Posted at 17:47hin United States, USA Road Trip, UtahbyCaroline Rose0 Comments
Out of all the 54 stops I put on my USA road trip itinerary, Zion National Park was the one I looked forward to most. And that’s all because of this hike: The Narrows. I mean, talk about a bucket list item! The Narrows is one of the coolest trails in the U.S. that follows the Virgin River in between narrow slot canyons whose walls flow with texture and tower over you. To this day, hiking the Narrows is one of my favorite life experiences and something I’m always recommending!
But when I first showed up in Zion, I came only with excitement and no actual knowledge about how to hike this unique trail. I literally got the permit to do the strenuous pro version without having any of the right gear then realizing I was in over my head and switching up my plans.
If you’re dying to do this hike too but don’t know anything about it, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. But I got you! In this post, I’ll go over the different ways to hike the Narrows, how to do each route, gear that you need, and useful tips overall.
For a full travel guide to Zion National Park, read this post!
What's in this post
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THE TWO ROUTES
HIKING BOTTOM AND BACK
- BEFORE YOU GO
- GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD
- HIKING: WHAT TO EXPECT
HIKING TOP TO BOTTOM
- GETTING A PERMIT
- BEFORE YOU GO
- HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
TIP YOU SHOULD FOLLOW
GEAR YOU SHOULD HAVE AND WHERE TO GET IT
FULL ZION TRAVEL GUIDE
There are two routes...
So first of all, there are two different ways you can go about hiking the Narrows: top to bottom or bottom and back. To help you understand this, the trail is along the Virgin River and in one slot canyon that extends 16 miles. Therefore once you go in, the only way out is going back the way you came or continuing on to the other end.
Top to Bottom
Starting from the top at Chamberlain’s Ranch, and hiking all the way to the bottom to Temple of Sinawava.
- 16 miles total round trip.
- A wilderness permit is required.
- The trailhead begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch (1.5 hours drive from Zion Canyon) and ends in Zion Canyon Temple of Sinawava.
- Zion park does not provide transportation to the trailhead, it’s up to you to get there.
- The hike can be done in the course of two days and camping overnight, or in one long day starting very early.
- Backpacking/camping gear is required for staying overnight.
Bottom and Back
Starting from the bottom at Temple of Sinawava and hiking in and then back down to where you started.
- You can hike as far in as you wish and double back around whenever, but the most you can hike is 9.5 miles total (so 5 miles in and 5 miles out).
- No permit is required.
- The trailhead begins in Zion Canyon at Temple of Sinawava and also ends here.
- Zion’s shuttle brings you directly to the trailhead at stop #9 Temple of Sinawava.
- Trail completetion time depends on how far you go, if you plan to do the full 9.5 miles it will take the whole day and one should start early.
- Waterproof and supportive gear highly recommend.
Hiking The Narrows Bottom and Back
This is the most popular route, so we’ll start here. First of all, if you chose this route instead of the longer top to bottom version and are wondering if you’ll be missing out in any way, think again! The bottom and back route has some of the most beautiful and most narrow areas of the canyon! So no fomo needed.
Before You Go:
Planning your day and what to bring
Before you head off to trudge through the Virgin River, you absolutely should be prepared. First this requires a lil safety check. Check the Zion website or visitor center to see if there’s any chance of flash floods or anything else you should be aware of.
Next, make sure you have the right gear. I’m talking shoes with traction that won’t slip easily on wet rocks, shoes and clothing you don’t mind getting wet or waterproof pants if it’s chilly, a waterproof bag, snacks and lots of water, a hiking stick, etc. This is super important if you plan on hiking for awhile. You can read more about gear later in this post.
Lastly, plan out your day. If you want to hike the full 9.5 miles in and out, I suggest starting early in the morning because it will take up your whole day. That being said, if you’re also renting gear then you should probably do so the night before.
Getting to the Trailhead
The Narrows bottom and back trail begins at Temple of Sinawava which is in Zion Canyon. It can be accessed by taking the Zion shuttle to stop #9, then the trailhead is a short walk to the canyon entrance.
If you’re not familiar with the Zion Shuttle System, you can learn more in my full travel guide to Zion National Park. But essentially, you drive into the park to the visitor center, and from here take the shuttle to Temple of Sinawava where The Narrows begin.
