The Zion Narrows is probably one of the best canyons to hike in all of Zion National Park – and quite possible my personal favorite day hike of all time. The walls of the main canyon close in to form a tall and narrow canyon with beautiful rock formations and the Virgin River flowing around you. With the beautifully colored flowing water and barely any direct sunlight reaching the bottom, this is the slot canyon that all other slot canyons are compared to.
If you only have a few days, I HIGHLY recommend making this hike a priority.
The Details of Hiking The Narrows in Zion
Below is detailed information for helping you complete your hike of the Zion Narrows. If you’re curious to read more about what we did when we were in Zion – check out our Zion National Park Itinerary and Must Do’s or view our Pack List for Zion National Park. Or learn more about one of our favorite (and recommended) hikes with our tips for hiking Angel’s Landing.
There are 3 different ways to explore the Narrows.
- Zion Narrows Day Hike (Bottom Up from the Temple of Sinawava)
- Two-Day Backpack Down from the Top (from Chamberlain’s Ranch)
- One-Day Hike Down from the Top (from Chamberlain’s Ranch):
We hiked the Bottom Up
For casual hikers looking to see the best of the Zion Narrows, this is the route to do. You start at the Temple of Sinawava, and simply hike up the Riverside Walk trail. This trail will dead end at the Virgin River with seemingly no where to go – this is where The Narrows begins. Step into the water and begin making your way along the river and into this gorgeous canyon. From here you’ll see some of the best sections of “narrows” of the Virgin River.
For the majority of the day, you will be hiking in knee to waist deep water with the riverbed alternating between sections of sand and sections with a lot of loose rocks and boulders. As you wade along the river, use a walking stick to help gauge the depth of the water in sections you aren’t too sure about. While the water is usually less than waist deep, you may encounter a handful of sections of chest-deep water or even occasionally areas that require swimming. When you reach these sections, look around for areas that may be more shallow to help you along your way.
All along this hike you’ll see a number of beautiful landmarks, be sure to bring a map (they’re free) with you to help you identify these sites and track your progress. About 1.5 miles into your hike, you’ll reach the junction of the famous “Wall Street” (the beginning of the most narrow section of the canyon) and Orderville. Most people continue this hike into Wall Street (the more famous of the two) – at which point you will be hiking in the water almost all of the time.
A side hike up Orderville Canyon is also a quick detour where you can see even more amazing canyon scenery. As a round-trip hike, this can be as leisurely or strenuous as you want it to be.
Time of Year & The Weather
We opted to travel to Zion at the end of November. Choosing not to go during the summer left us with perfect weather conditions. It wasn’t too hot, and it wasn’t too cold. Day temperatures ran between 60 and 70F and dropped to the low 40s in the evening. But, please keep in mind, The Narrows is often out of the sun and the high walls and running water give off a cold breeze – it is often at least 10 degrees colder in The Narrows than it is in the rest of the park.
Tips for Hiking The Narrows in Zion
Flash Floods & Safety
Traveling into The Narrows, even on short trips, can be challenging and risky. Plan carefully before you begin. It’s worth speaking with park rangers or one of the outfitters for current conditions, weather forecasts, and flash flood potential ratings.
Flash floods are a real danger and can be life threatening. During a flash flood the water levels can rise incredibly quickly, and can rush down a canyon in a wall of water 12 feet high or more. Know the weather and flash flood potential forecasts before starting your trip. If bad weather threatens, do not enter a narrow canyon.
Watch for these indications of a possible flash flood:
• Any deterioration in weather conditions
• Build up of clouds or sounds of thunder
• Sudden changes in water clarity from clear to muddy
• Floating debris
• Rising water levels or stronger currents
• Increasing roar of water up canyon
If you observe any of these signs, seek higher ground immediately and remain on high ground until conditions improve. Flash floods can occur even when the risk is considered low and you definitely don’t want to enter The Narrows when the risk is considered moderate or high. It’s best to check with either a ranger or an outfitter before attempting this trek.
Footwear & Clothing
The Narrows terrain can be both slippery and oddly shaped and will require some amount of balance as you wade through the middle of a swiftly flowing river. Sturdy footwear is essential. I highly recommend renting canyoneering shoes and neoprene socks from an outfitter. Hiking shoes would work as well (not nearly as ideal) just don’t wear sandals or expect to go barefoot – this can prove to be both painful and unsafe.
Even in mid-summer, The Narrows can be cool – the water is often cold and the canyon floor doesn’t get a whole lot of sun. While you may do your normal hiking in shorts, when it comes to the Narrows take extra warm clothing. You can also rent dry pants (or a full dry suit) from the outfitters and you’ll be glad you did.
Clothing made of wool or synthetic fibers has the best insulation. For my own personal layers during November, I had thermal pants and hiking pants under my dry pants. A thermal long sleeve top, merino wool t-shirt, down vest, and a soft shell jacket. I started out with gloves and a beanie too but ended up shedding the gloves early on. I was nice and warm as long as we kept moving, but when we stopped for lunch, the cold started to catch up to us.
Rent the Gear
No seriously, rent the gear – you’ll be happy you did. We rented dry-pants, the canyoneering boots (makes walking in the water easy), neoprene socks (keeps your feet warm), and a walking stick (came in handy quite often) from Zion Adventure Company. Definitely worth it. I would not have enjoyed the hike nearly as much without it.
Since you will be in the water almost all day and many river crossings have fairly strong currents, poles or a stick really help with keeping your stability. You don’t need anything fancy – and you can even rent a hiking stick from the outfitters. I never hike with a walking stick, but this time I did – and it proved to be an invaluable tool. The stick is also incredibly useful for testing the depth of the water.
*Note* If you do show up without one, there are often a number of walking sticks laying around at the end of the Riverside Walk trail.
Anyone can take a wrong step and fall in the Narrows – it is a good idea to waterproof your belongings. You can either bring a dry bag (rent if you don’t have one), or line your pack with a large plastic bag. Smaller ziplock style bags provide extra protection for cameras and other valuables.
You never know if/when you could get trapped somewhere longer then you intended, or the sun may drop sooner then you expected. Either way, it’s always a good precaution to bring a light with you just in case things go wrong. You most likely won’t use it – but if you do need to, you’ll be thankful you had it.
We arrived at the parking lot at 830 AM (a tip from the ZAC was not to go too early since it would be extra cold) and only saw a few people in the parking lot getting ready. Once we started the hike, we didn’t see a single soul until we turned around. When we turned around we started running into a number of groups who we making their way to Wall Street. Leaving early allowed us plenty of time to enjoy the sites, and kept us in a near perfect solitude for majority of the hike.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery. This hike is absolutely gorgeous and we had an incredible time just trekking through the water. If you prepare well, you won’t have a problem.