Hiking At The Narrows



Knee Deep In Thousand Foot Cliffs: The Narrows

A Gorge Of 1,000-Foot Tall Walls That Rewards Hikers With Spectacular Views And Unique Experiences

A Group Of Hikers At The Narrows [Courtesy/NPS]

When most people picture a hike, they imagine a dirt road in the woods, surrounded by trees, maneuvering around roots and rocks. Maybe they picture a mountain climb. What people usually don't picture is wading in knee deep water, surrounded by 1,500 foot cliffs on either side of them. The Narrows – which is part of Zion National Park – offers this unique and adventurous experience to people looking for a worthwhile challenge.

The Narrows – as the name suggests - is the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon and the most popular area in Zion National Park. A gorge with 1,000-foot tall walls, The Narrows rewards hikers with spectacular views and a unique experience that can't be had almost anywhere else on earth.

Whether guests choose to hike along the Virgin River for days or just wade upstream for a few minutes, guests should be prepared, said Chief of Interpretation Ali Battrus, who said The Narrows is for someone interested in doing a more adventurous hike.

“The Narrows is a wilderness trail,” noted Battrus. “It's not a regular paved trail. Imagine walking through water on slick bowling bowls. We get a lot of ankle and knee injuries. Open toed shoes are not appropriate, and neither is bare feet. Visitors need to bring or rent close toed boots with ankle support and a hiking stick for balance. Since there are no restrooms, they should also bring wag bags, a little portable restroom bag.”

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The Virgin River has a water level of around 40 cubic feet per second. It can get up to 139. Any higher and the park closes the river. But on average it will be around knee deep to hip deep, said Battrus. But there are deep pools. She said: “As someone who is shorter, there are a few places where I have to swim periodically.”

The Walls At The Narrows [Courtesy/NPS]
Embracing The Beauty Of The Narrows [Courtesy/NPS]
Passing Through The Waters [Courtesy/NPS]

Swimming on a hike? Now that's new. Despite these unique challenges, people looking to hike The Narrows need to be “self-reliant,” because there are no tour guides. Anyone still interested in visiting The Narrows?

It should also be noted that this is a “strenuous hike,” pitting man against nature. People looking to hike The Narrows find themselves walking uphill against the water flow. So it's okay if some people have to turn around, if some people can't make it the full ten mile round trip from the Temple of Sinawava to Big Spring, which can end up taking many people all day. Hiking this way allows visitors to see some of the “most spectacular and narrowest parts of the canyon, and experience the immensity of the 1,500 foot cliffs on either side of you.”

Of course, that's not even the most difficult way to experience The Narrows. If a full day of hiking upstream, against the water flow isn't enough for some, there is a two-day 16 mile experience available. Hikers can start from Chamberlain's Ranch if they obtain a permit online (“A permit is needed because we need to manage the numbers of people in Zion's wilderness.”). There are 12 established campsites midway through the rough route.

Utah's “first national park,” Zion National Park “encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States.” If The Narrows is too intimidating, visitors can explore 229 square miles of high plateaus, sandstone canyons and 2,000-foot cliffs. With over 100 species of plants and a large variety of mammals, reptiles, fish and birds, there is a never-ending supply of sights to see.

But for the more adventurous travelers, head to The Narrows. The struggle and sweat is worth it.

Olivia Richman

A graduate of East Connecticut State University in Journalism, Olivia has written for Stonebridge Press & Antiques Marketplace among others. She enjoys writing, running and video games.

Willow Wind RV Park

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Willow Wind RV Park, surrounded by the beautiful red rocks of Southern Utah. Willow Wind is only a short drive to scenic Sand Hollow Reservoir and breathtaking Zion National Park.

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