This post will explain (in great detail) how to hike to Narrows of Zion National Park for beginners and I’ll be covering the following things:
- How to get to the Narrows.
- When the best times to go are.
- What to wear (hiking shoes, outfits, etc…).
- What else to know before you hike here (flash floods, dangers, etc…).
All of this information will help you properly prepare for this hike and while it isn’t very difficult, it is very long and there are many circumstances that could affect your experiences there.
I’ve personally hiked much of the Narrows 3 times and it is an amazing experience, but one that I find a lot of people improperly prepare for (including myself the first time I went there). So this post is going to make sure you don’t make any mistakes and get the best experience hiking the Narrows!
Quick info on the Zion Narrows hike:
- Name: The Narrows.
- Location: Zion National Park.
- Distance: Up to 14 miles in and out.
- Difficulty: Easy to hard (depends on how much of it you do, how you prepare and when you go).
- Permit needed to go? No.
- Rating: 5 out of 5.
- Recommended hike? Absolutely! The Narrows is indeed one of the most incredible hikes you will ever do, and as long as you’re not injured and know what to expect, then this is definitely a hike worth trying, even if you don’t plan to do the whole thing!
How to get to the Narrows of Zion National Park (map):
It’s easy to find as you will just have to get into one of the 2 official entrance to Zion National Park and then turn on the Zion Canyon Drive road, and take it to the end. There you will find a parking lot, with a bathroom and walkway that will take you into the Narrows.
That walkway is actually a very scenic experience and even if you don’t do the Narrows hike, you can still enjoy the sights there and even site on the small beaches along the way.
But that walkway goes for about 1/2 miles until it ends and that’s where the Narrows begin. That location is known as Temple of Sinawava which is basically the trailhead of the Narrows.
How to hike the Zion Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava (what to expect):
From the point that you reach the end of the walkway, you will need to get into the water and work your way up the Virgin River. For the beginning of that hike, the water isn’t deep (about 1 foot and sometimes waist deep in areas) and that applies for a year round hike.
There are some deeper spots as you progress further upriver but you can actually avoid a lot of those deep spots by just seeing where the shallow spots are. The deeper you go into the trail, the less people you will see there and there will be some deep spots, but also small beaches where it’s dry that you can navigate on.
You can hike the Narrows as far as you want. The first time I went there, I only went about 1 mile in (it was during winter) before I couldn’t do it anymore (I was basically barefoot). The second time, I went in for several miles (and was properly dressed for it).
How long is the Narrows hike?
If you are intending to do the full hike, keep in mind that it is 7 miles one way until you reach the end which is a waterfall that represents the end of the trail, and then you’ll need to backtrack however long you went in.
There will be a fork about 3 miles into the hike where you will need to turn left if you want to keep doing the Narrows hike. Turning right will take you into another canyon known as Orderville Canyon. You can actually explore both, time permitting but again if you want to do the full Narrows hike, go left.
Just in case, you may want to download a map of the Narrows trail from Alltrails or similar apps to be sure. In any case, how long it takes you to do the Narrows depends on how far into it you wish to go (and how much time you have to do it). Sometimes people get bored a few miles in and turn back, then try another hike in Zion, which in my opinion is one of the best ways to get more out of your Zion experience overall.
When the best time to hike the Narrows?
I’ve hiked the Narrows on 3 occasions. 2 of them were during winter time (January) and once was in November. Here is one of the pictures from those hikes:
As to when you should go, it really depends on the kind of weather you like (see Zion National Park weather info here), and if you enjoy crowds (or not). So let me explain it this way:
If you go in the Spring or Summer months:
That is the most popular time to visit the Narrows. The only advantage of going then is that the water isn’t too cold and aside from regular hiking shoes and walking sticks, you really don’t need to wear much.
Disadvantage wise, you are going to have to deal with 2 obstacles: Massive crowds and having to take a shuttle to the Narrows because during the Spring through summer seasons, because of the crowds, shuttle services becomes mandatory and you will have to wait for buses which come every 15 minutes to take you there.
If you go in the fall or winter season months:
You may still have to deal with shuttle service in November (not December) and that disadvantage plus the fact that it’s very cold is what you need to be aware of.
Advantage wise, you are not going to have to deal with the shuttle service in January and even February. Plus there will be a lot less people on the Narrows hike with you.
