right after it reopens from spring snowmelt. Please take the needed time to plan and prepare for this hike. Have the gear you need to take care of yourself and your group.
NEVER enter a narrow canyon if there is rain in the forecast. Flash floods are deadly!