I’ve done the Narrows hike twice so far, once without any proper preparation where I nearly froze and the second time overly prepared, but starting late where I couldn’t finish.
I have a ton of knowledge on hiking this place that I want to share with you if you’re a first timer thinking of trying it.
These 8 tips on hiking the Narrows will help you prepare properly before you go:
I’ll cover things such as:
- What you need to wear (Dry suites? Regular clothing? Wetsuit?)
- What gear to bring (shoes, special socks, sticks).
- When the best time to hike the Narrows is (What you wear and the gear you bring is determined by which season you go).
- And other important stuff to make sure you get through it safely (avoid flash floods, hypothermia, ect…).
- And just in general how to hike this place and have a great time.
Quick information (Q & A) on the Narrows hike:
Where is it? Zion National Park.
How long is the hike? About 7 miles one way (and you do have to hike back so over 14 miles in total).
How long does it take to finish the hike? Half a day (12 hours for most people).
Where do you start the hike? From the bottom up hike located at what is known as the Temple of Sinawava. You drive to a parking lot and walk to this area, before entering the Narrows hike officially. Most people start here. You should too for your first time.
As for everything else such as what to bring and how to prep, I’ll cover that in the 8 tips.
Most people aren’t prepared to hike the Narrows because of this:
Lack of proper research.
Too many people who try this hike (including myself) make many unfortunate mistakes when visiting this place and it ends up ruining their experience and forcing them to turn back which is something I had to do. Don’t make my mistakes, read my tips and you’ll have a great time in one of the most beautiful places in Utah and probably the world.
The Narrows has to be the most fun hikes I’ve ever done so far in my life. And this is beyond Zion National Park, it’s also everywhere I’ve been. I’ve also done the Observation Point and Angel’s Landing Hike (well most of it).
The Narrows are unlike any other thing type of nature walk you’ll ever do because you’re literally going through a canyon, in water most of the time and seeing some truly indescribable beauty.
So let’s get to these 10 tips to hiking the Narrows:
This is all based on my experiences going there twice:
1) When the best time to hike the Narrows is:
It really depends on the kind of weather you like, if you enjoy crowds (or not). So let me explain it this way (2 possible choices):
1) If you are not into crowds and want to hike the Narrows when there’s as little of them as possible, go during the winter season (January through early March).
- There are barely any people at Zion National Park.
- There is no shuttle service, so you can drive up to the Narrows Parking area.
I personally like that because I don’t like crowds or waiting for a shuttle. I want to explore places in my own car, on my own time.
But be aware that during this time, the water is EXTREMELY cold, so you’ll need to wear a dry suite or some other protective gear to make sure you don’t freeze (tip on that coming up).
2) If you don’t care about crowds, shuttle rides, don’t want to freeze in the waters of the Narrows and even prefer hot weather, then go to the Narrows during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. The water will still be cold, but not nearly as bad as during the winter time and you’ll be able to hike the Narrows (albeit with more crowds) with just regular water shoes.
2) Bring the following gear on your Narrows hike:
1) If you’re going during the winter season, a dry suite is almost necessary (next tip), lest you have a wet/thermal suite to protect your feet and legs from the cold water.
Everything else, such as hoodie or jacket is totally up to you and how much cold you can withstand. During the cold seasons, the Narrows can become a wind tunnel and very cold air can blow within it, so be aware of this.
When I went the second time through this hike, I wore a pair of under armor pants, warm socks, a t shirt and warm hoodie, and then on top of that, put the entire dry suite on. And I’ll tell you, even with all that on, there were times that I was cold, and not because of the water, but because of the wind.
Also bring a walking stick and a snack because the hike is long and you may want to rest.
2) If you’re going during the warmer seasons, bringing regular hiking clothing, water shoes, and even spandex clothing is fine. And again, bring a walking stick!
3) Rent or buy a dry suite. They are the best gear for hiking the Narrows when it’s super cold.
