Zion National Park:Hike The Narrows
The Narrows is one of those epic hikes that we all seem to hear about. Photos of the Narrows flood Instagram and outdoor magazines because it truly is so unique.
The first time I heard about the Narrows hike was at a bookstore. We were browsing books on National Parks and picked up “Your Guide to the National Parks”, which has been our go-to book for information on almost all of our trips. The cover photo on our edition is an awesome photo of someone hiking in the Narrows, and ever since I saw that photo, I knew I wanted to do this hike.
We totally lucked out with the timing for this hike. The hike can be totally impacted by the water temperature, the flow rate and the crowds. Despite being in Zion during a summer month and it being exceptionally crowded and warm, we got an early start, and the weather and crowds were just perfect. The flow rate was low and the water temperature just chilly enough to make this hike just wonderful.
Due to the abnormal conditions of this hike, some extra gear tends to be recommended. We read a lot of blogs and articles with recommendations and here’s what we learned and ended up hiking with.
Footwear - There are 3 main options.
Option 1: Bring some old tennis shoes, or lightweight hiking boots you wouldn’t mind possibly ruining. These will give you enough stability on the river rocks, and keep your feet warm and comfortable. We highly recommend wearing wool socks with whatever you choose so your feet stay as warm as possible in the cold water.
Option 2: Rent water shoes from Zion Adventures in the park. We saw a lot of people with these. Honestly, we saw quite a few people looking pretty uncomfortable due to possibly ill-fitting and strange shoes. At the end of the hike, we saw more than a few people limping like their feet hurt quite a lot. That said, if you don’t have old shoes, these would be a good option for grip and stability. Just make sure you get a pair that fit!
Option 3: Buy water shoes or sandals. Someone recommended Chacos, or some other heavy duty sandals, or actual water shoes. We own Bedrocks, which are awesome for hiking and wearing around camp, but I definitely would not have wanted to hike this trail in them. Sandals leave toes vulnerable, and there are a lot of rocks to navigate, and likely would have injured a foot. My feet definitely would’ve been very cold, too. The wool socks were probably the best piece of gear we had on this hike.
Bring your own, but make sure they are sturdy.
Rent a set from the local Zion Adventures. They have all sorts of gear available for rent, but the poles are something we’d highly recommend for this hike.
We checked just before the hike and the rangers let us know the flow and temp. We lucked out with a low flow rate - between 25 and 40 - and the water temperature was in the 60’s. Due to good conditions, we decided not to rent any equipment. Andrea wore some old Asic trail running shoes and I wore an old pair of Oboz hiking boots. They both worked great and survived the hike in good shape. We had packed our own trekking poles from home, and would not have made it nearly as far along the trail without poles. The rocks are slippery, especially when the water is pushing against your feet.
The hike into the Narrows starts at the Temple of Sinawava. We took the first shuttle of the day, so we started our hike with maybe a dozen other people. The trail is a paved walkway to the river, which then has a few steps leading you right into the river trail. As we got to the river, the crowd quickly spread out and we seemed to have the trail to ourselves for the first couple of hours.
This hike is literally up a river, so the only way out is to hike back down river. Definitely keep that in mind as you hike upriver - the further you go, the further you have to hike back to the shuttle. We hiked up to the split and took the detour into Orderville Canyon. This is definitely worth the side trip and we were the only ones on that side of the trail. We went as far as we could, even climbing over a couple of boulders blocking the trail, but we didn’t make it to Veiled Falls. That will definitely be on our list for next time, we just didn’t feel that we had enough time or endurance in our toes. Once we backtracked to the split, we continued on further upstream and into the very popular area known as Wall Street. There’s a reason this stretch of the river has a name - it was absolutely amazing. One of the fun things about this hike is that the river changes as you go. Sometimes the water it at your ankle and barely moving, sometimes at your knees and pushing you on, and other spots were up to our chests. There were places with trees we had to get over or around, and boulders to climb over. The river turns and has banks in some areas, and is wall-to-wall water in others. Every turn was something new to see. We made it about five miles in when we stopped for lunch and then turned around to hike back.
We hit a massive crowd towards the end of our return hike. The early afternoon had come and the crowds had amassed on the entry of the river. Those quiet majestic canyons that we walked through in the morning were then swarming with “tourist travelers” with their selfie sticks and beach towels. It was a totally different environment than when we had started. We were glad we got the early start, and were so glad to have had such a peaceful beginning and such a great time on the whole trail.
This hike was a bucket list hike that we got to check off, but it was such an amazing experience, that we fully intend to go again!