Julie United States 46 Comments

The Zion Narrows is one of Zion’s most popular hikes, for good reason. This is the quintessential slot canyon hike. For miles, you hike in the North Fork of the Virgin River, surrounded by sheer rock walls and amazing beauty. It’s challenging, it’s unique, and it makes for a very memorable experience.

There are several different ways you can hike the Zion Narrows. You can hike it as a quick day hike from the bottom-up or you can hike the entire length of the Narrows from the top-down. From the top-down, it can be done as a two day backpacking trip or as a very long and challenging one-day hike.

We hiked the Narrows from the top-down as a day hike in October 2018. It was an epic day and one of our favorite hiking experiences of all time. To experience the raw beauty of this place, walk for miles in the Virgin River, and watch as the canyon walls steadily grew up around us, was unforgettable.

If you are looking for a hike that will astound you, test your limits, and give you a greater appreciation for the beauty of the American Southwest, the Zion Narrows is perfect for you.

This is not your average hike. There are a lot of things to think about that you don’t necessarily deal with on other hikes…water flow rates, permits, flash flood potential, special gear, and the challenge of walking in a river for many miles. We cover all of this in this article so you can have the best experience when your time comes to hike the Zion Narrows.

Important Note: Currently, there is a toxic Cyanobacteria bloom in the Virgin River. Levels of the bacteria are fluctuating and when they get too high, the national park service closes the Narrows. Click here to learn more.

What is the Zion Narrows?

The Narrows is a 15-mile stretch where the North Fork of the Virgin River carved its way through rock, creating one long slot canyon. Most of the Narrows is located in Zion National Park, but the first section (if you hike from the top-down) begins on private property just northeast of the park.

The entire hike is 16 miles long. From the top-down, the hike begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch and the Narrows ends 15 miles later at the top end of the Riverside Walk. One more mile of walking on the Riverside Walk gets you to the finish line of the hike, the Temple of Sinawava.

Options for Hiking the Zion Narrows

From the Bottom-Up

This is the most popular option. Starting at the Riverside Walk, you simply hike upriver for several miles, enjoy some of the best scenery of the Narrows, and return the same way you came. If you walk all of the way to Big Springs (the farthest you can go without a permit) your journey will take you 10 miles round trip. No permit is necessary to hike from the bottom-up, which is why it is so popular. Expect big crowds during the summer months.

From the Top-Down

This is a 16-mile point-to-point hike that starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch and ends at the Temple of Sinawava.

As a Two-Day Backpacking Trip

This is the most popular option. On day 1, you hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch to one of 12 campsites along the river. On day 2, you hike the rest of the way to the Temple of Sinawava. A permit is necessary and you reserve your campsite when you reserve your permit.

As a Day Hike

Hiking the Narrows top-down in one day is no easy feat. You need to be fit and fast in order to do this. The average amount of time to hike the Narrows from the top-down is 10 to 13 hours, but it takes most people 12 hours, once you factor in time for rest breaks, photos, and meals. A permit is necessary.

Hiking the Zion Narrows from the Top-Down

Hiking Stats

Distance: 16 miles
Elevation Loss: 1500 Feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 10 – 13 hours average

map NPS

Overview of the Route

Miles 0 – 3. The hike starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch. The first 3 miles are fast and easy on a gravel road.

Miles 3 – 9. This is the top section of the hike. You head west from Chamberlain’s Ranch until you meet the confluence of Deep Creek. The canyon starts off low and the walls steadily grow in height the farther you go. There are two short sections where the walls really close in on you.

In fact, our favorite part of the entire hike was in last mile of this section. To stand in this narrow canyon, dwarfed by immense height of these walls, was incredible. Plus, we were all on our own, a truly magical experience.

The Narrows Hike in Zion

Miles 9 – 11. Now you head south towards the heart of Zion National Park. The campsites are sprinkled along the river’s edge in this section of the hike and the scenery is similar to miles 3 through 9, although the canyon walls are higher.

Miles 11 – 13.5. This is a spectacular section of the Narrows. At approximately mile 11, you will pass Big Springs. This is where you will meet bottom-up hikers for the first time.

The water gets deeper, obstacles become more numerous, and hiking speeds tend to slow down here. This is where you will hike through Wall Street, the iconic section featuring tall canyon walls and narrow passageways.

