Prepare for one of the most unique hikes you’ll ever go on. I’ve hiked The Narrows twice, and I still find the urge to return and experience its majesticness time and time again. There’s really no doubt about it, The Narrows is one of America’s coolest and awe-inspiring hikes. If you’re a first-timer, check out the hike description and notable landmarks to get familiarized with the hike, and don’t forget about the practical tips I’ve provided as well!
*Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful content. Thanks!
The Narrows Bottom Up Hike Description
The bottom-up version of the Narrows is the most popular way to experience The Narrows due to its ease of accessibility (compared to top-down, which requires rappelling experience, a permit, and has a different starting and endpoint). The bottom-up version of the Narrows is a max 9.4 mile out-and-back trail that starts at the Temple of Sinawava and ends at Big Springs (the turn-around point).
From The Temple of Sinawava, hikers can choose to hike in as much as they’d like up until Big Springs. Many turn around at Orderville Canyon or at Wall Street, which is approximately 2.5 miles upstream.
Getting to the Trailhead: The Temple of Sinawava
The bottom-up version of the Narrows can be done without a permit and is easily accessible by the park’s shuttle system. Zion National Park is closed to private vehicles from the months of February to November, so taking the shuttle is mandatory to get to this hike. If you’re catching the shuttle from the Visitor Center, it will take approximately 40 minutes to get to the Temple of Sinawava.
Take the shuttle to the last stop: The Temple of Sinawava. From there, walk one mile up the Riverside Walk until you come to the mouth of the canyon. You’ll likely see a large gathering of people here as they dip their feet in the river, play with their children, prepare to begin their journey, etc. This hike is out-and-back, so you can make this hike as short or as long as you like.
The Narrows: Landmarks
Riverside Walk Trail (0 – 1 mile)
From the shuttle stop, take the Riverside Walk Trail for one mile. This is a paved path that follows along the Virgin River, so your feet will remain dry for this one-mile stretch. If you plan on bringing a change of shoes, feel free to wear the more comfortable shoes on this portion of the hike.
Mystery Falls (1 – 1.5 miles)
Once you reach the end of the paved path, it’s time to begin your river hike. Be extra careful with those first few steps, as walking on the rounded river stones can take some getting used to. The first half-mile of the river is quite wide and relatively crowded. About 15 minutes upstream, you can catch Mystery Falls sliding 120 feet down a slab on the right.
Orderville Canyon (1.5 – 2 miles)
If you’re down for a fun and super impressive detour, check out Orderville Canyon to the right of the main river. It’s narrower and darker than the main canyon of the Narrows, and totally worth checking out if you have the time and energy. (Perhaps you can even do this instead of going to Wall Street?) Like the Narrows, you will be wading in water almost the entire time and depending on water levels, there may even be several pools that require swimming or wading chest-deep through. What’s cooler is you’ll also come across the need to rock scramble too.
Roughly half-a-mile up Orderville Canyon, you will reach a small waterfall formation (also known as “Veiled Falls”) where the National Park Service has placed a sign that prohibits further travel upstream. Turn back here and continue onto the Narrows.
Wall Street (2.5 miles)
About a mile after Mystery Falls (and past Orderville Canyon), you’ll notice the canyon walls come together and tower over to 1,500 feet in some spots, while the river gets narrower and narrower. Continue to hike through the Wall Street Corridor, the stretch of the Narrows which is most impressive to many hikers. The 2 miles (3.2 km) to Big Springs is the most impressive and continuous section of The Narrows. A couple of spots may require chest-deep wading or even swimming.
To experience Wall Street, hikers must travel a minimum of 6 miles round-trip, so make sure you have adequate energy and food.
Big Springs (4.5 miles)
Big Springs is easily identified as you’ll see clear water flowing from the canyon wall and into the river. The park prohibits hikers from hiking past Big Springs, so this is the turn-around point.
What To Wear For The Narrows
Getting the chance to wade through the Virgin River is what makes The Narrows hike so unique. You will 100% get wet, there’s no avoiding it. Consider wearing quick-drying or moisture-wicking clothing.