As my friend and I learned, going in February means stepping into some pretty freezing water.
This was the reason we couldn’t even get through half a mile of this place without having to turn back. However, during our walk there, we ran into a few people who were wearing special gear you could have purchased right outside the Narrows, on the parking lot area where the entrance to it is.
The gear is called a dry suite. And you can rent or buy them at stores right near Zion (one place is called Zion Guru). For rentals, you can get them for $60 a day per person. That’s where I got the beauties you see to the right.
If you want to buy them, be prepared to spend a lot of money, but here is a link to one good dry suite.
You may want to consider buying one if:
1) You do trips through Narrows like hikes and/or travel through water that’s super cold around the world often.
2) If you don’t like wearing dry suites that other people wore before you.
Here’s a picture of the dry suites I rented with my friend before we went the second time:
I know they look ridiculous (or maybe we just look ridiculous), but let me tell you they are AMAZING at protecting you from getting wet or cold.
Trust me, if you’re going to go during the cold seasons, you probably won’t last long hiking the Narrows without these.
4) Avoid flash foods in The Narrows by going at these times:
Usually anytime between July-September is considered rainy season in Zion any time there is rain near the Narrows, there is a risk of a flash flood. The trail area before the hike does have an indicator of the risk of floods so watch for that if you go.
Also going during peak heat season (June) or fall seasons (after September) is typically dry season in the Narrows, so there’s less risks of floods.
5) Don’t worry about hiking all of the Narrows:
It’s at least 7 miles to the other end of the hike, and after awhile, the scenery, no matter how awesome, starts to look the same. The first time I hiked the Narrows, I got about a kilometer in before I had to go back because of the cold.
The second time, I did about 2 miles before it was starting to get dark and my friend and I were starting to get bored too. There’s only so much “Wows” you can have before you start to want to go back.
6) Know your physical limits and take your time with the hike.
Obviously hiking 4 miles, upriver mind you (which is how the Narrows hike works) is tough, and depending on how early you start, plus your place will determine how far you get.
Don’t go too far in without knowing that you will have to turn and head all the way back.
Keeping this in mind will help you figure out how far you’re ready to go into the Narrows, although I will say that the further you go, the more you want to keep exploring it because it’s just so beautiful there.
7) Start the Narrows hike early if you’re worried.
You should go during the early morning generally when the crowds are small and during the day when the water is warming, but preferably off season to again, avoid the large crowds and enjoy the peace there.
Do not do this hike in the late afternoon because then you’ll be trying to hurry up through it to avoid it getting dark, and the sun setting there generally means the canyon will be the first to start getting dark.
Now I do think there are night time hikes available there, but in that case, bring a water proof flashlight, one that’s really powerful.
8) Not all of the Narrows hike is in water.
In fact, many areas have a lot of land. It depends a lot on the season you go in and/or if you hike in the Narrows after a rainy season. For me, half of the hike involved being in water, while the other was on land.
9) Take your time with the hike (it’s over 15 miles and takes about 12 hours).
Even if you start it late, it’s important not to rush it because walking across slippery rocks in water is dangerous.
You’ll want to take your time, and pace yourself because it’s not the length of the hike there that tires you out, but navigating across the watery areas and avoiding the slips (which will likely happen anyway). That’s what takes most of the energy out of you.
10) Hiking the Narrows at night (is it doable?).
Since it’s open 24 hours, the answer is yes, but you are obviously want
Did you know there are more hikes like the Narrows? Here’s a preview:
If you enjoy this trail and want to know of others that look very similar to it, I have a list of 8 hikes like the Narrows you can check out.
These are hiking trails I’ve either done or added to my personal list of places to see.
I’ve also included map listings of each spot. Be aware, some of these spots are very remote so you don’t have the civilization or safety element like you do with the regular Narrows hike.
With that said, if you have any of your own personal tips for hiking the Narrows, do let me know below and thanks for reading!