The Ultimate Guide to Hiking The Narrows

Oct 31, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments


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When it comes to bucket-list-worthy hikes, Zion National Park is home to several. That includes the famous Angels Landing trail. This trail, while beautiful, has also been labeled one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S.

An equally stunning hike without the heights is The Narrows. This trail is unique in that hikers must wade through the waters of the Virgin River. That means that the trail closes during times of high water. It can also be a challenge to hike, particularly in cold weather.

Thinking about taking on The Narrows during your next visit to Watchman Villas? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

What is The Narrows?

The Narrows, or Zion Narrows, is a popular hiking trail that winds through a slot canyon. For several miles of the hike, you’ll be wading through the shallow waters of the Virgin River. Sheer red rock cliff faces rise above you on either side.

The Narrows got its name because it is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The walls on either side of this slot canyon rise a thousand feet above you. While parts of The Narrows are wider than others, in some places, the river stretches just 20 to 30 feet wide.

On busy summer days, these narrow spots can sometimes feel a bit crowded. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, a full hike of this challenging trail may be best.

Hiking The Narrows

Hikers have several options for taking on The Narrows.

Casual day hikers are allowed to hike as far as a spot called Big Spring without having to get a permit. To hike all the way to Big Spring and back is a strenuous, 10-mile round trip adventure that will take all day. However, if you want to experience the trail on a smaller scale, you can hike out for a couple of miles and then hike back.

This hike is completed “bottom -up,” which means that you’re hiking upstream in the Virgin River.

A full hike of The Narrows has hikers going “top-down.” The full hike is 16-miles one-way. You’ll need to get a permit ahead of time from the park office. You’ll also need to arrange transportation from Chamberlain’s Ranch trailhead. From there, you’ll hike down the canyon, and downstream along the Virgin River. This hike ends at the main section of Zion Canyon. This hike usually involves backpacking and staying overnight on the trail in the backcountry.

Choosing the Right Season to Visit 

Which season you choose for your visit to Zion National Park will impact your ability to hike The Narrows. During the late spring and summer, the water of the Virgin River is warm. This makes for a more comfortable hike. However, rain showers during this time of year can also lead to dangerous flash flooding on the trail.

Before your hike, it’s important to check the weather forecast, know the signs of a flash flood, and talk to park rangers about the safety of the trail.

Fall and early winter can be good times to hike The Narrows as well, with the help of some insulating, waterproof gear. This can be rented from several suppliers in Springdale, Utah ahead of your trip.

Get the Right Gear

No matter what time of year you choose to visit, close-toed shoes with a good sole that offers plenty of grip, as well as a hiking stick, are recommended. Even if you think that it will be warm, it’s a good idea to dress in layers so that you can add or shed as temperatures change throughout the day.

Depending on the conditions, some additional gear may also be necessary during your trip.

As mentioned, you can rent a neoprene wetsuit or drysuit to safely hike The Narrows during colder months. If you’ll be hiking overnight or want to carry gear like cameras that you can’t get wet, you can also rent dry bags to carry your stuff. For casual day hikers, zip lock bags are a great way to stash things like your wallet, phone, or camera so they don’t get wet if you happen to slip and fall.

Arrive Early to Beat the Crowds

During the busy summer months, the mouth of The Narrows in Zion Canyon, and the first few miles of the bottom-up portion of the trail may see crowds. If you want to beat the rush, plan to hop on the shuttle bus early to get a headstart on the trail. When you stay at Watchman Villas, this is a breeze; with a shuttle stop right outside of your vacation rental, you can roll out of bed and head straight into the park!

Planning a Visit to Zion National Park to Hike The Narrows

If hiking The Narrows or any other of Zion’s famous trails is on your bucket list, why not start planning your next trip? Many of these trails can be hiked year-round, including during the less-busy winter months.

Book your stay at Watchman Villas today to enjoy quick and easy access to the parks all year long!

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