Hiking the Zion Narrows is yet another one of the Zion National Park’s incredible hiking options. As long as you’re willing to get a little wet, you’re in for an incredible experience unlike any trail you’ve hiked before. This hike features large cliffs on either side of you, incredible rock formations and the beautiful Virgin River is your trail.
Need To Know Information:
- This hike is accessible for anyone. It has a paved path for 1 mile that even has wheelchair accessibility for a short while. THose that are willing to go beyond the paved path, and hike up the river into the canyon will be rewarded with even more views. Any ability level can do this, as one can turn around at any point, or can hike up to 4.5 miles into the canyon (10 miles round trip).
- Hikers that hike beyond the paved path will get wet. In the summer, you can wade in the water with your own shoes, but you will hear most people recommend bringing waders, or renting waders from a nearby shop. The water and weather can be pretty cold October – May, which is why you’ll see just about everyone in wading gear during these months. Read our section on how to rent gear below.
- There are two different routes to make this trip, one of which requires a wilderness permit, and another that does not. The most common route is from the bottom up, where hikers do not need to obtain a wilderness permit. Other options are from the top down, where a permit is necessary. If taking the top down approach, it is often split up into a two day hike. This article will highlight the more common route, from the bottom up, but will also quickly touch base on the top down approach that requires permits.
- The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (road to this trailhead) is closed to private vehicles during the shuttle season. The shuttle is free and typically operates March through November, weekends in February and March, and the last week in December. Outside of shuttle season, the road is open to passenger vehicles to park at the trailhead. You can read more about the shuttle system here.
Distance (bottom up): 9.4 miles maximum round trip (15.1 km)
Difficulty: Easy, To Intermediate, to Strenuous (depends on how far you go into the canyon)
Duration: 4-7 hours on average (allow for 6-9 if you want to explore the coolest places)
The Narrows – Bottom Up | 9.4 Miles (15.13 km) Round Trip
This is by far the more common route, and can be accessed by individuals of all ability levels. Starting at the Temple of Sinawava, hikers can walk to the “Gateway To The Narrows” on a paved and wheelchair accessible path.
Hikers will reach the end of the paved path 1 mile into the hike.
Beyond this point hikers will need to be ready to step in water and be wet the rest of the way unless you have acquired wading gear.
2 miles later, hikers will reach the junction between Orderville Canyon and the beginning of the section called “Wall Street”. Here hikers can bear right or left at this junction. To the right is the path to Veiled Falls (a beautiful detour of the normal path), to the left is the main route to continue on through the narrows. This detour up Orderville Canyon is very narrow, has even higher canyon walls than the main section.
Wall Street is the narrowest section of the main path through the canyon and absolutely stunning.
By continuing left, hikers will be heading towards Paired Boulders, Big Spring, and the end of Wall Street.
Big Springs marks the end of the hike for bottom up hikers as a permit is necessary to go any further beyond this point. Hikers reach Big Springs 5 miles into the hike.
The Narrows – Top Down | 16 Miles Through Hiking
This is a 16 mile trek from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava (Zion’s 6th shuttle stop & parking area) in Zion National Park, and requires a permit. You will also need to arrange a ride to Chamberlain’s Ranch, located about an hour and half by car from the Zion Park’s entrance.
Many choose to utilize some of the 12 campsites located in the narrows.
Renting Gear For The Narrows
Hikers have a few logistically quite easy options for renting gear to hike the narrows. Gear rentals are recommended during colder months so that hikers can stay warm while wading in the water. There are generally a two outfitters, with a few rental options to choose from:
https://zionoutfitter.com/narrows-rentals/ (located about 30 seconds outside the National Park Entrance)
https://www.zionadventures.com/rental-narrows-equipment-957784.html (located about 2 minutes outside the National Park Entrance)
Both are extremely conveniently located, making the pickup and drop off quite simple. Our recommendation is to walk in one of the shops the day before your hike, have them help get the gear that fits you, and walk out ready to go for the following day. Pricing is similar for each and can be found on the websites.
Both of the shops here offer the following options, that can be picked up the day before your hike, and dropped off the day of your hike.
Wading Socks & Boots – Your feet will be in neoprene socks and boots that act as a wet suit. This will keep the feet warm, comfortable, and safe when hiking, but the legs will be cold. This is a common summer option.
Wading Socks, Boots & Pants (or bibs) – In addition to the above socks and boots, hikers will also get wading pants (or bib) that hold a tight seal around the ankle. This keeps the legs dry, and the feet stay in a wetsuit style. This will keep most warm enough in all seasons, but anyone who doesn’t want the wet suit style feet can elect for a fully dry outfit (explained next). The dry upper part can come in pants, or a full bib that is waterproof to the armpits. Higher water level days, would make the bibs a better option. In addition to this, hikers can choose to rent
Fishing Wading Gear – This is not a common option as the local shops don’t offer the classic wading gear that you see fly fisherman in. This wading gear utilizes wading pants that keep the feet and legs completely dry. Because the local shops don’t offer this option, hikers will need to bring their own wading gear or rent from a fishing shop nearby.
Both shops also rent wading sticks (very important for balance) that come with your rentals.
Narrows Current Conditions
The Narrows will shut down when river flows exceed 150 cubic feet per second. Check the current conditions here: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/conditions.htm
Hiking from the bottom up, you will not need a permit. If you are hiking from the top down, you will need a permit.
There are a couple of ways you can obtain a permit. You can apply online, 3 months in advance of your trip with a $5 lottery fee (non-refundable). You can also apply for a last minute drawing 2-7 days in advance of the hike, or you can get a walk-in permit the day of or the day before your hike. This last is a risky option, but during less frequented months, you can almost guarantee a spot this way.
Walk-In Permits can be obtained at the Zion National Park Visitor Center
Want to apply online? See here: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/narrowspermits.htm
$15 for 1-2 people
$20 for 3-7 people
Do I Need To Rent Gear For The Narrows?
You are absolutely going to get wet and stay wet in the Narrows. This is fantastic during the warmer months, but colder months can actually be quite cold. This part of the park is often 5-10 degrees cooler than the rest, and you will also be walking through the river. During high water, the Virgin River can be strong, making a walking stick a great tool. You should wear footwear that can handle getting wet and stepping on loose river rock. Many choose to rent waders that are available to rent outside the park if you don’t have wading equipment of your own.
If you are willing to be a little cold, or are used to this kind of thing, you can get away with just about any kind of shoe in the summer months, but it is necessary to have proper warm wading gear for fall, winter, and spring months.
Temple of Sinawava: You will need to take the Zion Shuttle system to get here. It is the last stop.
Chamberlain’s Ranch: this is the top down approach that requires a permit)
Other Zion National Park Hikes
If you are a little nervous about hiking the Angel’s Landing trail, or maybe need a few extra hikes in Zion, you should absolutely check out the following:
Rain and snow. Mostly cloudy. High near 40, with temperatures falling to around 36 in the afternoon. South wind 5 to 12 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
A slight chance of snow before 8pm. Partly cloudy. Low around 18, with temperatures rising to around 20 overnight. West northwest wind 2 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Sunny. High near 40, with temperatures falling to around 36 in the afternoon. Southeast wind around 5 mph.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 20. East southeast wind around 5 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 40. Southwest wind around 7 mph.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 19.
Partly sunny, with a high near 41.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about