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.

Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

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.

Floating Rock - Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Floating Rock – Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

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.

Mystery Canyon Falls - Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Mystery Canyon Falls – Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

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.

Wall Street - Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Wall Street – Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

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.

Wall Street - Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Wall Street – Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

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!

Zion Narrows - June 24th, 2015

Zion Narrows – June 24th, 2015

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. ~ Henry David Thoreau

North Fork of the Virgin River – Zion Narrows Trail Guide
Difficulty Level:
Moderate to Difficult – The Narrows is a true river hike. You will be walking through ankle to knee deep water, occasionally higher, and will have to navigate along slippery under water rocks. Proper closed-toe footwear and a hiking stick or poles are highly recommended.
Time Required:
The Narrows can be hiked for as long as you’d like as an out and back, but plan for at least 6+ hours to reach the best sections of the Narrows including Wall Street and Big Springs. This can also be done as a full day, top-down hike (16 miles, 12+ hours) or a two day, top-down backpacking trip. Both of the top-down options start at the Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead and require a Zion Backcountry Permit.
Up to 16 miles (26 kilometers) one way or any variation as an out and back. It’s about 5 miles (8 km) round trip to the beginning of Wall Street and 10 miles (16 km) round trip if you continue on to Big Springs. Big Springs is the absolute turn around point for day hikers without a permit.
Elevation Gain:
Gradual ascent up the river that’s barely noticeable.
The Narrows begins at the Temple of Sinawava, the final stop for the Zion Canyon Shuttle along the main canyon route.
A free detailed map and trip planner guide is available on the Zion Adventure Company’s website.
You’ll definitely want some well-draining hiking shoes or closed-toed sandals, a good pair of merino wool or neoprene socks, and a hiking stick or trekking poles. It is better to dress in synthetics like nylon that will dry faster and not retain as much water weight. Leave the jeans and cotton home for this hike. May require a dry suit when hiking outside of the summer months. You can rent gear (hiking shoes, neoprene socks, hiking sticks, etc.) to use in the Zion Narrows or for other Zion Adventures at the Zion Adventure Company located in Springdale, Utah, just up the road from the main entrance to Zion National Park.
This is an extremely popular hike and is often crowded, especially during the peak season. There is no drinking water available on this trail, although you can filter or purify the river water. The heat can be oppressive during the summer with temperatures routinely exceeding 100°F (38°C) and this will quickly dehydrate you, even while hiking through the chilly river waters, so be sure to carry all the water you will need, especially if you have young children or the elderly with you. I always carry a small, lightweight water filter such as the Sawyer Mini or LifeStraw Personal Water Filter just in case.
There’s a restroom at the Temple of Sinawava. Make sure you use this before heading out as there are no restrooms in the Narrows. If you have to go, please be considerate of others, and of your natural surroundings. There seems to be some debate about whether to pee in the river or on the shoreline. Some parts of the shoreline will not see much water during the summer months and the smell of human urine can become unbearable if too many people use the same areas. Parts of the beginning of the Narrows are notorious for this smell. Please try and go directly in the river, far enough away from others as possible. If you must go on the shore, absolutely do not go on the vegetation as human urine will kill the plants. If you have to defecate it MUST be packed out with you. Prepare for this and pack some wipes and ziploc bags if you plan on being out for an extended time.

Gecko Wranglers Rating - Zion NarrowsPros: Beautiful, Unique Experience, Exciting, No Permit Required, Bucket List Adventure

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!

Adventure on, Gecko Wrangler





Here’s some more pictures from my Zion Narrows adventure in Zion National Park

« 2 of 11 »
Share Gecko Wrangler's Adventures with Your Friends:

Leave a Reply

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