Narrows Introduction & Overview
If the Zion Narrows is new to you, we'd love to introduce you! Start here to get an idea of what the Narrows is and whether your group might want to explore it. For more information about the Narrows, check out the sidebar links.
What is The Narrows?
What is the Hike Like?
Who Can Hike The Narrows?
The Right Gear Matters
A Hike For A Seasons
Know Before You Go
3 Ways to Hike
For thousands of years, humans have been fascinated with canyons. The “narrows” of any canyon refers to the place where the parallel walls squeeze down to their most slender dimension. These steep, narrow slots cut into the Earth by rivers, creeks, and streams evoke drammatic light, serpentine form, and humbling beauty. Following the Virgin River north into Zion Canyon, 1500 to 2500-foot sandstone walls slowly encroach upon the river, a mere 1/4-mile wide at the Temple of Sinawava. From here, the canyon walls squeeze down incredibly to 25 to 30-feet wide at “Wall Street,” defining the world-famous Zion “Narrows."
Wall Street is a 2 mile (3.2 km) section of slot canyon where the walls become as narrow as 22 feet (7.2m) apart and tower 600 feet (182 m) overhead. No road or trail can take you to this awesome place; you must walk through the river to see it for yourself. To get there, you may hike the shorter Bottom-Up route, or the full 16-mile Top-Down through-hike. Whichever way you choose to hike the Narrows, you will have an incredible experience. Smoothly carved sandstone walls, beautifully fluted, twisting slots, and towering walls await you in myriad sections of the 16-mile Narrows corridor. For most hikers, time is the most important factor influencing their decision: “How can we best spend our precious time in this incredible place?”
The Narrows hike is of epic and intimate proportions. Imagine wading in flowing water through a corridor of red, brown, and black stone towering 1,500 feet above you. Walking upstream, hikers are small dots of color,amongst the immense proportions of this sky-stone-river hallway. With each bend of the river, we watch the canyon twist and turn, revealing immense overhangs, sculpted towers, and vertical rock walls. And yet, amidst all this grandeur, we find surprises of delicate beauty: a carefully carved alcove, a lush garden of flowers growing from the canyon wall, a thin cascade of water trickling from a side canyon.
The Narrows is an escape into an unreal world, a playground for everyone. As we swim in deep pools, scramble up gigantic boulders, or simply sit and marvel at the clouds above, we allow ourselves to embrace the explorer, the adventurer, the dreamer inside each of us.
- If you can walk, you can hike the Narrows.
Each year, thousands of teachers, lawyers, artists, athletes, students, grandmothers, janitors, kindergartners, and space cadets hike the Zion Narrows. The Narrows is an entry-level canyoneering experience, exciting enough to draw visitors from all over the world and moderate enough to allow almost anyone to explore its depths. In the Narrows, you navigate in and alongside the river, crossing from shore to shore through water mid-calf to mid-thigh deep. The river IS the trail, making slippery rocks, flowing water, and gritty sand a part of every step. Once in "Wall Street," water spans from wall to wall, but you can avoid the deepest pools with good route finding skills.
There are many shoreline areas for lunch, rest, photography, and retreat from potential flooding. Fortunately, elevation gains/losses are insignificant in the Narrows (the average elevation change is only 104 vertical feet/mile).
The Bottom-Up Hike is ideal for anybody who enjoys a walk through stunning beauty. River hiking requires concentration, because of the diverse terrain but is still not very strenuous because the topography is flat. Remember, you can turn around at any time, and the return trip is easier because it’s downhill and downstream.
- The Narrows challenges hikers to prepare for a unique experience with unconventional gear. Although some choose to hike the Narrows with their trusted hiking boots and daypacks, such hikers often return with ruined boots, sore feet, and a wet, uneaten lunch.
In 1996 Zion Adventure Company began the outfitting process to help people have an amazing time in the Narrows with specifically innovated equipment for river hiking, so you can have a comfortable and safe experience. Our functional and effective rentals enable thousands a year to devote more time and attention to the amazing place they came to see.
Learn more about our Narrows-specific gear...
Each new season brings vast changes in temperature, scenery, and visitation to the Narrows. If you've visited The Narrows during one season, we invite you to return during a different one to experience another side of this magical place.
