Zion National Park – The Narrows
The North Fork of the Virgin River, or “The Narrows”, is another one of the iconic hikes in Zion National Park. The Zion Narrows was rated as one of the top 100 Best Adventures in America by National Geographic, and for good reason. This is a classic “bucket list” adventure that can be taken as a short out and back to just get a feel for the experience or as a 2 day top-down backpacking trip adventure of a lifetime. If you’ve only got a day to spend in Zion National Park, spend it in the Narrows. You won’t be disappointed.
The Narrows can be a difficult hike in spots as you will have to navigate through ankle to knee deep water with occasional waist deep or higher pools, with many areas having slippery rocks beneath the surface. But don’t let this discourage you, as the beginning section of the Narrows is easier to navigate and can be enjoyed by most, even for the elderly and those with young children. Just use your discretion for how far up river you wish to go, knowing that you’ll need to retrace your route on the way back. Much of the beginning section has some sandy shoreline and the water is usually not too deep during the summer. If you are planning on hiking more than a mile or two upriver, make sure you leave super early to avoid the worst of the crowds and have a chance at having some of this remarkable place to yourself, even if only for a moment or two.
Around a mile and half in you’ll come to the Mystery Canyon Falls on your right hand side. These pretty falls cascade down from another small canyon about 110 feet above. It’s not much more than a trickle during the summer months, but it’s neat little reminder that there’s so many more hidden gems in Zion National Park. You may even be lucky enough to see some canyoneers rappelling down the falls from the canyon above.
About 2 miles into the hike you’ll pass by the mouth to Orderville Canyon on your right. It’s now time to say goodbye to most of the sandy shorelines and say hello to “Wall Street”. For the next 2.5 miles the canyon walls close in and tower above you. Wall Street is the premier attraction in The Narrows, and it certainly lives up to its reputation. The smooth walls of the canyon climb some 1,500 feet above you and you can just imagine how forceful the water must have been to carve out this remarkable slot canyon over the last million years. You must be particularly aware of the danger of flash floods during this stretch as there is virtually no high ground available. Please take caution and use proper judgment if severe storms are in the forecast.
The canyon opens up some after Wall Street as you make your way towards Big Springs. There are some interesting boulders that choke the canyon in places and create some pretty deep pools that you may need to swim across depending on the time of year. Big springs is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the Zion Narrows with lush greenery and small cascading waterfalls. If you’re on an out and back, this is where you’ll need to turn around, as traversing the Narrows beyond this point requires a backcountry permit.
The hike back to the Temple of Sinawava is more of what you just experienced, but the views are different and no less amazing from the reverse angle. So be sure to take plenty of pictures on the way back too! Make sure that you are back in time to catch the last shuttle of the day, which departs the Temple of Sinawava at 9:15pm in the summer peak season, but can leave as early as 7:30pm in the fall. It’s a long walk back, so don’t be late!
Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. ~ Henry David Thoreau
Cons: Crowds, Difficult in Spots, Wet, Water is Cold all but Summer
Overall: One of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park because of it’s unique natural beauty and the fact that no permit is required for day hikes from the Temple of Sinawava trailhead. This is a “bucket list” hike that ranks just below the much harder to access and permit-required “Subway” hike on the Left Fork of the Virgin River.
The Zion Narrows is a classic example of the famous Southern Utah slot canyons and one of the must-see sights of Zion National Park. No trip to Zion is complete without a day spent staring in wide-eyed wonder while hiking in the Virgin Narrows. Until next time. Namaste!
Here’s some more pictures from my Zion Narrows adventure in Zion National Park