Hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park (Everything you need to know!)

In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike the Narrows, one of the most unique and fun adventures in Zion National Park!

During our May 2018 visit to Zion National Park, the #1 thing we wanted to do was hike the Narrows. How often do you get to hike through water with 1,000 foot canyon walls towering over you? The answer, for us at least: not often!

So with the proper gear in hand (or should we say, on foot!), we boarded the shuttle and entered the very cold, ankle to thigh deep water and had the most epic time!

To this day, the Narrows is still one of our favorite and most memorable hiking adventures. However, unlike the other trails in Zion National Park, the Narrows requires some special planning, preparation, and gear to fully enjoy. 

And in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know, including safety warnings, the two route options, when to do the hike, what to bring, and so much more! The Narrows may require a little bit more planning to hike, but it’s a must-do adventure when visiting Zion National Park!

Leave No Trace Principles

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

  1. Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
  4. Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
  6. Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About The Narrows

Zion National Park is the 4th most visited national park in the United States and is home to steep orange and red cliffs, slot canyons, and the Virgin River, which winds through the park.

And along the North Fork of the Virgin River lies a 15 mile stretch called the Narrows, which is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, with walls of the canyon sometimes reaching 1,000 feet high and as narrow as 20-30 feet wide.

The Narrows are accessible through either Zion Canyon or at Chamberlain’s Ranch (we will cover the two route options below!) and regardless of which route you take, you’ll get the unique and fun experience of walking through the river, with crazy canyon walls surrounding you.

Safety Warning for Hiking the Narrows

Before we go any further, we want to stress some very important safety information when hiking the Narrows.

As with all slot canyons, the Narrows are very susceptible to flash floods because the surrounding terrain is mostly rock face, which does not absorb water. The rainwater will flood into the canyon and conditions can get extremely dangerous and deadly very quickly. Make sure to check the weather reports before your visit and set out on your hike. Do NOT hike the Narrows if there is rain or storms in the forecast. Even rain miles away can flood the slot canyon.

The summertime has the highest chance of flash flooding, with more frequent thunderstorms, but it can happen anytime of the year, so always be prepared and check the forecasts. The National Park Service will close the Narrows if there is flash flooding, if the flow rate is over 150 cubic feet per second (CFS), and also sometimes during the spring when the snow is melting.

Always check the current conditions before you go, but at the end of the day, while the park will close the Narrows if deemed dangerous, your safety is your responsibility, so please do your research.

WARNING: Currently there are high levels of Toxic Cyanobacteria Bloom in the Virgin River. As of the most recent update (March 21, 2021) from the National Park Service, visitors are encouraged to avoid all contact with the water, especially by submerging your head or drinking the water, until further notice. Find out more information here.

How to hike the Narrows (Route Options)

As we mentioned above, the Narrows are located on the North Fork of the Virgin River, which is the river that runs through the park. But you do have two options of where to start this hike. 

Hiking the Narrows from the Bottom Up

The most popular way to hike The Narrows is to start from Zion Canyon, by riding the park shuttle to stop #9, the Temple of Sinawava. This is called hiking the Narrows from the bottom up and does not require a wilderness permit.

To hike from the bottom up, you start along a riverside path, before entering into the Narrows and can go up to 5 miles each way, to Big Spring and back, without a permit.

However, one of the best things about the Narrows is that you can hike as little or as much (within 5 miles each way) as you want! The AllTrails map above shows 1.9 miles with 193 feet of elevation gain, which is just for the paved Riverside Walk.

To get the full Narrows experience, you’ll want to enter the river at the end of this walkway and walk through the water! We highly recommend hiking 3-4 miles (one way) into the Narrows to the famous Wall Street section, which has the towering walls and narrow passageways we mentioned above.

This map by Zion Guru is SUPER helpful to understand what you will see along the way if hiking from the Bottom Up.

Hiking the Narrows from the Top Down

Another option is to hike from the top down. To go this route, you will start from outside the park at Chamberlain’s Ranch, which is an hour and a half drive from the park. 

This route requires a permit, which can be difficult to obtain during the peak season and if the Virgin River’s flow is too high they don’t issue the permits. You can learn more about obtaining a permit for the Narrows here.

Hiking the Narrows from the top down is about 16 miles and can either be done as one long day hike or can be turned into an overnight camping trip and split into two days.

In addition to a permit, you will also need some sort of transportation to take you outside of the park to the start of the trail at Chamberlain’s Ranch. Once finished, you’ll end at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop and can take the park shuttle back to the visitor center.

If going with a group, you can park one car at the Chamberlain’s Ranch trailhead and one at the visitor center, or if you only have one car, you can hire a private shuttle, like Red Rock Shuttle, to take you to Chamberlain’s Ranch, and leave your car at the visitors center. 