*Note that during COVID-19 the Zion shuttle buses are not on a first come first serve basis like usual. Instead you must reserve a ticket online before coming. You can read more about it in my full travel guide to visiting Zion National Park in 2020.
Time to Hike!
Woo! The moment has come to hike the epic narrows and you should be so excited! Here’s a little of what to expect…
The first mile or so of the hike is called the Riverside walk. The canyon is wider, and it’s not all river, there are some small portions of ground to walk and rest.Here it will be extremely crowded because it’s so accessible and great for people who cannot hike far or who have kids with them.
Farther along the hike will begin to get narrower and the water get’s deeper – sometimes past your waist! This is when you will find less people around. Eventually you will get to what’s called Wall Street which is the narrowest part of the slot canyon and is S T U N N I N G.
From Wall Street, a lot of people turn around, but if you’re able to, continuing on is worth it in my opinion. The Narrows is so beautiful that when exploring you just want to keep going! There are places deep enough to swim, more beautiful parts of the canyon, and it’s such a fulfilling adventure to get all the way to Big Springs (the farthest you can go without a permit before turning back).
However, definitely be aware of your limits. When deciding how far to go, remember you have to hike back out the same distance. For people who are able, I think getting to Wall Street is a great goal, and then from there assess your energy levels, the time, etc.
My sister and I when hiking The Narrows bottom and back did go as far as possible and it was incredible. But, the way back was SO tiring and it can be really difficult on your ankles. So keep that in mind!
If you’re not interested in learning about hiking The Narrows Top to Bottom, skip down to Tips You Should Absolutely Follow!
Hiking The Narrows Top to Bottom
*Wilderness permits are not being given during COVID-19 and so the top to bottom route is off limits right now (08/20/2020). Check the Zion website for details or changes.
So for full transparency, I have never actually hiked the Narrows top to bottom. However I was planning to until I realized it just wasn’t practical for my trip at the time (I didn’t have the right gear, and my sister would have died lol). That being said, even though I don’t have first hand experience actually hiking the route, I do have some useful knowledge if you’re considering doing it.
Getting a Permit
Before anything, know that a wilderness permit is required to complete this trail. You must decide if you’ll do the full hike in one day or if you will camp overnight. The permit can be gotten in a few ways:
First, the permit can be reserved up to 3 months in advance online. Availability is made on the fifth day of every month for that time frame.
If the reservations fill up, there’s also a last minute drawing 2-7 days in advance. Applying to a last minute drawing is done online.
Lastly, if anyone cancels their reservation, then walk-in permits at the Zion visitor center the day before going are also available. This is actually how I got my permit (even though I ended up not going), so it is possible.
If you’ve never gotten a wilderness permit, it’s essentially meant to protect the land and make sure that you understand how to do that (leave no trace, etc.). It’s also to make sure that you understand safety precautions and basically what you’re getting yourself into. When I got my permit for the Narrows, the things that stood out to me most were being aware of flash floods and the leave no trace laws (you’re literally given a sealed bag to poop in).
Permits are $15 for 1-2 people, and $20 – $25 for larger groups.
You can learn more about getting a permit here.
Before You Go
Safety, Gear and Choosing 1 or 2 Days
Before getting your permit, decide if you will do the hike in one day or over 2 days. The hike typically takes 12 hours, so if doing it in one day, you will need to start very early. Most (and I would have to agree) prefer to do it in 2 days so you can enjoy it more without being rushed.
Being prepared is essential for this hike. Before going, check the flash floods likelihood status on the Zion website or at the visitor center.
Most importantly, make sure you have all the right gear including a waterproof bag, apparel that is waterproof, shoes that will not slip on wet rock, plenty of food and water, a hiking stick and all the camping gear you need.
Like I mentioned, I never did this hike because I was unprepared when it came to gear, so if you’re considering it then do some extra research on how to pack.
How to Get to The Trailhead
The trail begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch which is about a 1.5 hour drive from Zion Canyon. Zion park does not offer transportation to the trailhead, and so private transportation is required.
If you are traveling with a group and have two cars, one option is to leave one car in Springdale (right outside Zion Canyon), and then take the other car to the trailhead. After hiking the Narrows, jump in that car to go retrieve your car at Chamberlain’s Ranch.
