Imagine you cross a raging river. You are surrounded by cliffs, a few hundred meters high. The only thing you hear is the sound of water. You feel a pleasant, humid cold on your skin. You look up and you notice a narrow bit of sky between dramatic rocks. You feel helpless towards nature and its forces. And amazed by its beauty.
That’s what hiking The Narrows feels like.
The Narrows is a canyon, 25 km (15,5 miles) long. The canyon is located in Zion National Park. In some places it’s over 600 m (2000 feet) deep. Virgin River runs through the canyon. When weather conditions are favorable you can visit it – you can hike in the river into the canyon. Yes, you got it right – not along the river. In the river 🙂
What should you know before hiking The Narrows?
The Narrows – practical tips
1. The Narrows – How long is the trail?
You can adjust the length of the trip to your capabilities. It starts at the last shuttle bus stop – Temple of Sinawava.
The trail recommended for one day ends on Big Springs after 8 kilometers (5 miles). Theoretically. Our hike there and back was 18 km long, we kept crossing the river from one side to another looking for shallow water 🙂
It took us around 5 hours but the time depends on water level a lot. In mid-September the water most of the time didn’t get above our knees and if you were cautious you could hike the whole trail with your butt dry 🙂
2. The Narrows – do I have to rent equipment?
To hike The Narrows you should rent canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks and a walking pole. During months with higher water level you can also rent dry pants or a dry suit. But is it necessary?
I’ve seen people hike The Narrows in regular hiking boots, in sandals, in swim shoes, in flip flops or even barefoot. Which doesn’t mean I recommend you to do the same thing.
If you plan to hike a small part of The Narrows, up to half an hour one way and the water is shallow – you will make it in any shoes and without neoprene socks. Take a trekking pole or find a big stick in the forest. It will help you keep your balance on slippery stones.
If you plan a longer hike I recommend you to rent the whole set – shoes, socks and a pole.
The Narrows from start to the end is a 5 hours walk in a chilly river. Can you imagine what your feet would look like after such a long time in water in sandals or barefoot? I can. Not only would they look like a prune but also you could feel freezing cold.
Another difficulty are slippery stones at the bottom of the river. You need shoes with a thick, stable sole which won’t slip on each and every pebble. Otherwise you can fall easily, not mentioning that the stones can hurt your feet.
If you have to save money and you have some hiking boots you won’t feel sorry to destroy you can rent neoprene socks only and use them with your boots. This way you won’t feel cold and thanks to the hiking boots you will be able to keep your balance.
We rented the shoes, socks and a pole in Zion Guru, the price of this set for a day is 22$. It’s worth it. I felt safe and comfortable and I wasn’t afraid to destroy my lovely hiking boots.
3. Should you hike The Narrows if you can’t swim?
Adam can’t swim and he managed 🙂 And seriously, you need to talk to the park ranger. Your safety is the most important. If the water level is low and the current isn’t strong you will manage easily. Take the walking pole, you will use it to check the depth of the river. I bet you prefer to avoid an unpleasant surprise which would happen if you don’t notice a deep hole 🙂
4. The Narrows – additional information
Regardless of the fact if you can swim or not you should talk to a park ranger. Ask him about the water level and the current, the probability of flash floods. Remember that your safety is the most important here.
If I planned to hike The Narrows again I wouldn’t hike all the way to Big Springs. I would turn back at the end of the most beautiful part – Wall Street. Wall Street in some places reminds me of Antelope Canyon. It’s not that narrow, but equally breathtaking. The hike would still be over 6 km (3 miles).
The nature beyond that point is still beautiful… but you won’t find anything more spectacular than you’ve seen before. And believe me, the way back seemed to last forever. Especially that there’s no toilet on a trail and it’s quite hard to use the nature with massive cliffs around… 🙂
I strongly recommend you to hike The Narrows. It is a unique trail, something completely different. You walk in a river, surrounded by cliffs a few hundred meters high. You feel helpless towards nature and its forces. And amazed by its beauty.
If you already read about Zion, check also if you notice any of these 4 signs you shouldn’t hike Angels Landing. Angels Landing is another very popular trail in Zion, which can raise your adrenaline very efficiently. Check also what you need to know about camping in the USA – it’s the cheapest (and the best!) accomodation you can have in national parks. And then for a city break you can spend a sinful night in Las Vegas 🙂
And if you’re still only dreaming about travelling there – start from these easy steps to plan your trip to the USA and make it happen!
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