Wall Street the Narrows

Miles 13.5 – 15. At mile 13.5, Orderville Canyon joins the Narrows and Wall Street ends. The canyon widens a bit and hiking gets easier again. This is another gorgeous section of the hike.

Zion in October

Mile 15 – 16. At mile 15, your feet hit dry ground again. As much as we loved the hike, it really felt good to get out of the river. It’s an easy walk on the paved Riverside Walk to get to the Temple of Sinawava and the Zion Shuttle.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Have a dry set of clothing and shoes in your car. It was wonderful to finally remove our wet neoprene socks and boots.

Do you want to see more photos of the hike? Check out our post Journey through the Zion Narrows in Photos to see what it is like to hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Riverside Walk.

What Is It Like to Hike the Narrows Top-Down as a Day Hike?

It’s a big day.

This is not to be underestimated. 16 miles is a long way to go and walking through the river can really slow you down. With factors like flow rates, water temperature, and weather conditions, no two experiences are the same.

We hiked the Zion Narrows on October 29. Here are some stats about the conditions on the day we hiked the Narrows.

  • Flow Rate: 45 cfs
  • Water Temperature: 49°F
  • Springdale High Temperature: 75°F (10°F warmer than average)
  • Morning Temp at Chamberlain’s Ranch: low 30’s
  • Sunrise: 7:55 am
  • Sunset: 6:37 pm
  • Last shuttle pick up at the Temple of Sinawava: 7:15 pm
  • # of Hours to get to the Temple of Sinawava: 11

We had perfect conditions. For it being so late in the year, we really got lucky and had a warmer than average day. Just two days later, the high temperature was only 59°F in Springdale.

Even though it was in the mid-70’s in Springdale, it’s much cooler in the Narrows. Temperatures in the Narrows can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the temperatures in Springdale.

We started off feeling cold but quickly warmed up once we got moving. We had lots of gear to keep us warm and dry and just as long as we kept moving, we stayed warm.

Since it’s an overall downhill walk, it feels easy at first. But towards the end of the hike, once you’ve been walking for hours, carrying a backpack, and trying to keep your balance on slippery rocks while slogging through the water, it does get to be exhausting.

The hardest part of this hike, at least for us, was walking on the slippery, uneven ground of the river. You will spend a lot of energy trying to keep your balance and pushing through the river. And if you do this when flow rates are higher (over 70 cfs) it will be even more challenging.

If you want to hike the Narrows as a day hike from the top-down, you need to be prepared for a long, tiring day. When choosing your hiking date, you need to consider possible weather conditions, how many hours of daylight you will have, and the hours of operation of the Zion Shuttle. From drop off at Chamberlain’s Ranch at 8 am, we only had 11 hours until the last shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava. It felt a little bit like a race, but we thrive on that kind of challenge.

The Narrows in October

How Fit Do You Need to Be?

If you are hiking from the top-down in one day, you need to be a very fit and fast hiker. It’s an overall downhill walk, since you walk downstream the entire way, but walking through water, on slippery boulders and uneven ground, can be exhausting.

This is not a hike to take lightly. This was also the first hike that Tim and I ever “trained” for. We had 11 hours to do a hike that takes most people 12 hours to do. With a shuttle drop-off time of 8:15 am at Chamberlain’s Ranch and a final pick-up time of 7:15 pm at the Temple of Sinawava, that gave us just 11 hours to walk 16 miles. Plus, if we were out past 6:30 pm, we would end up hiking in the dark. We had to be fast, or else we risked a long, extra walk to the Zion Lodge or Visitor Center in the dark.

Before doing this hike, we were doing long runs of 10 miles with several shorter runs during the week. We also swim, bike, and weight train several days a week.

Our training paid off and we completed the hike in 9 hours, so we had plenty of time to spare. Even with our training, the last few miles were tiring, but the hardest part was walking on uneven ground for so long.

If you plan to hike the Zion Narrows top-down as a day hike, you need to be in great physical shape. You should be able to walk 10 miles while wearing a backpack without much difficulty.

Hiking Zion

When to Hike the Narrows

Spring: The Narrows is usually closed from mid-March to mid-May when flow rates are high from snowmelt and spring run-off. This does vary year to year depending on weather conditions. The National Park Service will not issue permits if the flow rate is over 150 cfs.