The other option is to hire a driver or private shuttle. When I was considering this hike a park employee gave me these resources to check out.
If you decided to take your time on this hike and camp overnight, there are 12 campsites within the gorge. When you get your permit, specify that you will be camping and the date and campsite will be on your permit. Make sure to bring necessary camping gear that you are able to hike with, and to follow the leave no trace laws.
Tips You Should Absolutely Follow!
No matter which route you take, top to bottom or bottom and back, these tips are so important.
1. Don’t underestimate having a hiking stick! You 100% need one
This is not for show to get adventurous looking pictures, it’s actually so helpful! With flowing water, slippery rocks and tired ankles, it’s so easy to fall. A hiking stick reduces that chance and will be your best friend on this hike.
2. If you have a smart watch, bring it
You can’t really get lost in the Narrows because there’s only two directions. However, you can lose track of how far you’ve gone. And especially when hiking bottom and back, this is important to know in order to assess if you should keep going or turn back.
This is where a smart watch or any other device that can track your distance would be super handy! Just make sure it’s waterproof.
3. Keep track of the time and your pace!
Time is essential when hiking the Narrows. If you are hiking top to bottom you need to set a steady pace to reach your campsite or the end of the trail before dark. And if you’re hiking bottom and back, you need to keep track of how much time was spent hiking in, so you’re aware how long it will take to hike back out before dark.
4. Have plenty of Water and food
Obviously if you’re doing the top to bottom hike, you’ll need food and water whether you stay overnight or hiking for 12 hours in one day. But even for the bottom and back hike, I highly recommend bringing snacks high in nutrients. I did the full 9.5 miles hike and was completely drained. Trust me – you will need that energy boost.
5. A waterproof bag is a must
Don’t be tricked into seeing photos where the water is shallow and think, “I’m not going to drop my bag, so I’m good with my regular backpack.” In some parts the water is above your waist and falling is super common. Especially with a camera and phone in your bag, don’t even risk it.
6. Start Early
The earlier you start, the more time you have to hike and the more flexibility you have if you decide to go farther and make it back before dark without rushing when you’re exhausted.
Gear You Need and Where to Get IT
As I’ve mentioned several times now through this post, the right gear is so important!
Here are the essentials:
- Hiking stick
- Waterproof bag to store your camera/phone, water, and snacks
- Shoes with ankle support and that will not slip
*If you’re doing the top to bottom hike staying over night you’ll need to do some extra research for camping gear.
Waterproof pants are also good when the water is colder, but in the middle of July, I just wore regular Nike shorts I didn’t mind getting wet and never felt cold or uncomfortable.
If you do not already own the gear I mentioned, there are some places you can rent from in Springdale, right outside the park. The two main places are Zion Outfitters and Zion Adventure Company. They usually have packages for the 3 items I recommend for $30ish renting for 24 hours. If you’re planning to leave early morning to hike, consider renting the gear the night before and then returning it directly after your hike.
And there you have it! Everything you need to know for hiking The Narrows, the most epic trail!
For a full travel guide to visiting Zion National Park including getting there, park fees, navigating the shuttle, where to stay AND more cool hikes, check out my full travel guide to visiting Zion!
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Travel Guide to Visiting Zion National Park In 2020
Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the United States, Zion national park is a bucket list ...
United States USA Road Trip Utah
How to Hike the Narrows in Zion National Park
Out of all the 54 stops I put on my USA road trip itinerary, Zion National Park was the one......
United States USA Road Trip Utah
Everything you need to know about hiking the Zion Narrows for beginners. Includes trail details, how to get there, what to wear, and more!
