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Zion National Park is one of America’s great natural wonders. Hiking in a river between steep canyon walls on the Zion Narrows hike is a very unusual adventure.
I’ve been on a lot of interesting hikes over the years, including wildlife abundant jungle in Costa Rica and up exploding volcanoes in Guatemala. But there are plenty of awesome hikes available in the United States too.
By far one of the most unique is the Narrows hike in Utah’s Zion National Park.
Zion Canyon is a 15 mile section of imposing 1500 foot sandstone cliffs that have been cut away by the Virgin River. The Narrows is the most popular hike in the park, partly because it traverses through parts of the canyon only 25 feet wide. Hence the name.
The journey is rated as one of America’s 100 Best Adventures by National Geographic.
Hiking Zion Canyon
The Zion Narrows hike is particularly unusual as a majority of the trek is within the river itself, wading up to waist deep or even swimming short sections due to lack of dry land in between the sheer rock walls.
I was visiting in November and it was beginning to get cold outside. Slow season in the park meant less hikers on this famous trail. Always a bonus.
So while I was happy there wouldn’t be too many people around, it also meant I’d need to hike through a freezing cold river for over a third of the route…
No matter. I love a good challenge. Getting up before dawn to pack lunch and prepare for the trip, I headed into the national park from my hotel located in the quirky little town of Springdale.
Groups of beautiful big horn sheep were a welcome sight on the drive to the trailhead, munching grass for breakfast on the side of the road.
Icy Water in the Narrows
To hike the Narrows without a permit, you start at the Temple of Sinawava. It’s possible to get here by shuttle bus if you don’t have a car. The first section of the trail is called Riverside Walk, and it’s a dry hike for about 1 mile.
After that it’s time to get into the water! During autumn months, most people wear waterproof pants & boots with neoprene socks to help stay warm in the 40 degree water.
But I’m too stubborn/cheap to rent extra gear, so I just wore shorts and a pair of regular hiking shoes. It was a poor decision. :?
Only 2 hours into the adventure, my feet were completely numb. They felt like solid blocks of ice attached to my ankles!
Slot Canyon Scenery
Trudging through the icy water was a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t notice it too much due to the stunning scenery that opened up around every twist and turn. Impossibly high, steep, rust-colored walls glowing warmly with the rising sun.
These soft sandstone cliffs were smooth and wavy from the mighty power of the river.
I encountered maybe 15 other people during the 6 hour round-trip hike that took me past famous Zion Canyon landmarks like “Wall Street” and “The Narrows”. Most of them were amateur & professional photographers, up early like myself to get the best shots in the morning light.
The Narrows hike in Zion National Park made quite an impression on me. It definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite hiking trips. ★
Location: Springdale, Utah
Cost: $25 US (entry fee)
Accommodation: Cable Mountain Lodge
Useful Notes: Zion Canyon has a history of flash-floods when it rains, so be very careful (or completely avoid) hiking if the local weather forecast is predicting rain.