Zion National Park, where angels land and humans realize how small they actually are. A place to be inspired by, where the land was carved out by rivers that cut through the orange canyon rock over the course of thousands of years. One of the lesser known national parks, Zion Canyon is a must see for anyone traveling to Utah. About 3 hours away from the Grand Canyon, Zion lives in it’s shadows but is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit in my opinion.
When visiting the park, my traveling companion and I decided we wanted to a true perspective of the canyon, hoping to see, up close and personal, the carved out walls that make up the park. Thus we decided on the Narrows, a river hike that can span for miles and is a must for the adventurous (who also don’t mind getting a little bit wet).We took the 45 minute bus tour all the way to the end of the line, accessing the river at the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava. This stop is particularly popular among families with young children and the elderly due to the mostly paved walkway that runs along the river that the ambitious plan to hike. After about a mile of paved road, it ends in a beautiful clearing, where many begin to embark on the out-and-back hike. Very popular in the summer, it is filled with hikers and once entering the river, you will almost always encounter others.
The river itself is breathtaking. Winding in between the orange cliffs, the icy teal water cuts an indirect path that curves and bends around little sand islands. The fun has begun. Most of the time, one can hike in knee deep water but it can get as deep as a swimming pool (as we discovered to our surprise near a little waterfall in the offshoot canyon, Orderville). Along the walls, many leave behind mud hand prints as to leave their mark on the hike. Emulating cave drawings, these handprints follow the walls in a multitude of sizes and shapes and can add a personalized feel to the popular hike.
Further down the canyon, the walls close in, creating a cooling yet comforting feel. The sound reverberates off the walls and the echoes of the hikers bounce off in a musical fashion. Looking up, the walls shoot towards the sky, towering above you for hundreds of feet. An incredible feeling overcame me at this point. It made me realize, first hand, how grand mother nature is and how small I am in the bigger picture. It was very humbling.
After about 2.5 miles into the hike, the canyon branches out into a second, smaller canyon path, Orderville. Now this path is not for the fearful. Laced with many obstacles, my friend and I only got about 15 minutes into this canyon before turning back. It is intriguing at first because it has a few waterfalls, which is an exhilarating and slippery obstacle to try to scale. Yet, after the first 2 waterfalls, the walls were getting steeper and more slick. At the third one, we accepted defeat and instead, decided to swim in the pool under the waterfall that we accidentally found when stepping forward and was met with more water and a lack of solid ground. After our swim we trekked it back to the main canyon and went a bit further before turning around and heading back to camp.
In this photo, our feet were not touching the ground and my friend is 5’11” to give you a little perspective on how deep these pools actually are.
I can safely say that the Narrows has been the best hike I have embarked on (so far). The hardest part of a hike, in my opinion, is obviously the uphill climb. Yet, with a river hike, you go with the flow (literally) and explore more so than on a traditional hike. We ended up doing about 9 miles round trip of the river and I wish we did more. I am already planning a return trip and would recommend this adventure for really anyone. The beauty of this hike is that one can make it as challenging as they want it to be. The river is not very strong (in most areas) so it can be tailored for families with children but it can also be made harder (scaling waterfalls in Orderville for example) for the braver hikers.
The Narrows was an adventure of a lifetime and if you have the opportunity to hike it, do. You will not regret it in the slightest.
A FEW NOTES:
The Narrows is a safe hike HOWEVER it is a river hike in a canyon. Utah is subject to flash floods so please check and double check the weather before entering the canyon. There will also be a flash flood warning sign at the entrance to the Temple of Sinawava, so check that as well. If there is even the slightest chance of rain, postpone the hike. 3 days after we hiked the Narrows, a flash flood occurred at Zion and although it didn’t happen in the Narrows specifically, a different (more challenging/expert level) river hike in the Park got flooded as well and 3 lives were lost. I am not saying this is a dangerous hike, but, with everything, please don’t take unnecessary risks.
On a lighter note, some things you might want to consider bringing are the following:
Thick sole shoes- don’t do it barefoot or else it’ll hurt with all the rocks and you’ll move a lot slower and see less of the canyon. I wore my hiking shoes and they obviously got soaked but it was much better than sandals/flip flops/ bare feet.
Hiking poles/walking stick- the currant is not very strong but the poles allowed us to move faster and not eat it from slipping on a rock. It also kept us upright so our backpacks didn’t get soaked and saved our food and cameras from getting ruined.
Lunch- pack a lunch. Or at least snacks. Plan on this being an all day hike (if you want to see as much of the canyon as possible) and there are plenty of sand banks to eat on. If you have food, you don’t have to be sad about having to turn back because you’re hungry.
Long sleeve shirt + tank top- it gets hot in the beginning of the hike because the walls are further apart and the Utah sun is killer but the deeper you go in, the damper and cooler it gets. I wore a tank top in the beginning and threw on a long sleeve when we were deeper in the canyon that I could layer to stay warm.
Be smart but have fun- this is a river hike, take the time to explore! Look at the walls, climb waterfalls, swim in the little pool pockets! Make the most out of this hike because it is seriously incredible.