One of the best activities to do on a trip to Zion National Park is none other than hiking the Narrows.. How much do you want to hike?. Most people hike between 2-6 hours on the Narrows hike when starting at the bottom ( ~6 miles round trip ).. Note: You should also factor in the time and mileage it takes to reach the Narrows via the Riverside Walk Trail which is 2.2 miles round trip (20-25 minutes each way).. Also, it takes 40-45 minutes to get to the Narrows shuttle stop via the shuttle bus from the Zion Visitor’s Center located at the entrance of the park.. Plan for at least 4-6 hours to hike the Narrows in total (= shuttle time + Riverside Trail to reach the Narrows + time hiking in the Narrows to Wall Street and back) .. Map of Zion Narrows hike (bottom-up) | via Zion Guru ⚠️ Zion National Park is discontinuing the temporary shuttle ticket system for Zion Canyon.. Make sure to book your shuttle ticket in advance on Recreation.gov (you can’t purchase shuttle tickets the same day).. The “Not Yet Released” tickets go live at 9 AM Mountain Time the day before the date of travel.. We started our hike around 9 AM and the river was mostly shaded thanks to the height of the canyon walls.. You are hiking, after all!. You are walking in the water 90% of the time over small and large rocks and it would be easy to stub a toe or slip.. You’ll hike both in the water and on the dry rock bed that skirts part of the canyon walls.. Where do you park to hike the Narrows?. You will LOVE hiking in the Narrows in Zion!
Hiking the Narrows in Zion NP can be tough, it's 16 miles long and much of it runs through a river! Try these easier alternatives instead.
The Narrows hiking trail in Zion National Park is one of America’s most iconic walks and is located along the narrowest section of Zion Canyon.. However, if these options seem a bit too time-consuming or physically challenging, then there are many other easy options for hiking The Narrows Zion National Park.. Because of this, we were only able to walk about 2.5 miles upstream—or about three hours roundtrip.Kicking off our trip at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center!. At one point, the water was up to our chests.We’re hiking The Narrows Zion National Park!. Zion National Park had recently reopened during our visit and for that reason, the shuttle service was not operating.. Therefore, these are the three best options for hiking The Narrows Zion National Park.. Riverside Walk – 2.2 miles The Narrows via Riverside Walk – 9.4 miles Freestyle Walk The Narrows – ?. On the way back from the Gateway to The Narrows, we spotted a mule deer here at dusk!The walk ends upstream at “The Gateway to The Narrows,” a section of the canyon that is so constricting that hikers must cross the river to continue up the Virgin River.You must respect the Virgin River.. Hiking The Narrows via the Riverside Walk is the most popular option for visitors who dream of visiting the iconic spots along The Narrows.. This hike will take the average person about seven to eight hours to complete, as traversing through the river is slippery and rough, in fast-flowing cold water.. There are beautiful spots all along the Virgin River!You can turn back at any time.. Our first step into the water was a bit shocking—it was pretty darn cold.At some points along the hike, the water nearly reached our chests!. If rain is in the forecast, walking past The Gateway to The Narrows is extremely foolish, as the risk of flash floods increases dramatically.. This should come as no surprise considering walkers are hiking between 2,000 feet of canyon walls.. Walking The Narrows Zion National Park up the Virgin River feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Zion Narrows hike has become one of the most famous hikes in the world, and for good reason. It takes you into a river, between soaring, narrows canyon walls, wowing you each time you turn one of its serpentine bends. Whether from the top-down or from the bottom up, the Zion Narrows hike is not
The Narrows, or more formally, the narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River, has become one of the most famous hikes in the world, and for good reason.. Zion National Park visitors may obtain Zion Narrows hike permits at the Visitor Center near Springdale, or the Kolob Canyons VC near Cedar City.. Permits for the Zion Narrows hike are only issued the day before the start of your hike.. In the summer, a National Weather Service Flash Flood Warning will close The Narrows when thunderstorms are dumping rain into The Narrows, or into the headwaters 20 miles north of the park... but, the Park does not "gate" The Narrows closed.. Being issued a Zion Narrows permit does not mean the Zion Narrows hike is safe.. Poles – A hiking staff or hiking poles are invaluable for maintaining balance while hiking in the river.
Everything you need to know -- from gear to technique -- for hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park.
A little wet and waterlogged, but I made it!If you’re like most Zion National Park visitors who plan to hike in the park, you have two legendary trails in mind: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows.. In t his post, I’ve compiled everything I learned that you’ll need to know for a successful hike bottom-up hike through The Narrows.. Extra socks and shoes: After you hike The Narrows, you’ll have to walk a mile on Riverside Trail back to the shuttle stop, followed by the shuttle ride to wherever you’re going next.. In my dry bag, I packed my regular hiking shoes, an extra pair of socks, a small microfiber towel to dry off my feet after the hike, and a plastic grocery bag for carrying the wet gear.. Snacks and water: As with any hike, make sure you have more water than you think you’ll need and plenty of snacks in case you get hungry (or stuck somewhere).. Hopefully you’ve gotten the message by now…if you hike through any distance of The Narrows — especially when the water is high or the currents are strong — you’ll fall at some point during the hike (or multiple times, like I did!).