Timing (when to start the Narrows hike):
If you’re intending to go far into the Narrows, start as early as you can not just so you have more time to explore it, but also because you will have less crowds on the trail. For the entire hike, it may take you half a day if not longer to finish.
What to wear to hike the Narrows:
If you’re hiking during the spring-summer seasons:
You really don’t need to go crazy with the gear. Just good hiking shoes like these, clothing for summer hiking, a backpack for snacks and other gear and walking sticks is enough.
If you’re going during the fall-winter seasons:
Expect the weather and water to be extremely cold. It may be manageable for some people to go in regular socks or hiking shoes (in other words, your feet will get wet), but the further you go into the Narrows, the more dangerous that becomes so I wouldn’t recommend it. For winter season hiking, I recommend this:
- Wear waterproof socks. Those are great for hikes like this and will keep your feet warm.
- Neoprene socks like these are also excellent for this type of hike.
- Here are the best hiking shoes for the Narrows (for winter hikes).
- Have trekking poles (something like the Trailbuddy trekking poles are perfect for this) or hiking sticks as it’ll help with the balance.
Note: It does get colder inside the Canyon even during hot seasons so keep this in mind.
If it’s really cold and you want to be fully safe, then the best thing to wear for the Narrows hike is a dry suite and this is what it looks like:
I’m on the right of that picture and what a dry suite specifically is, is a full covering that protects your body from water, weather and so forth. They are specifically designed for hikes like the Narrows and I have to say they served us very well on the Narrows hike. I even went chest deep in some places of the hike and it was an awesome experience.
There are 2 ways to get dry suites:
1) Buying them but I warn you now, dry suites are expensive. If you’re OK with spending money on this stuff and plan to do the Narrows hike more than once or similar ones, then yeah you should get it. Here is a great dry suite option.
2) You can rent them, and there’s stores right outside Zion that do that:
I rented mine from Zion Guru. You can get them there for $60 a day, per person. That’s where I got the beauties you saw before.
There is also Zion Outfitter that has them.
The Narrows flash floods (and how to avoid them):
Yes they happen, but rarely and 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 and obviously if it’s red, I would avoid it and just do other hikes in Zion National Park.
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. More information on flash floods in Zion National Park.
Did you know there are more hikes like the Narrows? Here’s a list of some:
There’s actually a bunch of hikes throughout the US that have the name “Narrows” by them, but there are also specific hikes without that name which look a lot (or even better) the Narrows hike in Zion and I’ve explored a few of them, but recommend the following options:
1) The Barracks. This is probably one of the 3 most look alike alternatives to the Narrows. It is a very remote hike though, so you need to be experienced to do it.
2) Gorge trail in Capitol Reef National Park. Very similar looks to the Narrows, but it is more dry there.
3) Coyote Gulch. This is also a hike in Escalante Utah that is very remote and takes people through a Narrows canyon that has a creek on it (lots of dry areas), but there are also gigantic arches and natural bridges there which I think makes it better for hiking than the Narrows. You can also camp there.
4) Willis Creek Slot Canyon. This is a great and easy hike in Utah. It’s a smaller version of the Narrows, but it’s also almost entirely dry year round and very scenic.
5) Water Canyon in Hildale Utah. This is a hike I did and it’s short, but amazing. It looks like the Narrows after the first mile and has a lot less people.
Other parks near Zion to explore that have similar attractions:
1) Bryce Canyon National Park (it doesn’t have a Narrows, but the hikes there are very fun).
2) Capital Reef National Park. You will some river hikes, but the park looks very similar to Zion overall.
3) Arches National Park. No Narrows type hikes there, but the arches you will see there are insane.
4) Canyonlands National Park. The final park of the Mighty 5 National Parks of Utah, and it is basically an alternative park to explore to the Grand Canyon since it looks similar to it, but there are no Narrows hikes there, but incredibly nice views!
5) If you’re staying around the Zion area, I would highly recommend seeing the town of Kanab (if you’re on the eastern side of the park) or St. George Utah if you are on the western side, as both these locations have tons of amazing hikes and none national park attractions to check out.
But overall, the Narrows is one of the best hikes in Utah and you should do it! But if you have any questions, let me know below and thanks for reading!