While hiking from the top down is a more challenging and longer experience, it is also a lot more secluded and gives you the chance to see portions of the Narrows that many visitors have not seen. We’d love to try this someday!

For this guide we will focus on hiking from the bottom up, as that is the most popular and accessible option, and the only route we have done.

How to get to the Trailhead (Bottom Up Route)

To hike the Narrows from the Bottom Up, you will need to be able to get to the start of the trail at the Temple of Sinawava, located down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Depending on when you visit, here are the different ways you can get to the trailhead.

Between December and early March

During this time frame, private vehicles are allowed to drive down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, so you’ll be able to drive to the trailhead yourself to complete the Narrows. However, this is the timeframe where snowmelt and higher water levels can become a problem, as well as very cold water temperatures. 

Before you attempt to drive yourself, check the park website to make sure that the date you are visiting does not require the park shuttle vs. your own vehicle. The dates that Zion Canyon Scenic Drive becomes a shuttle-only road can change every year.

Between mid-March and November

During this time frame, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only accessible by the park shuttle (no private vehicles allowed), Zion Lodge guests (only to the lodge and then the shuttle is required further down the road), and pedestrians, and bikes. Here’s a rundown of each option you can consider to get to the trailhead during this timeframe.

Zion shuttle
Photo Credit: NPS

Shuttle Tickets

Zion has a FREE park shuttle that can take you to the Narrows trailhead. And as of May 28, 2021, they are no longer requiring you to get a shuttle ticket in advance, which was really challenging to get. This means you’ll just show up to the Visitor Center and wait in line for the shuttle like you used to.

However, the park is experiencing record breaking crowds and from our experience riding the shuttle in May 2018, where we had to wait in line at least 1 hour to get on the shuttle, the shuttle lines will likely be crazy long (and the trails they take you too will be busier as well), so get there early!

Bike

Another option to get to the Narrows is by bike. The perk of this option is that it can be free (if you own a bike) and you’ll get to go at your own pace! If you do not have a bike, we highly recommend renting an eBike for this, as it’ll make the trek a lot faster and you’ll have more energy for the hike.

For traditional bike rental options in Springdale, check out Zion Cycles and Zion Outfitter. And for eBikes, check out Outta Here Bikes and Ride Zion.

There are bike racks at the trailhead, so make sure to bring a lock!

Walk

You technically can walk to the Narrows, but this is quite a commitment, as it is 9.8 miles (one way) to the trailhead from the Visitor Center.

If you do not want to deal with the shuttle crowds and do not want to ride a bike or walk, we suggest checking out Kanarra Falls as an alternative to the Narrows. This hike is located outside of the park and while it’s a bit smaller than the Narrows, it has the added bonus of waterfalls too! There is a permit required, so check out our guide to Kanarra Falls for everything you need to know!

When to hike The Narrows

Between flow rates, snowmelt, crowds, and other conditions, there are a few important things to consider when deciding when to hike the Narrows.

Spring

In the spring, the Narrows can be closed because of the high flow rate due to the snowmelt, so make sure to check the current conditions so you’re not bummed when you show up and find out that you cannot do the hike.

The most popular time to hike the Narrows is late spring and during the summer when the water level has dropped and when the water and air temperatures are warmest. We hiked the Narrows during Memorial Day weekend in 2018, so while it was technically still the spring, it was at the later part of the season. The water was still very cold, but totally manageable! 

Summer

Summer is the most crowded time of the year and for good reason! The days are long, the shuttle runs later, and both the air temperature and water temperature are warmer. However, summertime also brings a higher chance of flash floods due to afternoon thunderstorms, which can make hiking the Narrows extremely dangerous. 

Fall

Fall is a fantastic time of year to experience the Narrows! The temperatures drop a bit and the crowds aren’t as wild. The downside is that the shuttle times start to get shorter, so you will have less time to hike. 

Winter

Winter can be a tricky time to hike because of the cold temperatures, possible snow covering the road, which can cause it to close, and less daylight. If you decide to hike in the winter, make sure to wear the proper gear, like dry pants or a dry bib.

What to Bring to The Narrows

As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!

Gear

To have a great experience in the Narrows, you will need to rent some gear. The gear items you need depend on when you visit, but at the minimum the three necessities are neoprene socks, canyoneering boots, and a walking stick. Dry pants and dry bibs are recommended if you’re visiting in the winter or early spring.

We rented our gear from Zion Outfitter and were able to pick up our items the night before so we could get started early. You can also rent gear from Zion Guru and Zion Adventures

If you decide to not rent gear, make sure you wear sturdy footwear. Hiking in the Narrows is like walking on slippery bowling balls and you’ll want to make sure you have the best grip possible!

Water

Make sure to pack water! We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink from while moving. 

Layers

Even in the summer, the Narrows can be quite cool, as the sun can be blocked by the tall canyon walls. Make sure to pack layers!

Water Protection

It is safe to say you might slip and fall into the water at some point in your hike. Be sure to have some sort of waterproof solution for your electronics and other items that could be damaged by water. We have this dry bag for kayaking and other water activities. 

Headlamp

If you start the hike late in the day, make sure to pack a headlamp in case you get too far into the Narrows and can’t make it out before dark arrives. We wouldn’t recommend starting too late though.

Snacks

There are a handful of areas, depending on the water level, where you can sit on some rocks and enjoy a packed lunch or snacks. Make sure to pack out all of your trash!

AllTrails

We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map before you go. While the Narrows are super straightforward, as there is really only one route, there is not much cell service in the area and it’s helpful to track your progress on the trail. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it!

Things to know before hiking The Narrows

Ready to conquer the Narrows? There are a few final things to know before hitting the trail.

Restrooms

There are restrooms as soon as you get off the shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava. Make sure to use these beforehand, as there is nowhere to use the restroom while in the Narrows.

You will get wet

The BEST part of the hike is that you will get wet! Although, we do realize not everyone may enjoy this, so if walking through cold water, potentially thigh deep, doesn’t sound fun to you, you may want to skip this hike.

Start early!

While the water may feel extra cold starting in the morning, you’ll have a much more pleasant experience in the Narrows if you start early. Not only will you beat the crowds, but if you’re visiting in the summer, starting early will be your best bet to avoid thunderstorms.

Dogs are not allowed

Dogs are not allowed on trails (minus the Pa’rus Trail) at Zion National Park.

Learn what we do with Kona when she cannot join us

Our Experience at The Narrows

After picking up our gear the night before (we rented neoprene socks, canyoneering boots, and a hiking stick from Zion Outfitter), we grabbed a quick breakfast at Cafe Soleil and walked into the park to grab a shuttle for the Narrows. 

This was back before you needed permits for the shuttle, which sounds easier, but we will say, the line was CRAZY long. It was Memorial Day weekend and while the crowds hadn’t been too bad until this point, we waited for the shuttle for at least an hour. 

We finally got on board the shuttle and headed to the final shuttle stop, the Temple of Sinawava, to begin our water adventure! You walk along the river at first before entering the water and the area right around the beginning of the Narrows was definitely busy, but the crowds thinned out a bit as we made our way through the Narrows.

It was our first time wearing neoprene socks, which are like wetsuits for your feet, and although the water was a bit shocking to feel at first, the socks worked wonders to keep our feet comfortable! While our feet were definitely wet, the socks kept them from being freezing cold.

The water was between ankle and calf deep most of the time, with a few areas being thigh and waist deep, which made things extra exciting. We were so thankful for the canyoneering shoes and walking stick, which helped big time with keeping our balance. We surprisingly didn’t slip and fall!

Our goal was to make it to Wall Street, which is 3 miles in (from the trailhead, not the start of the water portion) and along the way we got to see the crazy canyon walls, SUPER clear water, some trees and greenery, and even split off to a side canyon to see Veiled Falls.

We were only able to go a little bit into Wall Street, as we unfortunately had to turn around so we could hit the road towards Bryce Canyon National Park. But no matter how far you get to go, you’re in for a treat! We sound like a broken record, but it’s a truly unique and memorable experience and is a bucket list hike not only in Zion, but in the United States!

Where to eat before or after hiking the Narrows

Looking for things to do before or after your hike? Here are some spots nearby to check out!

Restaurants

Coffee and Sweets

Other things to do in and around Zion National Park

Hike more in Zion National Park! Be sure to read our 3 Days in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks Guide for more hikes, tips for the parks, and info on where to stay. Our favorite hikes in the Zion Canyon area include:

Visit Kolob Canyons (Zion): This area is GORGEOUS and way less busy than the main canyon. The only downside is that it does have fewer hikes to choose from, but we recommend looking into: Middle Fork Taylor Creek (4.9 miles), Timber Creek Overlook (1.1 mile), and Kolob Arch (13.7 miles).

Visit Kolob Terrace (Zion): We LOVED this area! Similar to Kolob Canyons, it is way less busy than Zion Canyon and still has a great view! The Northgate Peaks trail was easy and had an awesome payoff at the end.

Walk through water and a slot canyon to Kanarra Falls! This is a mini version of the Narrows hike, but with the bonus of having capacity limits (150 people a day) and a fun ladder and waterfall! Permits cost $12 per person and dogs are not allowed. This is a great hike to combine with Kolob Canyons! Watch our experience here and learn more about the hike in our Kanarra Falls hiking guide.

Ready to hike The Narrows?

Pin this guide to hiking the Narrows to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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