Summer: This is a great time to hike the Narrows. Air and water temperatures are warm, the days are long, and shuttle service runs until roughly 9 pm at night, giving you plenty of time to hike from the top-down as a day hike. This is the most crowded time of year so expect to share the Narrows with lots of hikers between Big Springs and the Riverside Walk. This is also the hardest time to get a permit. Flash floods are possible this time of year.

Fall: This is a spectacular time to hike the Narrows. Crowds are thinning, the leaves start to change colors, and in early fall the weather is very pleasant. As it gets later into the season, you lose precious hours of daylight and the temperatures can really cool off. The Zion Shuttle schedule can also have a big impact on your experience. September 29, 2019, will be the last day the shuttle makes its 9:15 pm pick-up from the Temple of Sinawava. On September 30, the last pick-up time of the day is 7:15 pm, cutting your hiking time short by a massive 2 hours.

What happens if you miss the last shuttle of the day? You will have to walk an additional 4 miles to the Zion Lodge and try to persuade someone to give you a ride to the Visitor Center.

Winter: It is possible to hike from the bottom-up during the winter months, but you need to be prepared for cold temperatures and limited daylight. The Zion Shuttle does not run during the winter months, except for select days. Snow can close the road to Chamberlain’s Ranch.

Best Time to Hike the Narrows

In my opinion, September and October are the best months to hike the Zion Narrows. If you plan to do this as a day hike from the top-down, doing this before September 30 gives you about 13 to 14 hours to hike the route, allowing for drop-off time at Chamberlain’s Ranch and the last shuttle of the day at 9:15 pm.

Best Time to go to Zion

October is a gorgeous time to hike the Narrows. The later you get in the month, the better the fall colors will be and you will share the canyon with just a few other people. But you also have to take into account shorter days, colder temperatures, and the reduced Zion shuttle schedule.

We started the hike with 5 other people at Chamberlain’s Ranch and all of them were backpackers doing the hike in two days. We got ahead of them and we did not see another person until Big Springs, 10 miles later.

The Zion Narrows Permit Process

In order to hike from the top-down, you must have a permit. You can make your reservations up to 2 two months in advance on the National Park Service website. Permit reservations become available on the fifth day of the month at 10 am MST.

Here are the dates to make your reservation:

January 5…for a trip in February
February 5…for a trip in March
March 5…for a trip in April
April 5…for a trip in May
May 5…for a trip in June
June 5…for a trip in July
July 5…for a trip in August
August 5…for a trip in September
September 5…for a trip in October
October 5…for a trip in November
November 5…for a trip in December
December 5…for a trip in January

IMPORTANT NOTE: The National Park Service just recently changed the time frame for when permits become available. Through 2020, you would reserve your permit up to 3 months in advance. In 2021, that changed to 2 months. I don’t know if this is a permanent change but I recommend that you keep checking the official NPS website for updates or changes in the schedule.

We originally reserved permits for September (but medical issues changed our plans which is why we hiked the Narrows in October).

On July 5, when the permits became available for September, Tim and I just happened to be rock climbing Svolvaergeita in Norway. While waiting my turn to climb, I made our Zion permit reservation. Let me tell you, they get snatched up fast! I got on just a few minutes past 10 am MST and was a bit surprised to see that about half of the permits were already reserved.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Mark the date and the time on your calendar and be ready to make your reservation right at 10 am MST, especially if you plan to hike from May through September.

Getting a permit is easier in October. At the end of October, there were plenty of permits that never got reserved. Even so, if you have a specific date you want to do this, even late in the year, it’s a good idea to make that reservation.

This is a hike that is becoming more and more popular and those October dates could start selling out in advance.

How to Reserve Your Permit for the Top-Down Day Hike

To make your reservation, visit the National Park Service website. There will be a drop down tab to select your resource area. Select “Virgins Narrows Dayuse Trail from Top.”

This takes you to a screen with calendars for the next 2 months. Days that have a green box still have permits available for reservation. Days that are red have no more online permit reservations available.

Click the day you want and proceed to enter your information and pay your $5 reservation fee.

You now have a permit reserved. The day before your hike, purchase your permit at the Zion Visitor Center. The permit costs $15 for 1 to 2 people, $20 for 3 to 7 people, and $25 for 8 to 12 people.

