Kam does The Narrows – Zion National Park

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Alex and I visited Zion National Park October 25 – 28, 2012, which was about a year from our initial trip to the beautiful park.
This trip included one of the most popular activities in the park: Hiking The Narrows.

How popular is it? 

There are T-shirts, water bottles, bumper stickers, and magnets available for those wanting to commemorate their hike through the Virgin River. It’s popular. The hike is 16 miles long total and can be done as a day hike (about 13 hours of hiking) or as an overnight trip where you sleep in the canyon. The hike involves lots of wading through the river and may include swimming depending on the time of the year.

Alex and I did the actual hike on Saturday, October 27, 2012. We hiked it the same way as most first-time hikers/tourists do it…bottom up. That means we started our hike at the end of the Garden Walk at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop and worked our way up the Virgin River to an area known as Wall Street (although we had no idea that Wall Street was a “thing” until people started asking us how much further they needed to hike to get to it).

We knew the water was going to be cold, so we rented “farmer johns” (essentially neoprene overalls), neoprene socks, walking sticks, and shoes from Zion Mountain School (the same outfitters we used for our canyoneering adventure). For how inexpensive the rental was for the two of us, I was astonished at how many people were in the water in jeans and street shoes.

The water didn’t go higher than my mid-thigh (so less than 3 feet) but I was using my hiking pole/stick to measure the water as I moved through the river, so it was deeper in places, I just avoided those areas. The flow was strong in some sections, but I was able to use my pole to keep me upright as I moved at diagonals from one side of the canyon to the other…moving against the current takes a bit of energy, so making the current work with me helped a lot.

It took almost four hours for us to do our hike, we would’ve continued up the canyon, but judging the angle of the sun, and how long it took us to get to where we stopped, we decided it was best for us to turn around. We forgot to turn on our GPS tracking to show us our route/speed/distance, but we have a good idea of how far we hiked based on the location of Wall Street. As we were finishing the hike, there were still people starting…we do not recommend starting any later than 1:00 p.m. during the fall, you do not want to be in the canyon past sunset. It is cold and already difficult to see where to put your feet between the rocks. Be safe.

Are you planning a trip to Zion National Park? While my experience isn’t the same as somebody who hikes it during the summer months, I’d like to share some reminders/helpful tips that will make your journey even more enjoyable.

Things to keep in mind:
  • There are no bathrooms in The Narrows. Seriously take the time to go at the restrooms by the shuttle before entering the river.
  • Leave to trace. Nobody wants to see your bag of Cheetos floating past them in the water. Take care not to drop things, mark on the rocks, carve into trees, or take anything from The Narrows. Leave only footprints, take only memories.
  • It’s cold. It really doesn’t cost much at all to rent some Farmer Johns (like Neoprene overalls), the Neoprene socks, some river shoes, and a hiking stick. We were able two sets for about $40.00 from Zion Mountain School.
  • Daylight. Alex and I decided to turn around after hiking through Wall Street and noticed that the sun was getting lower. As we excited the river, we saw a lot of people just starting the 2 hour trek and it was already 3:00 p.m. Don’t be dumb. Start early. Bring a headlamp if you’re going to start in the late afternoon, and just don’t be dumb.
  • Either leave your valuables in your car (which isn’t always a safe option) or get a dry sack (I use a magenta Sea to Summit for visibility reasons) to put your phone, ID, and other things inside in case your pack ends up in the water.
  • Calories. You’ll be burning them no matter how slowly you’re going. Bring some snacks, or even a light lunch, with you. There are some larger beachy areas that you can sit on while you’re chowing down. Be sure to bring a trash bag (we used a shopping bag) and bring everything back out with you. Don’t feed the wildlife.
For an account of what it is like to backpack The Narrows from the top down during the same time of year, check out Tim’s recent hike report.
Have you hiked The Narrows?
Is this kind of hike appealing to you?
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Adventure Hiking National Park

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