Hiking shuttle service for Zion National Park. All the information to help plan your custom hiking shuttle services to The Narrows, Subway, West Rim & more Zion trails!
While there are some hikes in Zion (Canyon Overlook, The Watchman and Par’us trails) that you can drive your personal vehicle to, trailheads on the scenic drive will require you to obtain a shuttle.. It is also important to know that we rent eBikes and this is another way to get into the canyon that eliminates the need for a shuttle entirely and allows you to avoid the long shuttle lines .. “In response to updated guidance on transit systems in National Parks and COVID-19, Zion National Park is discontinuing the temporary shuttle ticket system for Zion Canyon.. Zion Guru offers hiker trailhead shuttles throughout Zion National Park and the surrounding area.. For all trips ending in Zion Canyon, you leave your vehicle in town and we shuttle your party to your starting destination trailhead.. Once you reach Zion Canyon, you take the Zion Scenic Shuttle System back to town, where your car is.. Trailheads within this shuttle zone:. This shuttle is $65 per person but does require a $260 minimum for the shuttle to operate.. - Subway Transfer (for technical canyoneers), We can meet you at the Left Fork trailhead and then transport you to the Wildcat Canyon trailhead.
Is hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park on your bucket list? Learn all you need to know about this one of a lifetime adventure.
The Narrows In Zion National Park requires hiking in the river almost all the way.. The Narrows is essentially a slot canyon, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, situated on the North Fork of the Virgin River, upstream of the main canyon.. The hike requires walking in the river.. The Narrows in Zion National Park.. Hiking the Narrows for experienced hikers – Through-hike If you are looking for a challenge, hike the entire Narrows from top to bottom, from Chamberlain Ranch down to Temple of Sinawava .. Overnight permits can be hard to get on holiday and summer weekends, so act early.. The Narrows in Zion.. My friends walking back to the river after a short dry stretch.. Most people hike The Narrows in the late spring and summer when the water tends to be at its warmest, and the water level drops.. However, this is also the time of year when storms can cause life-threatening flash floods.. The Bottom-Up hike takes about only 2-3 hours into the section of Narrows known as Wall Street , the narrowest part of the canyon, and a turning point for most of the hikers.. You can hike the Narrows without renting any equipment, but you need good hiking boots for sure.. Zion Mountain Ranch You will find plenty of great places to stay when visiting Zion National Park, but let me recommend one of my favorite ones, Zion Mountain Ranch .. The hotel is ideally situated just outside of Zion National Park and is tucked among the towering red rock cliffs of Zion Canyon.. I loved the outside area with incredible views of the mountains.
Want to beat the heat and crowds in Zion National Park? Read about our unforgettable adventure hiking the Narrows in winter including where to rent gear.
From the shuttle stop, it’s a mile walk down a paved walkway to reach the Virgin River and the starting point for hiking the Narrows.. On our way down from the Emerald Pools hike, Julie sprained her ankle and had to hobble to the trailhead where she waited in pain for the shuttle back to our car and the return drive to our hotel.. The night before our hike, we stopped in at the Zion Adventure Company to inquire about renting dry gear.. We opted for the dry suit package at $53 per person which included: dry suit, shoes, socks, and walking stick.. It was ideal that we were able to pick everything up the night before our hike, so we could arrive at the trailhead early, as they otherwise don’t open until 9:00 a.m. As this was our first time hiking the Narrows, we were given instructions on how to correctly put on the suit and accessories, and were given a few trip about navigating the route.. While the dry suits keep water completely out, Julie and I both wondered aloud how long our water shoes and socks would hold up before it felt like we were in fact walking through water.. In winter, it’s best to avoid being fully submerged in ice cold water for as much as possible, while certainly in summer it would be a welcome change from the heat.. While we both expected the hike to be exclusively through the Virgin River, there were a good number of opportunities to walk on land or just get out of the water for a bit.. A walking stick can be rented through Zion Adventure Company, or if you arrive early enough in the day, free sticks are left at the river’s entrance.