The Narrows is one of the most unique and beautiful hikes in America. It was ranked #5 in National Geographic's America's Best 100 Adventures. This gorge runs along the Virgin River in Zion National Park. The entire trail is 16 miles in length and goes from the Temple of Sinawava to Chamberlains Ranch where there is a campground for two-day hikers. The majority of hikers and tourists hike upstream in the first 3.6 miles that runs between the end of the Riverside Walk Trail and Big Spring.
The Riverside Walk Trail is well maintained, wheel chair assessable and gorgeous with sun beams bursting down between the canyons, rushing waters, and mini waterfalls. This is an easy 2 mile nature walk that is perfect for casual hikers just wanting to get a glimpse of The Narrows without getting wet.
At the end of the walkway, the Narrows begin. Most of the year the gorge is filled with water ranging from low levels to swimming only. When we went in April the water was around 40 degrees in temperature and waist deep at some parts. It is extremely important to have the right clothing and equipment for this hike. We rented water suits, shoes, and walking sticks. As the ground is nothing but boulders and sharp rock, I can't imagine doing this without our water shoes. We saw people attempt to hike and sightsee without the right clothing and no walking stick but not many made it more than a mile and they all seemed fairly uncomfortable. The nice thing is, their are plenty of stores nearby that rent this equipment. We got the clothes, shoes, and sticks for $35 per person which was well worth it to be comfortable and be able to hike further in the gorge where the crowd lessens.
The scenery in the Narrows is stunning! 1000 foot sheer walls to both sides with glimmers of red sandstone rock. At about a mile in there was a waterfall coming down the wall (Mystery Falls). It was a wonderful workout going upstream and balancing on the shifting rocks. While it was mostly wall to wall water, there were areas of sand and dry rock to warm up and grab a snack on.
One nice thing about this hike is you can turn around at any point. Unless you're attempting the full 16 miles to Chamberlain's Ranch it is an out and back hike and you have the option to go as far as you'd like before turning around. We hiked for about 3 hours before looping back. The return trip took about half the time as we were going with the current (although this did make balance a bit more difficult). With the right clothing and a walking stick this can be an adventurous hike for all ages and levels with a view like no other! This was the most unique hike I've ever been on and I can't recommend it enough. It feels like another world and while being on top of mountains is stunning in itself, wading through a canyon has it's beautiful benefits as well.
WHAT TO KNOW:
Location: Zion National Park, near Springdale, Utah
Trailhead: The Temple of Sinawava at the end of the Riverside Walk Trail
Permit Trailhead: Heading south, Chamberlains Ranch from North Fork Road. Permit Required
Distance: 16 miles total. Most people hike within the first 3.6 miles from the Temple of Sinawava before turning back.
Elevation: Flat canyon trail between 1,000-2,000 ft. Sandstone cliffs to either side.
Time: 13 hours for full hike. Varies upon hikers for up and back hikes.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. The rock surface and current can make balance difficult but it is a straight hike with little to no elevation. Easy in the dry season.
Best Time to Hike: Summer. The water levels are lower and the cool canyon is a relief from the sun.
Popularity: Extremely high, especially in summer months. Crowds lessen the further into the canyon you go.
What to Bring: Walking stick, Water shoes, and waterproof pants or suit depending on the water levels and temperature.
NEED TO KNOW: Avoid this hike if there are thunderstorms and be cautious during the rainy season. Flash floods occur suddenly and have taken lives.