Zion Narrows – Zion National Park
You may or may not be aware that the Zion Narrows is the highest rated hiking trip in Zion National Park and is also listed by many publications and web-sites as one of the top 100 in the world. In some cases the Zion Narrows hike even makes the top-ten list.
What is the Zion Narrows? The Zion Narrows have been created over many thousands of years by water that continuously flows through this section of Zion National Park. Approximately twenty five miles north of Zion National Park is Cedar Mountain with elevations ranging over 11,000 feet. Some of the snow melt and rain from this plateau drains south into a basin that is just above Zion National Park. In this basin several tributaries come together to create a good flow of water that becomes the Virgin River and this waterway continues to cut deeper and deeper into the sandstone formations of Zion National Park. The Zion Narrows are cut hundreds of feet into various layers of sandstone and form a narrow passage that winds through the northern section of Zion National Park. The Zion Narrows section of the park is just over 16 miles long.
When should I hike the Zion Narrows? With warmer summer temperatures most people enter the Zion Narrows in June, July, August, September or even early October. In spring-time, depending on annual precipitation, the Zion Narrows has a water flow that is not safe for access. However, during summer and early fall the Zion Narrows are normally very enjoyable. You will mostly be walking in shade, so even on warmer summer days you may get chilled if you get your upper body wet so prepare accordingly. You can enter the narrows in some winter months but should never do so without a dry-suit or at least a good wet-suit. This is a gorgeous place, but the Zion Narrows can be very unforgiving for the unprepared. Remember that you never want to be in a slot canyon on a rainy day. It’s always good to check with the Zion Hiking Permit desk for details.
How should I experience the Zion Narrows? There are several options for experiencing trips into the Zion Narrows. The most popular is to enter from the bottom of the Zion Narrows at a place near the formation called the Temple of Sinewava. A one mile paved walking path leads you to a point where the Virgin River literally reaches to both edges of the canyon walls. From this point you will be walking in water for as far as you choose to go up the Zion Narrows. You can access the trail-head for this entry point from the Zion shuttle.
Other options for experiencing the Zion Narrows are to either start at the top and walk the entire 16 miles, or to enter from a side canyon such as Orderville Canyon. A permit is required. Visit the following link for more details on these Zion Narrows hiking routes. Shuttles to the top of the Zion Narrows are available.
What will I see? If you are walking up the Zion Narrows you will find that the canyon walls will often get closer on both sides. Water seeps down through the soft sandstone until it hits a more dense layer and then the water is forced to the outside of the rock. The moisture at these layers will often create beautiful hanging gardens of ferns and other plants. At times you may see water flowing down the side of the canyon walls. There are areas where sand bars have been created but for the most part you will be walking in the water on smooth river rocks. Every turn in the river brings a new and very dramatic view of the narrow canyon. Direct light rarely accesses the narrows but it does reflect into the canyon creating soft illuminations on the multicolored rocks. You’ll easily fill your camera’s memory card.
What should I bring? Plenty of water or a method for filtering water. Still camera and/or video camera. Snacks or food per your needs. Warm clothing or a towel in case you get cold. Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes or water shoes. Visit this link for details on other items to consider.