In terms of footwear, a sturdy water shoe with ankle support (like the NRS Desperado Wetshoe) works the best for navigating the rocky river bed. Neoprene socks also come recommended for hikers who choose to wear socks with their water shoes. Personally, I love these as they’re really great for keeping your feet warm as you trudge through cold water. If you’d rather rent socks and shoes, check out one of the many outfitters in the Springdale area by the park entrance.
Lastly bring a dry bag to keep your valuables safe (phone, camera, clothes, etc.). You never know– some of the rocks in the river are mossy and slippery. Better to be safe than sorry!
What Is The Water Level In The Narrows?
Don’t forget to ask the ranger station about current water levels when you get to Zion. Aim to hike the Narrows when the cfs (cubic feet per second) levels are around 50. For reference, 50 cfs equates to about shin or knee-high water. Once cfs levels hit 70, you’ll need to withstand a current reaching your knees to your waist. At 150 cfs, the park will shut down access to the canyon.
For the best experience, plan on hiking The Narrows in late summer or early fall when the air and water temperatures are the most manageable. To see the current flow rate, click here.
Both times I’ve hiked the Narrows (in June and late September), the water levels never reached past my hips (I’m 5’8). Both experiences were super pleasant as the water levels and water temperatures did not call for wetsuits.
Practical Tips For Hiking The Narrows
Hike during the spring and summer months.
For an easier Narrows hike with warmer water and lower levels, plan to visit Zion National Park in the late spring or summer. This means you won’t have to worry about buying or renting extra gear (wetsuits are mandatory in winter), which makes this hike much more doable for kids and adults alike.
Closed-toed water shoes with good grip are a MUST.
Don’t have your own? There are many, many outfitter shops here that rent water shoes specifically for The Narrows. Rentals will run you about $25 per day (for water shoes, neoprene socks, and hiking stick; if you need a 2-day rental, the 2nd day is cheaper).
At a minimum, get the neoprene socks to keep your feet warm throughout the duration of the hike. You can also purchase your own pair of neoprene socks for about $15 online if you don’t want to do the full equipment rental, but are worried about cold feet.
Avoid shoes that are too open or flimsy like Tevas or heavy hiking boots that don’t drain. I mean, you can wear Chacos, Tevas, or other open water sandals, but beware of bumping your toes on the many, many rocks and underwater boulders here. For the most part, you will be treading on large rounded rocks either on land or underwater. You can also wear hiking boots if you are able to hike in wet shoes and deal with the wet aftermath (this, I absolutely cannot do, so my recommendation is 100% the shoe rental package). These affordable water shoes should do the trick: men and women.
A wooden stick/pole is a MUST.
This is a must-have if you want to enjoy your time and not struggle with balancing on rounded and at times very slippery rocks. The outfitters also supply wooden stick rentals. Alternatively, I saw a ton of people doing this hike with normal trekking poles. Though this will suffice and definitely help you with your balance and stability, submerging your metal poles in water is not ideal.
Bring a jacket!
Even if you hike The Narrows in the summertime, there will be times where it will get chilly. Given the high canyon walls, this is especially true in the mornings and late afternoons when the sun isn’t shining directly above.
Check the water level and flow rate.
The flow rate refers to how fast the water is moving down the river. This can vary significantly from season to season (and even day to day). During summer months, the flow rate is usually around 50 to 60 cubic feet/second (cfs), which equates to shin or knee-deep levels for an adult. If you’re hiking with children, 50 cfs and below is doable for most kids. Check water levels here.
Mind the river current.
Do not underestimate the strength of the river. Though it may not look like a rushing river, the current is still quite strong in a few areas. Make sure you have stability both with your stick as well as your footing before each step. I don’t know how many people I’ve seen wobbling all over the place during my time in The Narrows.
Start early and plan your day accordingly.
Anticipate starting your Narrows trek 1-2 hours after you arrive at the park. If you have to take the shuttle (enforced in the summer), it takes approximately 40 minutes to get to the Temple of Sinawava. Once you finish the hike, it will take another 40 to get back to the Visitor Center/entrance. On top of that, there can be a line to get onto the shuttle once you’re at the Visitor Center. If the weather is going to be warm on the day of your hike, consider taking the first shuttle of the day.
