Hiking the Narrows – Zion National Park
Hiking the Narrows – Zion National Park
Trying to determine if this hike is for you? Here are all of the details you need.

Hiking the narrows - zion national park

If you are considering hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, it is vital to plan accordingly and have the right gear. As stunning and unique as this hike is, we couldn’t believe how many ill-prepared people we saw attempting the hike knowing they wouldn’t make it very far. Don’t find yourself getting all the way out there and having to cut the hike short because you didn’t prepare properly!



Since The Narrows were the top attraction compelling us to visit Zion National Park, we made sure to plan our trip during October which is a time of year where the flow rate is consistently low and flash floods are less likely. We allowed ourselves three days in the park just in case we needed to be flexible with which day we were going to hike The Narrows. If you are visiting during the summer months, please know that flash floods are very prevalent They will not allow anyone to hike The Narrows if it exceeds 150 cubic feet per second, but flash floods can suddenly and rapidly change the flow rate. Please plan accordingly and be aware that the weather might force you to change your plans.


Necessary Gear

So many sources will say you “need” neoprene socks, but I am a firm believer in wool socks. If you buy nice wool socks, they will keep your feet warm even when they’re wet. I also feel strongly about wearing NON-waterproof hiking shoes along with the wool socks. Yes, your feet will be instantly soaked, but as long as you keep moving, they will stay warm. Waterproof gear is meant to keep water out, and once it gets in, it won’t be easy to dry. This isn’t an issue during your hike, but if you plan to do any trails the next day with the same shoes, there is no way they will be dry by then. We found it easy (and warm) to use our non-waterproof shoes and wool socks, which also kept us from having to deal with gear rental. It also gave us the best odds at drying our shoes out quickly for use during the rest of our trip. We did, however, have to spend a lot of time cleaning small rocks and sand out of our shoes when we got back to the hotel, so if you want to avoid that entirely, it might be best to consider shoe rentals. Be sure to wear clothing that is fast drying. Even though there won’t be opportunities to dry out completely during the hike, you don’t want to be stuck on the shuttle back wearing clothes that soak up all the water and stay wetter way longer. Make sure you pack a waterproof bag (we just used a large Ziploc bag inside a non-waterproof backpack) for all valuables and electronics. I was very glad to have a walking stick, so if you aren’t planning to get to the trailhead bright and early, I recommend renting one.

IMG_5319 2

The Hike

The Narrows is one of Zion’s most iconic hikes for a good reason. There’s nothing more exhilarating than hiking upstream through a slot canyon being surrounded by beautiful rocks! Article after article stressed the importance of catching an early shuttle and starting this hike at the beginning of the day. An early gives you the flexibility to take your time and enjoy the hike, and during hotter months, this will also make the hike more bearable.

IMG_5317 2

Since private vehicles are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive road, it’s necessary to catch the park shuttle. The bus is first come first served, and the lines can get long. We arrived at the shuttle stop a few minutes before 6am (in mid-September) and made it on to the second bus. The Narrows hike begins at the last stop - Temple of Sinawava. The first mile is called the Riverside Walk, which is a one-mile sidewalk that follows the river and leads you to the entrance point of the narrows in the Virgin River. Since we were on the second bus, there were still plenty of walking sticks that people had left at the trailhead. We were banking on these since we did not rent any from town. They ended up being extremely helpful because I completely underestimated the strain it would take on my ankles to constantly walk on large slippery rocks in the river that were unstable at times. Without the walking stick, I wouldn’t have been able to hike as far into the canyon as we did.


Because it is necessary to ride the shuttle to the beginning of the trail, it’s inevitable that you will be surrounded by crowds at the beginning of the hike. As time goes on, people disperse more and more. The second I stepped into the river I was shocked at how cold it felt. The day we were hiking it was 56 degrees! There are many months where it’s even colder than that, but we were still hiking during the time of year where no one was wearing dry pants/suits. Initially I thought there was no way I could do the hike for an extended period of time, but I was surprised at how much my body adjusted to the temperature as I continued to move. The only moments I found extremely difficult were when I had to let the water touch my waist and stomach (there were only two times this happened). The hike was considerably slower than we are used to moving, but it allowed us to enjoy the scenery and revel in the surrealness of what we were experiencing. There were a couple of moments during our time hiking up the river where I wanted to give up and turn around. I am NOT a water person (unless it’s a chlorinated pool), so when we came up to the section where water was going to hit my belly button I panicked. Aside from the fact that the water was freezing, I was worried about not being able to see the ground and wading through chilly water with a current. I was extremely proud of myself for persevering and continuing upstream, nonetheless. There was one other section that was spooking a large number of people and causing most to turn around. I strongly considered doing the same, but with a little encouragement from Jacob and some strangers, I gripped the canyon wall for what felt like dear life (not to be dramatic) and made it over the area in question without falling in!


By the time we headed back down the river a couple miles, it was much more crowded. An interesting challenge I hadn't anticipated from the crowds was the water being murkier. With more people walking in the river, the sand gets it stirred up making it harder to see where you are stepping and get good footing.


Overall, hiking The Narrows was a wonderfully unique experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me in a different way than any other hike ever had. I would encourage anyone spending time in Zion National Park to consider this hike. With the right preparation it will make for a phenomenal experience and provide stunning scenery you won’t experience anywhere else.

IMG_5310 2

SIDE NOTE: If you have to use the bathroom, it is highly advised to go directly in the river. If you use the bathroom in the brush on the sides, it is likely to smell because it doesn’t rain frequently enough to wash everything away. Finding a time to go in the river privately is another story, but that’s the recommended method!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *