The Zion Narrows And How To Enjoy Them The Most
by Tobi on September 20, 2011
Photo courtesy of Tim Aston
The Narrows are probably the single most popular hike in Zion. Most people do them "bottom up," starting at the last shuttle stop at the Temple of Sinawava, and then make their way up to the "Wall Street" section of the Narrows, before tracking back.
I decided to do the "top down" hike, which requires you to get a backcountry permit ahead of time. Those are sold online in advance, and should be reserved as early as possible since they are limited and sell out. Then you will probably need to arrange transportation from Springdale to Chamberlain's Farm, where the hike starts. Commercial shuttles can be had in Springdale. I also strongly recommend renting some essential equipment, like shoes that will give good traction in the river, hiking poles, and maybe a dry bag too. All of that together will set you back about $60, but it's worth it.
On the day of my hike, the shuttle left Springdale at 6:30am, and we arrived at the trail a bit over an hour later. Most fellow hikers in the shuttle decided to spend two days in the Narrows, camping along the river over night. I'm not one to carry too much gear with me, and had opted for the "through hike," e.g. I had 12 hours for the 16 miles if I wanted to arrive with daylight.
The hike starts slow. The first few miles are along the virgin river in a pretty farm setting. You get to enjoy the company of plenty of cows! As I went on, I eventually had to step into the river, and mile after mile, the stone walls on each side became more dramatic, till I arrived at the Wall Street section from the north.
What really made this hike special for me is not so much the stunning scenery. The slot canyon is at its most impressive at the northernmost point of the river that can be reached "bottom up." What really made the "top down" route great was that, for the first 6 hours, I had the route virtually to myself. Being more lightly packed, I walked faster than the 2-day hikers, and the only other "through" hikers, an Australian couple, breezed right by me. Got to respect those Aussies! Which allowed me to have a very relaxed, serene experience in this otherwise very popular (and small) park, even in high season. It definitely ranks up there among the best day hikes I've done.
A few random notes for the curious:
* On the day I hiked, water flow was 57 cfs. There were two spots where I had to swim. It would have been possible to avoid them by scrambling on the banks, but swimming is part of the fun, right?
* The park service suggests to plan for 12 hours plus breaks. As usual with the park service, that's a conservative estimate. But for the through hikes, absolutely take the early shuttle out of Springdale
* There are no shortcuts. Evacuations are difficult. Be honest about your physical abilities. I passed one exhausted party that had completed 60% of the distance at the end of day two and asked me to send park rangers there for help.
* Watch your steps. It's not a good place to twist an ankle.
* Take breaks, take your time to enjoy the scenery!