Bring a change of clothes.
You can even wear a swimming suit. Depending on the season you go, you can either be trekking in knee-deep water or even chest-deep water. When I went this year towards the end of summer, there were some parts of the Narrows that were hip/waist-deep. If you plan on going farther in, be prepared to get your whole body wet. Check the water temperature; you may need to rent a wetsuit if the water temperature drops below a certain point.
Bring a dry bag for all your belongings.
Even if you don’t think the water level will be too high when you go, having a dry bag will save you if you accidentally take a tumble or lose balance while crossing the river.
Bring a change of shoes.
If you have room for it in your pack, bring a change of shoes. Having to sit on a bus for almost an hour is just not appealing. I absolutely cannot handle sitting idly in wet socks and wet feet, so this was a must for me. I felt so free (and dry!) after the hike, having changed out of my water shoe rentals and into my sandals. You can thank me later for this tip.
There are free walking sticks at the entrance.
…If you get there early enough. At the entrance to the river (after Riverside Walk ends), you’ll find a bunch of walking sticks left behind by previous hikers. Grab one that feels comfortable and sturdy to you, then leave it for someone else when you return.
Use the bathroom at the trailhead.
The last toilets are at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop before you start on the Riverside Walk Trail. Practice leave no trace principles by packing out any solid waste, including all your used tissues!
When you hike through the water, hike slowly.
There’s no need to rush or plow through the water to get past people. You will expend extra energy unnecessarily, and if you plan on going farther into the Narrows, you will need to save some energy for the way out. This is a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of hike.
Trust me, I’ve done this hike twice. The first time, I plowed through the canyon thinking it was a breeze, only to find that I was exhausted on the way out— my ankles hurt, my hands hurt from holding the wooden stick, and I just wanted to be out of there. The second time around, I took my time and found that it was a much more tranquil experience— my ankles and hands were pain-free and I didn’t have that desperate feeling of extreme tiredness and wanting to get out of there.
Hike at least two hours in.
The cool part where the canyon walls come together doesn’t really begin until you reach the Wall Street Corridor. In my opinion, this is not to be missed. Here, the towering vertical walls of colored sandstone constrict to 20 – 30 feet across. A spectacular sight to see indeed!
Beware of flash floods.
Though this may not be common on hot and dry summer days, flash floods remain one of the greatest dangers in Zion National Park. And though they mostly occur in early spring from a combination of rainfall and mountain runoff, don’t discount them in the summer months, as they can occur during random rainstorms as well. Remember, desert weather is unpredictable.
So what happens exactly? Water levels will rise quickly, within minutes, and can become a real danger to hikers. If flash floods are in the forecast when you’re hiking The Narrows, Rangers will shut down access to Zion Canyon. Make sure to check current conditions at the Visitor Center, at an outfitter, or on the Zion National Park website.
Zion National Park: Getting There
Trying to decide how to get to Zion National Park? This will require a combination of flying and driving. Here are your options:
McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas): The nearest major airport with direct flights to/from many foreign and domestic destinations. This is the most affordable and most efficient option. It’s a 2.5 to 3-hour drive to Zion National Park.
Salt Lake City International Airport (Utah): Another major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. This is your next best bet, Four-hour drive to the park.
St. George Regional Airport (Utah): The closest airport to Zion in Utah with limited commercial flights. It’s a 1-hour drive to the park, but flights may likely be expensive.
Cedar City Regional Airport (Utah): Flights from Salt Lake City are available. One-hour drive to the park.
Zion National Park: Where to Stay
If you’re looking for lodging in or near Zion National Park, your best bet is Springdale. It’s within walking distance (and short driving distance) from the park and has great options for every budget. If you prefer to stay right in the park, Zion Lodge is your only option.
No luck with the locations above? Consider staying a bit farther away. There are also excellent lodging options in Mount Carmel, Kanab or St. George.
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest budgeting tips, travel-related discounts, and exclusive offers that are too good to post on the blog!