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Zion Narrows Hike - Everything You Need to Know
If you are planning a trip to Zion National Park, then hiking the Zion Narrows needs to be at the top of your list because the Zion Narrows is a legendary hike!
Notably, you are hiking the Virgin River upstream. The river is your trail. The water is cold and the current is strong. You are hiking in knee deep to waist deep water. The riverbed has sections of sand and sections of slippery rocks.
Moreover, you are hiking in the canyon where in some areas the walls rise up to more than 1,000 feet, however they are only 20 feet apart.
Conversely, the rewards are great! You will see waterfalls, huge boulders, hidden canyons, hanging gardens, and so much more.
Here is everything you need to know to have an unforgettable experience.
Where Is the Zion Narrows
The Zion Narrows is located in the north Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah.
How to Get to the Zion Narrows
1. BY PLANE
There are two International Airports that are the closest to Zion National Park that you can fly in: Las Vegas, Nevada located 170 miles from the park and Salt Lake City, Utah located 300 miles from the park.
The closest Regional Airports are located in Saint George, Utah – 49 miles form the park and Cedar City, Utah – 60 miles from the park.
2. BY CAR
If you are driving from Las Vegas, Nevada and/or Saint George, Utah following are the directions:
- Interstate 15 North
- Exit 16 – Right on State Route 9 East (33 miles)
- Right to stay on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah (20 miles)
- Stay on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park, the Visitor Center is ahead on the right.
If you are driving from Salt Lake City, Utah and/or Cedar City, Utah following are the directions:
- Interstate 15 South
- Exit 27 – Left on State Route 17 South (26 miles)
- Left on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah (20 miles)
- Stay on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park, the Visitor Center is ahead on the right.
Zion National Park Shuttle
If you are planning to hike the Zion Narrows between the months of March through October, then using the shuttle is mandatory. No private vehicles are allowed inside the park. By the same token, shuttle is free. Your park entrance ticket covers the cost of the shuttle.
The shuttle operates in Springdale, Utah, as well as inside the park. Following is Zion Park Shuttle System. Take the shuttle and get off at the last stop number 9, Temple of Sinawava.
Access to the Zion Narrows Hike
The starting point for this hike is the last stop on the bus shuttle, number 9, Temple of Sinawava. You start with the Riverside Walk, which is 1 mile long. It takes you to the Zion Narrows.
By the way, the Riverside Walk used to be called the Gateway to the Narrows.
When Is the Best Time to Hike the Zion Narrows
- The Zion Narrows is open year round. However, the National Park Service closes the Zion Narrows whenever the water flow is above 120 cubic feet per second. You can check the current water levels at USGS National Water Information System for NORTH FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR SPRINGDALE, UT
- The Zion Narrows hike is generally closed for much of the spring months (mid-March to late May) due to snowmelt and spring run-off.
- Historically, the month of June has low water levels.
- During the summer months, July and August, the North American Monsoon can bring on rapid afternoon rainstorms which may cause flash floods. Weather forecasts need to be taken very seriously.
- Do not hike the Zion Narrows if there is any kind of rain in the forecast. This hike can change into a monster within minutes with a strong, rushing water.
- If the Zion Narrows is on your bucket list, then your best option is to hike it in the fall. September, October and November have the most stable weather.
- Winter hiking (December, January and February) is possible with the proper protection. It is cold and the water is frigid.
How Long Does It Take to Hike the Zion Narrows
Distance – 5 miles one-way
- Temple of Sinawava to Gateway to the Narrows – 1 mile
- Gateway to the Narrows to Mystery Falls – .5 mile
- Mystery Falls to Wall Street – 1.25 miles
- Wall Street to Orderville Canyon – .25 mile
- Orderville Canyon to Big Springs – 2.5 miles
Length of Time – 3-4 hours
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Essential Gear to Tackle the Zion Narrows Hike
- Shelter (for overnight hike)
- Dry Bags
- Water Shoes
- Neoprene socks or Seal Skinz
- Dry Pants (early or late seasons)
- Walking Stick
- Camera and extra battery
- Hydration System – bladder, bottles, and filtration system
There is an option to rent basic gear like shoes and dry pants. Reservations for the rentals are not required but are available on the Zion Outfitter site: Zion Outfitter.
