Hiking through ankle high freezing cold water was a shock to the system as I first stepped in the North Fork of the Virgin River in the Temple of Sinawava on my way up into the Zion National Park Narrows. The temperature was soaring into the mid-90’s (fahrenheit) in the sun, but in between the rising red monoliths of Zion the temperature was a bit cooler. The goal was to hike up the river to the Zion Narrows slot canyon where the Virgin River rushed through the narrow canyon and you could touch both sides of the 2000 foot tall canyon with your arms spread wide.
Around the first turn with the canyon walls still wide and sun beating down that ankle deep water suddenly changed to chest height. There was a sense of relief and refreshment based on the air temperature, but worry too. The company we rented the gear through warned of flash floods. If it rains further upriver, all that water will come rushing down and become squeezed by the canyon walls creating a dramatic change in water level destined to washing you away.
Luckily, the weather conditions were clear, and the initial water level change had more to do with the changing of river depth. It would continue to fluctuate between ankle high water and chest high water. My worries subsided, and the ebb and flow of the river became a non-issue.
With every twist and turn I took walking upstream, the amount of sunlight decreased and the walls of the canyon would narrow. It was truly a sight to be right there walking through this narrow canyon that has carved been carved away by the rushing waters. Pretty soon, numb feet and all, we were in The Narrows, 2000 feet below the surface of a plateau with only 20 feet or less between the base of the reddish sandstone cliffs.
Needless to say, it was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. Slivers of light shining through illuminating fragments of the canyon walls and dancing off the rippled water – immensely contrasting colors in an other worldly setting. This must be why National Geographic named it one of America’s Top 100 Adventures. The dazzling surroundings had me in awe of nature’s beauty and it’s power. Centuries of water meticulously carving over, around, and through rock created this wonder I was standing in. Complete and utter awe.
The hike back out of The Narrows to the Temple of Sinawava was easier then the way in. Not only was it going with the current of the river, but my feet seemed to be not quite as numb as they were before. I am in full belief that they were just as numb, but that the awe-inspiring views washed away the feeling. It was also invigorating to be able to encourage fellow Narrows hikers who were on there way into the Narrows as I was on my way back.
To this day, hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah has been one of my favorite adventures, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of adventure and some majestic views.
Hiking the Narrows Details:
While you do not need specialized gear to hike the Narrows, I recommend it. I rented a pair of Five Ten Canyoneer shoes and a hiking pole. The shoes helped me keep my balance on the slippery rocks on the river’s floor, and the pole provided extra stability. Have either a waterproof backpack or waterproof your belongings inside the backpack as you will get wet. Bring plenty of water too.
From Temple of Sinawava (Bottom up):
This hike goes from the Temple of Sinawava up to the Narrows and back to the Temple. There is no permit required. This is the hike that I did.
Distance: 6 miles round trip.
Time: 4-5 Hours
From Chamberlain Ranch (Top down):
Starting at Chamberlain Ranch and hiking down to the Temple of Sinawava is another option. You will need a permit for this option, and there are only 80 per day. Make sure to reserve it ahead of time!
Distance: 16 miles one way.
Time: 12 hours
*It’s also possible to do this top down hike and camp overnight. There are 12 campsites along the way that, but they’re first come, first serve.
June to September. You cannot do the Chamberlain Ranch top down hike from December to April. Remember to always watch the weather as flash floods can happen in Zion. This includes the weather up river from where you are!
Have you ever been to Zion National Park and hiked The Narrows? What’s one of the most awe-inspiring places you have been?
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