No trip to Zion Nation park is complete without getting the taste of “The Narrows”. It is one of the most iconic hikes in all of Zion National park that gives you true feeling of being Indiana Jones. Imagine 16 miles of walking through the virgin river in waist deep water (at times), on uneven slippery surface, sculpting your way through the vermillion sandstone of the park while paying attention to flash flood warnings – can it get anymore adventurous . Ask anyone who has been here , and they will tell you that hiking the Narrows has to be on top of your to – do list . While hiking up Narrows certainly requires planning but it is kind of a hike that anyone – beginner to experienced level hikers can enjoy without much fuss. If you’re a first-timer, unsure of how to tackle such a unique adventure, here it is step by step – Hiking The Narrows – All you need to know.
When to go :
The safest and the warmest time to hike up the narrows is from late June through early September. However if you want to avoid big crowds ( which is nearly impossible) try mid October. The weather will be slightly cold but you will have less people. Either way choose a clear day with little danger of rain. Flash floods can occur with little warning, and hikers have been killed by floods. Do not forget to check the flash flood warning at the visitor center.
Directions to Trail-head :
You will want to reach the south entrance of the park which is roughly 1.5 mile or so from the town of Springdale , park your car in free parking area and hop onto the free shuttle in front of the Zion National Park Visitor Center (Stop 1). Zion National Park offers a free shuttle service which is the only motorized vehicle allowed inside the park beyond the parking area. The shuttle will cover all the stops on the way and you will want to get down at Stop 9 ,The Temple of Sinawava which is the starting point of the hike.
Note : The shuttle service is excellent and totally free. Shuttles arrive at every stop in every 7-10 minutes. Map of the park shuttle route can be found here .
Recommended Gear :
- Walking Stick,
- Good Walking /Hiking shoes with proper ankle support
- Neoprene / Waterproof socks
- A light jacket in case you hike in summer or a proper fleece layering if it is in late fall.
- Water bottle or hydration pack.
- Snacks or energy bars to keep you going
- Waterproof bag for your cellphone and camera
Things you must know:
Start early in the day :
If you plan to do Narrows it has to be the first activity of the day. I know not all of us are morning people and waking up at 5 in the morning is not an ideal vacation , but for this one day trust me earlier the better. I know finding an accommodation closer to park is very challenging and can be expensive in peak season. So no matter how far or close by you plan to stay , try to reach the visitor center by 6 am. From here you will board on a shuttle which will drop you to the Temple of Sinawava , the starting point of hike. If you start early not only will you avoid large crowds but you will also beat the sun. This is specially helpful if you are visiting Zion national Park in summer where temperature in afternoon sores above 100 degrees. For photography lovers , light will be much more soft on the walls of canyon and you will not have to deal with harsh shadows.
You may or may not need rental equipment :
You might have learnt from your online resources that you absolutely have to rent the gear for hiking up the narrows. But the reality is renting depends entirely on you and the season you pick to hike. In peak summer you may only need neoprene socks and walking sticks which you don’t necessarily have to rent . However, for those seeking to hike in the colder months of the year, renting the appropriate gear is a must. Dry Pants, Neoprene Socks, canyoneering boots and walking sticks are absolutely must to hike in cold weather.
Note : Zion outfitters at the park entrance are one of the best in this rental gear business. You can find details of the rental gear and the combos here .
You do not have to hike 16 miles to enjoy narrows :
The hike to Narrows is a total of 16 miles. The first half mile along riverside is a paved way and is wheelchair accessible. Anyone can enjoy it. It is only after this first half mile that actual hike in the river starts. I will suggest to hike atleast for 2 hours inside the canyon to really enjoy the beauty of Narrows. Keep in mind that you can hike in as far as you feel comfortable with the option to turn back at any time and leave the way you came.
Be prepared for sudden temperature changes :
The weather in canyon changes in a fraction of second. It is very important that you dress up in layers and keep an eye out on changing weather conditions , specially warnings for flash floods. Once inside the canyon , park authorities have no way to contact you if there are any flash floods. You never know when some thunderstorms can result in flashfloods which if not taken seriously may prove fatal. When we attempted the hike in mid October , the mornings were insanely chilly so we had to wear a lot of layers to keep ourselves warm while walking in water. But as the day progressed , the temperature started to warm up and we ended up in T shirts . Either way be responsible and smart .
There are no restrooms or food shops along the way:
There are no restaurants or shops or restrooms in the Zion Narrows . When you get down at Temple of Sinawana , use the restrooms. Carry your own food,water and refreshments on the hike keeping in mind that you will have to carry the trash out too.
Hiking the Narrows will take good part of your day – 5 to 6 hours atleast. Unless you are hiking the entire Zion Narrows with a permit, this is a trail with no particular view point that you have to see. It’s all beautiful. So, don’t feel pressure to cover a lot of ground before you turn around and come back. Its all about experience. Go at your own pace. I hope this information will come handy in planning your visit to Zion. If you need any help leave me a comment. If you have been to Narrows I will love to hear your experience. Thank you so much for stopping by.