Do you want to go on my favorite hike of all time? I am an avid hiker and have gone on hundreds of hikes 🥾 in the US and the National Parks alone. There is truly nothing like hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park.
If you want to try something new and exciting, then this hike is right for you. However, if you hate getting wet, turn back now. This Virgin River hike requires you to wade through the rushing waters 💦 as you view some of the most picturesque spots in the country. Make your way slowly through the water and gaze up at the sheer canyon walls on either side of you.
I hope I’ve convinced you to add this hike to your bucket list. It will be truly unforgettable. No matter your experience level, you will need to do some preparation for your trip through this scenic area. Learn everything you need to know in this complete Zion Narrows trail guide.
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Table of Contents
Everything You Need to Know About Hiking the Narrows
What are the Narrows?
The Narrows are named that way, because they are the narrowest area of the canyon in Zion National Park. This hike follows the water up the North Fork section of the Virgin River with the canyon walls on either side. You’ll have to get wet in order to complete this hike as it makes its way through the river upstream. Hiking the Narrows is one of the most popular things to do on a trip to Zion and it is one of the most famous hikes in the world.
Important Information About the Narrows
💵 In order to access the Zion National Park hikes, you’ll need to pay the entry fee. Zion has a fee of $35 per vehicle. Annual passes like the America the Beautiful Pass will get you in as well.
🌧 One of the things to keep in mind is that the Narrows are subject to flash flooding. If there is any rain in the forecast, then you should consider not going on the trail. It is extremely dangerous and people have gotten hurt.
⛺️ There are two ways to do the hike: Top Down or Bottom Up. Most people do the bottom up hike, because the top down requires more planning. If you plan on doing top up, you will need to acquire a permit. Then, you can camp at the top.
🦮 You have to keep pets out of the water. There is currently bacteria in the Virgin River called Cyanotoxins which is harmful to dogs and humans. So, do not drink it either.
⚠️ The Narrows is often closed when there are flash flood warnings or the Virgin River is too high. So, stay updated on the NPS website or at the visitor center.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Best Time of Year to Hike the Narrows
The best time of year to hike the Narrows is the summertime 😎. The weather is extremely hot and walking through the river is a wonderful way to cool off. You can also swim through some of the deeper sections and thoroughly enjoy all the areas of this wonderful hike.
In the spring, the snow melts and during parts of the spring the Narrows is closed because the water is simply too high and dangerous. You can hike the Narrows in the Fall and Winter, but you will need to rent more gear, so that you don’t get too cold in the water. You will always need to check the weather and look for any signs of flash flooding
Gear Needed for the Narrows
During the winter, you’ll need to come prepared with plenty of gear to keep yourself warm and dry. In the winter, you’ll want to get waders or a drysuit, waterproof shoes, and a walking stick. We also rented a dry bag so that we could bring gear and snacks with us. Wear layers and gloves 🧤 so that you stay warm underneath your gear.
There are a few outfitters in town that you can rent gear from including Zion Outfitter, Zion Adventures, and Zion Guru. All of these storefronts offer packages with everything you need. In the spring, you can rent a package with dry pants instead of a full bib with shoes and a walking stick. If you’re lucky enough to go in the summer, then you’ll just want to rent the shoes and the walking stick. Always remember to pack the 10 essentials for any hike that you go on!
This hike is a moderate 9.4 mile out and back hike through the water if you start at the bottom. If you want to do the top-down through hike, then you will need a permit. You can get permits the day before but they are not guaranteed. You can book a campsite alongside the Narrows overnight if you are doing the through hike. Again, you should keep an eye on the weather if you plan on doing either route of the hike. I will go into more detail of the more common bottom up hike below.
The first mile follows the Riverside Walk before you get to the beginning of the Narrows. As soon as you walk in the water, you’ll realize why the walking stick is so critical. You’ll want to use this to feel out the depth of the water in front of you and use it to steady yourself in the current. Some of the rocks can be very slippery, so step carefully through the water. You’ll make your way back and forth through the water and over land as you complete the hike.
There is no official trail, so there is a bit of trial and error as you go. That’s what makes it so fun! Most people turn around at around 3 miles when they get to the confluence of the river. We made it 4 miles in at the beginning of March, when the water got too deep and we couldn’t proceed any further without the water getting into our waders. It’s important to note that the hike takes longer than other hikes because of the tricky conditions. The 8 miles round trip took us four hours, but it can take even longer.
Things to See on the Narrows Hike
Water comes down the canyon walls and seems like it comes from nowhere. Look up at these miraculous falls and take in the wonders of this beautiful canyon.
The confluence is the area where the river forks and goes off in two directions. If you walk to the right, you will be able to see veiled falls and if you continue to the left, you’ll walk through the Wall Street area of the Narrows. This area is known for its narrowness and the gorgeous canyon walls that extend high up above.
This is another great marker in the Narrows. Here, you’ll see a large boulder that almost looks like it’s floating at certain times of year. After this area, the water often gets very deep and you may have to swim across it 🏊♀️. On our last trip, we only made it a little past the floating rock before turning around.
If you’re doing the bottom up day hike, then this is the farthest you can go. Here you’ll be able to see lots of little waterfalls coming out of the canyon walls and it is supposed to be one of the prettiest parts of the hike. Unfortunately, we could not make it here when we went.
I hope that this guide to hiking the Narrows was helpful for you. This is one of my favorite hikes I have ever done and I can’t wait to go back at a different time of year.
Zion Narrows Packing Guide
Going on the Narrows hike requires more preparation than other day hikes. Because you are going to be walking through a river with slippery terrain, you’ll want to wear proper apparel. It’s important to wear shoes with good traction and layers.
If you are going in the summer, you may also want to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet. Some people wear bathing suits 👙 under their normal hiking clothes.
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Small Pack
- 3-4 Liters of Water
- Snacks and Food
- First Aid Kit
- Walking Stick
- Hat to block sun
- Rain jacket or light winter jacket
- Satellite phone
My favorite hiking gear is also linked here!
Walking through the Virgin River as red cliffs surround you is one of the most incredible experiences. Is clear that the Narrows is one of the best hiking trails in Zion! So, make sure that you add this to your itinerary on your next trip into the park!
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this trail guide!
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