Rental Packages and Prices
1. Warm Weather Package – it is recommended during summer months and includes canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a hiking stick. The canyoneering boots provide a great grip on wet or dry rock. In addition, they give an awesome ankle support. Further, you need to know that your feet will get wet, but they will be kept warm by the neoprene socks. The wooden hiking stick is ideal for balance and stability. Believe me, you will need it!The rental cost is $24.
2. Dry Pants Package – it is recommended during fall when the water levels are low but the water is absolutely frigid. Dry Pants Package includes dry pants, which are waist high, canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a wooden hiking stick. The pants will keep all water out so you are able to wear your regular hiking clothes underneath. The rental cost is $41.
3. Dry Bib Package – it is recommended during spring and winter. The water levels are high and of course the water is icy cold. The Dry Bibs come up to the armpits providing more coverage than the dry pants. The package includes: dry bibs (waders), canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a wooden hiking stick. The rental cost is $45.
You can rent the waterproof backpack as well to keep all your documents, phones, cameras, etc safe and dry.
Three Options of Hiking the Zion Narrows
There are several ways you can hike the Zion Narrows. If this is your first time hiking the Zion Narrows, then option number one is the best solution. It is a one-day hike “Bottom Up” from the lower end of the Virgin River, up the stream.
One-Day Hike “Bottom Up”
- In less than half-a-mile from the Gateway to the Narrows, you will reach Mystery Falls. It is a very beautiful spot where the water falls down the walls. You can stop right at Mystery Falls and retrace your steps.
- If you feel like you are able to continue on, then, it is roughly 1.25 miles from Mystery Falls to Wall Street. Notably, Wall Street starts when the walls narrow and the Virgin River fills the canyon bottom.The scenery is beautiful here.
- Just a few minutes from the start of Wall Street is the junction with Orderville Canyon coming in on the right. Wall Street section lasts about a mile and it is stunning. As the walls begin to open, I would recommend this as the turn around spot.
- If your goal is to reach Big Springs, then it is roughly 2.5 miles from Orderville Canyon to Big Springs.
One-Day Hike “Top Down”
- It is a single-day hike from the upper end of the Virgin River down the stream. This 16-mile route takes an average of 12 hours. The trailhead is at Chamberlain’s Ranch. It is 1.5 hour drive from the Zion National Park Visitors Center to Chamberlain’s Ranch.
- By the way, you will need either two vehicles or you will have to use a shuttle service.
- Shuttle prices range from $35-$45 a person and depart either from the outfitter’s office or from the Zion National Park Visitors Center. Departure times vary, but I would recommend taking the earliest departure possible. You should call to reserve your space in the shuttle as you have your dates finalized. Shuttles fill up well in advance.
There are several companies that offer the shuttle service. The least expensive one that I found was Zion Rock and Mountain Guides.
Overnight Hike “Top Down”
- This is an overnight hike from the upper end with camping in the canyon. You will be able to enjoy the Zion Narrows at a more leisurely pace.
- Keep in mind that only one-night stays are allowed, and overnight trips must start from Chamberlain’s Ranch. Again, as soon as you have your Zion Narrows hike date confirmed, make reservations for the campsite.
- Now, if you are hiking in a large group, keep in mind that only two sites can accommodate groups of more than six people.
- I think that getting the overnight backpacking permit is the most difficult part of planning your trip through the Zion Narrows. Here is the website where you can make the reservations: Zion Wilderness Reservation System
Do you need a Permit to Hike the Zion Narrows
You do not need a permit for One-Day Hike “Bottom Up”. You do need a permit for either One-Day Hike “Top Down” or Overnight Hike “Top-Down”.
If you are planning a trip to Zion National Park, then review my blog post The Essential Guide to Zion National Park, it contains all the details to help you plan a great trip. In addition, if you only have one day to explore Zion National Park, then check out my post How to Spend One Day in Zion National Park
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Now, I would like to hear back from you!
Have you hiked the Zion Narrows? How was your experience?
Are you planning a hike through the Narrows? When are you going? Let me know! Leave me a quick comment right below!
Also, click on any of the images below to get inspired or get more ideas for things to do in Zion or in Utah.