How to Prepare for Hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park
Updated: Sep 10, 2022
In this post we will discuss everything you need to know to Prepare for the Narrows.
To get to the Narrows take the Shuttle from the visitor’s center to the last stop 9 Temple of Sinawava. Make sure you look out the window. We saw a handful of mule deer and just enjoyed the ride and views of Zion Canyon. Shuttle Stop 9 has maps, some information, water, places to rest and bathrooms. Make sure you take care of 1 and 2 before you start your hike into the Narrows.
The first part of the Narrows is a paved trail. Do not feed the squirrels. Similar to Bryce Canyon they could carry the plague. Additionally, these squirrels are very opportunistic and will open backpacks left unattended. People play in the Virgin River however, heed the warnings and do not put your face underwater as you may get sick from the bacteria present. The rest of the hike is mainly in the water, however there are dry spots where you can grab a snack, adjust clothing, or take a rest.
The Narrows is what you make of it. To prepare for the Narrows you need to understand the water flow. For context when we hiked the water flow was 30 cubic feet per second. Our 9 year old
daughter and older boys hiked very well in the water, however any additional volume would have made it difficult and we would have hiked fewer miles. Vital to success in the narrows are neoprene socks, good hiking shoes, and a hiking pole that is about as tall as you are. You can rent all of these items from various outfitters in the area however, long wooden sticks are available at the Virgin River, Neoprene socks can be purchased from Amazon, and we wore our normal hiking shoes and had a great time. The Narrows also requires dressing in layers. We noticed that shirts, long sleeve shirts, hoodies or other insulated layers were helpful and we adjusted throughout our hike. The water can chill you and it will make the experience less fun. Finally, you may want to pack some additional upper layers in case someone stumbles and gets their clothes wet. Stumbling is also a reason to have a water resistant pack and quick drying bottoms.
Comment below on your time in the Narrows
We planned for a long hike by packing our 2 liter water bladders, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, protein bars, first aid kit, maps, gummy worms (for a treat), and trail mix. Based on our phone app we made it about 4 ½ - 5 miles until we chose to turn around and hike back. The beauty of this hike is that every turn provides something new and you can turn around for your time and ability.
Tell us in the comments why you are looking forward to the Narrows
When we started our hike in the water we were unbalanced. The rocks are mostly basketball size and smaller. The hiking poles provide for a 3rd support, in addition to your feet, that is so helpful throughout the hike. If you plan on using a wooden stick you might consider wearing gloves to prevent blisters and splinters. You probably won’t need gloves if you rent from an outfitter. If the trail is busy the water gets cloudy and you will not be able to see the footing which will make it more difficult. We noticed this on our way out of the Narrows. Additionally, with a lot of people the best path may not be available to you because others are using it. At one point we noticed that our hiking got better and our awkwardness went away as we hiked. As we finished the hike we felt like experts compared to those just starting out. So, be kind and make each step carefully as every step is important.
There are a lot of beautiful items to explore while hiking the Narrows. Take in all of the vegetation. Zion is home to around 900 different plant types. Waterfalls exist on the canyon walls. Some are more visible than others. Any time of day the sun will cast shadows that provide many colors on the canyon and in the water. The geology is beautiful, too. If you are able to find some quiet on the hike listen to the water and enjoy its flow and relaxing sound.
Flash floods and high water can ruin your hike and the park rangers can help you understand any risk for the day and what to expect. As you can see we enjoyed our trip into the Narrows. Prepare for the hike and you’ll do well.