This year’s Memorial Day was one for the books— We did one of the most unique hikes at Zion National Park, the Narrows. This hike, one of the Best American Adventures according to National Geographic, has you wading through the Virgin River in a narrow slot canyon that surrounds you with the 1,000-2,000 foot walls towering above at some points. While it is no secret, it’s certainly unique and should be on your adventure bucket list!
When my friend Rachel suggested going to one of the most visited national parks during Memorial Day, I flat out said no due to the crowds I was imagining, but I am so happy that I reconsidered! This was one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done.
About the Hike
There are a couple different ways to hike the Narrows— either bottom-up or top-bottom. The bottom-up option which starts from the shuttle stop at Temple of Sinewava requires no permit, no additional shuttle scheduling, and is the shortest option. We chose to go with this route as we didn’t want to worry about getting a permit. This is also an option that you can choose as far as you want to go during the hike, and you can turn back at any point. We ended up hiking about 3.5 hours in and 2.5 hours back.
This hike is almost all in water— between thigh-deep and waist-deep— but be prepared to swim if you slip or encounter deeper parts! The route is also walking the river in water you cannot see through at times, on top of slippery, bowling-ball sized rocks. On the day we went, there was a bit of a current to fight (going both ways), so while it’s not cardio-intensive, it takes time and energy to navigate and route-find.
The scenery is red rock canyon walls, milky blue-green water, hanging gardens, and occasional weeping rocks. We enjoyed seeing the sun rise high above the canyon throughout the day.
May, June, September are usually ideal times to go because the temperatures are more comfortable and the water levels are not too high or fast.
The best part was “Wall Street” which shrinks down to 25-30 feet wide in some areas. It was a truly enchanting experience.
Our group had varying levels of gear, but it all depended on personal preference. The most important items were ziplock bags/dry bags to keep your precious items dry, a walking stick or poles, and sturdy soled shoes that you’re comfortable walking in while wet.
I ended up renting the shoes, socks, and a walking stick, and I was very comfortable the entire time. I just wore Nike spandex shorts, a dry fit shirt, and a light sports jacket. Brighton ended up wearing his normal hiking shoes, using my trekking poles, and wearing normal clothes— and he was also fine.
- Water, at least 2L of water per person & snacks
- Walking stick or trekking poles
- Dry bag for cameras/electronics/extra set of clothes
- Ziplocks for smaller items such as cell phones and wallets
- Trash bag to line your backpack, just in case!
- Water resistant backpack
- Waterproof boots & neoprene socks OR sturdy hiking boots with good grip – I rented the boots, socks, additional dry bag for my DSLR, and walking stick from Zion Adventure Company
- Sun protection: sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
- Camera with adequate protection OR waterproof (like a GoPro) — We brought both 🙂
- Take the first shuttle of the day! If there’s anything I kept reading over and over, it was this piece of advice. I was SO thankful for going earlier in the day because it was cooler, there were fewer people (even on Memorial Day!), less waiting in line for shuttles, and we had all day to explore!
- There are walking sticks available at the beginning of the Virgin River area if you get there early! One of our friends didn’t rent one, but she was able to snag one at the start and was thankful for the extra stability in the tough river crossings.
- Face upstream when crossing the river when there is a strong current. It’s easier to stabilize yourself as you cross.
- There are no restrooms along the way so be sure to go at the trailhead!
- Be aware of the weather. Flash floods are possible at any time. We went when there was 0% chance of rain, but weather can be unpredictable.
Have you ever hiked the Narrows? What’s the most unique hike you’ve ever been on?
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