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I finally did it! I finally hiked The Narrows! See, this is a big deal for me because as most of you know (or are about to learn) I do not like water activities. I like being on water, but not in water.
Very different things. I managed to avoid going into The Narrows for three visits before I finally took the plunge. And now I’m going to tell you all about it.
After a drive that took waaaay longer than it should have, a brief nights rest, and a stop at Sand Hollow State Park, we set off for Zion with one thing on our to do list. The Narrows. There wasn’t even an option to do anything else this time. What made me want to hike The Narrows all of a sudden?
Last summer a few of my friends went and did it over their weekend and came back with all these cool pictures and videos so I could actually see what it was like. It didn’t look anywhere near as frightening as the Internet makes it sound. And if you don’t think the Internet makes it sound frightening, I did.
I mean, flash floods, people! Everything I read made it sound like one heck of a hike. Bring food, clothes, water, and everything else you could possibly need for a night out of town. Basically. All I brought was water and my camera.
I think I got off topic. We made it to the park and this time we were able to park right by the visitors center, already making it a more productive visit than last time.
We went in, bought way too much stuff, got on the shuttle and that was it. We rode it and went right home. I’m kidding. We got off at the Temple of Sinawava, the last stop, and set off along the Virgin River.
I’ll mention this now, it was so packed! I thought for sure the further in we went the less busy it would be, but you must have to go in pretty darn far to not run into too many people. Even at the spot we turned around there were still quite a few people. Some still going in, others leaving. But there were only a couple, very brief, times we couldn’t see another person.
At one point on the paved trail still, we saw that squirrel a few pictures up just laying like that. For a second I thought it was dead, but it, in fact, was not. It was a very weird way to lay though, I have to say that. We moved on and far too soon it was time to get wet. I was having doubts and almost said something, but I pushed on.
I put my first foot in the water and did a quick little gasp at the water temperature. It really wasn’t that cold, but it was really hot out so it felt colder than it actually was. I soldiered on and put my other foot in. It was sort of difficult to walk in the water because you couldn’t see the rocks all that well.
The water isn’t crystal clear, so you have to be careful. We were moving pretty slow, but I wouldn’t want to go fast because not only will you slip on rocks, but you’ll stub your toes a lot. I actually had a harder time walking on the brief land portions.
The whole time you are just walking in the river, crossing back and forth to the dry areas and going around the really deep parts. There weren’t too many areas that were all that deep, but they were easy enough to avoid. You can always swim through them, too, but I have to remind you, I don’t like swimming.
Walking into The Narrows is a lot more difficult than walking out since you’re going against the current on the way in. Some sections are a lot harder than others. Eventually we got to a bend in the river and stopped for some pictures. We waited patiently and acted quickly when the people stopped and we managed to get pictures without them, which is tough here.
While we were stopped there, someone asked what kind of camera I had, then he stopped, took off his backpack and pulled out a lens. I took mine off, put his on and was able to get way more in my shots.
It was fun using a wide angle lens for once, but unfortunately I had to give it back. I definitely appreciated him letting me use it though, so if you random stranger happen to be reading this, thank you!
Not too far after the bend we decided to turn around. Well, I probably decided for both of us. I was starting to get cold. And hungry. And tired. We hung out at our end for a bit before leaving. It was probably 5-6PM, that’s why it was getting cool. In a canyon. With no sun. We spent five to six hours in The Narrows total.
I was also really frustrated at this point because of the three things I just mentioned, and my feet were starting to hurt from the land parts. My feet were constantly sliding off of dry rocks with sand on them since my shoes were always wet.
I was stubbing my toes way too much, and my shoes were rubbing weird on my toes. Not too long after we turned around I started crying. Not because it was such a profound experience or anything.
I was just that frustrated by the combination of everything. After my brief cry, like two minutes, I was fine. It was out and we were on our way out. You can’t tell me I don’t keep things real here.
The walk back was much less crowded, like, we only saw a few people the whole time, so that was pretty cool. Overall I actually really enjoyed The Narrows, more than I thought I would, crying aside. I would definitely go back in again to see more of it but I’m not in a rush to do that.