SPRING conditions in the Narrows vary widely, based on the volume of snow and rainfall Southern Utah experiences during the winter and early spring. Deep snow packs lead to unhikable flood conditions for weeks or months, while light winter precipitation leaves the river hikable during the entire spring. Even in a low-precipiation year, expect spring hiking to feature higher water volumes, leading to deeper water, more challenging hiking, and an increased level of physical adventure. For those seeking a combination of physical challenge and solitude, spring is probably the best time to hike the Narrows.
SUMMER hikers often encounter low river volumes, making hiking easy and widely accessible. This accessibility can lead to vast crowds in the Narrows, as visitors from all over the world flock to one of the America's premiere hikes. Those seeking solitude often leave early during the summer season (before 8 a.m.) to hike the Narrows Bottom-Up route. Alternativley, the Narrows Thru-Hike, a 16-mile journey thorugh the entirety of the Narrows, offers a combination of solitude, physical challenge, and the opportunity to spend a spectacular night beneath the yawning heights the walls above. While June is typically quite dry in Zion, July through mid-September is "monsoon" season in southen Utah, when afternoon thunderstorms can dump fast and furious rainfall into our narrow canyons, increasing the risk of flash flood. If you plan your visit during late summer, create flexibility in your schedule so you can choose a safe day for your Narrows hike.
AUTUMN visitors find beautiful autumn foliage, perfect air temperatures, and beautiful, clear water flowing through the Narrows. With kids returning to school, the Narrows grows less boisterous and more serene, offering more opportunities for wildlife sightings and quiet, contemplative walks. Mid-September through November might be the most reliable time of year to hike, as weather systems are typically stable and moderate air temperatures make a visit to Zion ideal.
WINTER adventurers find icicles, snow, and near silence as rewards for their intrepid visit. Though the water is cold, fleecewear and drysuits enable the brave to the curious to enjoy the Narrows all winter long. Though daylight is short, the value in having the entire river to yourself can be more than worth the effort and preparation of a witner visit.
Like many stunning Western landscapes, the Narrows can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. Though most hikers have positive, exciting journeys through the Narrows, each a few experience frightening floods, broken bones, and intense hypothermia. By educating ourselves prior to the hike, we can enjoy a safer, more confident time in this amazing place. Take a moment now to learn about the most common risks involved in a Narrows hike:
Tripping and Falling
By far, the most common injuries in the Narrows stem from hikers losing their footing and falling down. Not only are river rocks wet, round, and extremly slippery, they are also prone to unpredictable movement, making walking much more difficult than usual.
Read the Full Article
Whichever way you choose to hike the Narrows, you will have an incredible experience. Smoothly carved sandstone walls, beautifully fluted, twisting slots, and towering walls await you in myriad sections of the 16-mile Narrows corridor. For most hikers, time is the most important factor influencing the big decision: "How can we best spend our precious time in this incredible place?" You have three options:
- Bottom-Up Day Hike: Most Narrows hikers choose this route for their visit. The Bottom-Up Hike offers the most options, the shortest time commitment, and the opportunity to see the most dramatic sections of narrows, known as "Wall Street." If you are short on time, consider this option. Many people who hike Bottom-Up return in later years for the full Thru-Hike experience.
- One-Day Thru-Hike: This aggressive, 16-mile day is for those short on time, but filled with energy and motivation. One-Day hikers travel the entire length of the Narrows, earning a great workout and some incredible views along the way. The pace of this hike can be overwhelming, however; most one-day hikers find little time for picnicking, photography, swimming, napping, or simply gazing in wonder. If you can create more time in your schedule, consider the Overnight Thru-Hike.
- Overnight Thru-Hike: Spending the night in the Narrows is well worth the effort and planning it requires. Camped on a sandy outpost between gaping 1,500-foot walls, you are surrounded by a rushing river, a sea of smooth cobblestones, and a narrow ribbon of infinite stars above. With two full days to hike, the overnight trip allows you to lounge by the river, take pictures, explore swimming holes, and delve into side canyons you find along the way. Hundreds of past Thru-Hikers strongly recommend this hike to you.