Through this article you will learn everything you need to know for Zion Narrows Hike.
The trail “The Narrows” is located in Zion National Park, one of the most popular National Parks in the US. If you are planning to visit Zion National Park, the Narrows is a must! There are many amazing trails in Zion National Park, but the Narrows is probably my favorite adventure. I’ve hiked around famous national parks in the US, but the Narrows was by far the most breathtaking hike I’ve ever experienced. In fact, it is known as one of the best slot canyon hikes in the world.
What’s so unique about the Narrows is that you will basically hike through the Virgin River, which means you have to wade / swim to proceed. You will be surrounded by the towering walls of the Zion canyon and beautiful flowing water. Seeing the sunlight come through the dark corners of the narrow canyon is such a magical experience.
For those of you who don’t know what to expect when hiking the Narrows, here is everything you need to know!
Although Zion National Park is open all year, the Zion – Narrows heavily depends on the weather conditions. According to National Park Service, Zion Narrows is closed when the water flow rate is over 150 cubic feet per second (CFS). There is a higher chance to be closed during the spring snowmelt. Since spring snowmelt is from mid-March to beginning of May, I recommend you check the Current Conditions. Besides the snowmelt, you need to be mindful for a Flash Flood Warning. Since Flash floods are always possible, you need to check the weather forecast before you decide to hike the Narrows.
No you do not need a permit to hike Zion Narrows. However, you can only hike as far as the Big Spring unless you have a permit. There are 2 routes to enjoy the Narrows: Bottom Up Hike from the Temple of Shinawava (NO permit required) or Top Down Hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch (Permit required). For casual hikers who want to see some of the most beautiful and narrowest parts of canyon, I would suggest Bottom Up Day Hike from the Temple of Shinawava. We hiked Bottom Up Route and saw some of the most amazing canyon views.
You need to plan the entire day to hike the Narrows. We did Bottom Up hike to reach Big Spring, and it took us about 6 hours round-trip. You also have to consider the shuttle (40 minutes each way from the Visitor Center) and riverside walk to and from the beginning of the Narrows. We went to Zion Outfitter for gear rental in the morning, so we started hiking around 11am. At the end, we rushed our way back to catch the last bus. I would recommend leaving as early as possible, especially if you want to take time to enjoy the views, take photos, and stop for snacks or lunch.
If you decide to hike as far as Big Spring, it will be an 8 mile round trip. Although you can hike as far as you want to go and turn back any time, you do NOT want to miss the narrowest part of the canyon called Wall Street. Here, you will encounter 1500-foot walls which are the result of millions of years of erosion. There is no formal destination, but you have to return the same way you came. If you want to hike Top Down Route, the journey will be 16 miles, which take an average of 12 hours. For more information, check out here.
Summer (MAY 15 – SEPTEMBER 15)
Summer is known to be the best time to hike the Narrows. Water levels tend to be low, and hiking along the river is a perfect reason to escape from the hot weather. Just be mindful for thunderstorm though. Make sure you check the weather forecast and flash flood warning before heading out.
Autumn (SEPTEMBER 15 – NOVEMBER 1)
Fall is another lovely season to visit the Narrows. The water levels are generally very low, so hiking in the river tends to be easier than other months. We visited the Narrows at the beginning of September, and it was beautiful. Just be mindful as the day becomes shorter. Also be prepared for the colder water.
Winter (NOVEMBER 1 – MARCH 15)
Some people say winter is a great time to visit the Narrows, mostly because it’s less crowded compared to other months. However, you need to be well prepared for the cold water. A drysuit may be required, depending on the temperatures. Also be mindful that the water level could rise rapidly if the sun is out and snow starts melting.
Spring (MARCH15 – MAY 15)
Spring is the least ideal season to visit the Narrows. If you can, you should probably avoid visiting the Narrows in spring. As I mentioned earlier, there is a higher chance the Narrows is closed due to spring snowmelt. Also the water tends to be very cold, and March and April are the rainiest months in Utah.
I would say the Narrows was relatively easy compared to the other trails in Zion, especially Angels Landing and Observation Point. However, you should be well prepared, and be mindful of the weather as the water levels can frequently change. If you have kids it might be difficult to hike as far as Big Spring and to keep them safe the entire time.
For more US adventures, check out Fun Things to Do in South Florida
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