**Updated August 2022: text above this and all photos are from the original post, all text below has been added.**
National Park Goodies
- If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks within a year from your trip, definitely get the America the Beautiful pass. It will save you money in the long run if you’re going to more than three parks in a year. Buy the pass here.
- If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking on your trip, or even at home, check out AllTrails! This is my favorite app to find, keep track of, and track my hiking activity. And it’s FREE! Sign up here.
- This Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is a must-have. You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a National Park journal for all of the NPS sites (400+!) to keep track of your travels!
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
Slot Canyon safety
**Zion will close The Narrows if there is risk of flash floods but this is good to know anyway.**
Flash floods are a huge risk in slot canyons and people die from that far too often. In May 2020 a 7-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister died in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. This isn’t even a super narrow canyon. And it’s popular. It can happen anywhere.
In 1997, 11 hikers died in a flash flood in Antelope Canyon (the storm was 15 miles away) and that’s a huge reason you need to go with a tour now.
Flash floods are no joke kids. I haven’t seen one in a slot canyon but I did see one right as it was starting in a more open canyon and it really picked up fast. I also saw one in Zion along the Mt. Carmel Highway this summer. It was small but they just happen so fast, please be safe.
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IN THE RAIN
- DO NOT ENTER THEM WITH RAIN IN THE FORECAST
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IF IT’S NOT RAINING IN THEM BUT NEAR THEM TOO
- If you don’t feel comfortable with any climb or narrow squeeze and can turn back, do that! You don’t want to get hurt or stuck and need to be rescued. I linked tons of stories of this below.
- Make sure you’re following the right fork. A lot of slot canyons have multiple forks or are close to other ones and ending up in the wrong one can have dire consequences (especially in the North Wash area of Utah.)
Where are the Zion Narrows?
The Narrows in Zion can be reached via the Riverside Walk Trailhead which is at the end of the main canyon scenic drive and the last stop on the shuttle before it heads back out.
How long are The Narrows in Zion?
You do not need a permit for hiking the Narrows bottom up (what the average visitor will do) and that hike can be up to ten miles round-trip. I think doing the whole thing would be pretty difficult.
But this is a great one since you can really hike as far as you want whether it’s just one mile in or three, you don’t have to do the whole thing. Of course, the further in you go the fewer people you’ll see, but just remember you have to hike back out, too.
Is the Zion Narrows hike hard?
II wouldn’t say it’s easy by any means but difficulty will depend on how far you plan to hike (don’t forget you have to hike back out) and how sure-footed you are when it comes to walking on wet rocks of varying sizes in a river going against the current on the way in.
The hike out is easier since you’re going with the current though, so that’s nice. I got pretty frustrated hiking the Narrows, constantly slipping off rocks but I wouldn’t say this is super difficult.
What do you need for the Zion Narrows hike?
A lot of people will recommend those fancy water shoes you can rent in Springdale and a walking stick but I didn’t think we needed either. I would go with closed-toe shoes over sandals though since I stubbed my toes a lot.
If you’re hiking the Narrows in Zion in winter, you’ll definitely want to rent one of the dry suits from in town. The water will be very cold and the suit is pretty necessary.
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.
Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case.
How long do you need to hike the Narrows in Zion?
I would say no less than two hours and you probably couldn’t go too far in that way. I feel like most people spend half a day in The Narrows, maybe even most of the day if you want to see as much of it as you can and don’t want to do much else in Zion.
Is hiking the Narrows in Zion worth it?
Definitely. This isn’t one of the most popular national park hikes for no reason! It’s extremely busy but it’s incredibly beautiful. If you don’t mind hiking in water, it’s a must-do. It’s definitely one of the top things to do with one day in Zion, for good reason.
Can you do The Narrows and Angels Landing in one day?
Yes! You do need a permit for Angels Landing now, but you can do both in one day. We heard someone day they did Angels Landing in the morning and The Narrows in the afternoon.
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Have you hiked The Narrows? What did you think of it? Do you want to do it? What is your favorite hike in Zion?