How to Reserve a Permit for the Top-Down Backpacking Trip

There are 12 campsites along the Zion Narrows so there are only 12 backpacking permits available. Click here to visit the National Park Service website. In the drop-down menu, the campsites that are available for reservation are listed. Select the campsite you prefer and on the next screen you will see a calendar with available dates for that campsite. Days that have green boxes are available for reservation. The day before your trip, you will need to purchase the permit at the Zion Visitor Center.

To learn more about the campsites, click here.

Understanding Flow Rates

The flow rate is how fast the water is flowing in the Virgin River. The higher the flow rate, the more difficult your hike will be. The flow rate fluctuates based on weather and time of year.

Anything 50 cfs and under is considered easy. When it is over 70 cfs, hiking gets to be a lot more difficult. Water levels are higher and the faster current makes hiking more challenging.

Best Zion Hike

When we hiked the Narrows, the flow rate was 45 cfs, which is considered to be easy. For most of the hike, water levels were at ankle and mid-calf height. The current was mild but we could feel it pulling on our legs a little bit. We did have several very short sections where the water was chest deep and even over our heads.

The National Park Service will close the Narrows when the flow rate is over 150 cubic feet per second (cfs).

To see the current flow rates, visit the USGS website.

Here is a graph of the flow rate for October 2018. The blue line indicates the current flow rate and the yellow triangles are the average discharge based on data for the past 29 years.

Flow Rate Map

Flash Floods

The Zion Narrows will close if the National Park Service issues a Flash Flood Warning. The skies can be crystal clear around Zion, but if rain is in forecast for a nearby area, the Narrows can still close.

There are sections of the Narrows with no high ground. If a flash flood hits the canyon, water levels can rise very rapidly. Hikers have died when being caught in slot canyons during flash floods. Always check the weather and the flash flood potential before starting your trip.

How to Get to Chamberlain’s Ranch

We recommend hiring a shuttle service to drop you off at Chamberlain’s Ranch on the morning of your hike. There are several companies that offer this service. We used Zion Adventure Company since we had a great experience using their shuttle service when we day hiked the West Rim Trail.

It takes one hour and 30 minutes to drive from Springdale to Chamberlain’s Ranch. On the way, our shuttle dropped off hikers at Mystery Canyon, adding an additional 20 minutes to the drive. We left Springdale at 6:15 am and arrived at Chamberlain’s Ranch at 8:05 am.

We parked our car at the Visitor Center in the morning before getting on the shuttle. Once finished the hike, we rode the Zion shuttle from the Temple of Sinawava to the Visitor Center and our car (and warm, dry clothes) were waiting for us.

Important to Know: It is a rough, bumpy, dirt road for the last 13 miles of the drive. If the roads are wet, the shuttle may not be able to get you all of the way to the trailhead.

Shuttle Companies:

It is possible to drive to Chamberlain’s Ranch and park your car here, but you will need a way to retrieve it after you finish the hike.

Zion National Park

Zion Narrows Packing List

Tim and I each rented a waterproof backpack from Zion Outfitters. Here is what we carried with us:

Here is what we wore:

From Zion Adventure Company, we rented a walking stick, a full body dry suit, neoprene socks, and special boots.

Hiking Gear

Underneath the dry suit, I wore capri length leggings and a long-sleeved shirt and felt comfortable for most of the hike. I also had a heavy jacket, hat, and gloves that spent most of the time inside my backpack.

Tim wore shorts and T-shirt under the dry suit but he also had a jacket, long-sleeved shirt, hat and gloves.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.

Special Gear to Rent or Bring With You

Dry Bag or Waterproof Backpack

A dry bag is highly recommended to keep your gear dry. Even if water levels are low, there is still a chance that you will stumble and fall, with your backpack plunging into the water with you. Both Tim and I fell at least once.

We rented waterproof backpacks from Zion Outfitters and they were awesome. All of our belongings stayed dry, even despite falling and navigating the deeper water crossings.


Walking Stick

A walking stick will make your hike so much easier. Take it from two people who used a stick for part of the hike and then lost it. Yup, Tim and I both lost our walking sticks at the same point in the trail. While climbing up and over a huge log jam, the flowing water pulled my stick out of my hand and it got sucked underwater to the bottom of the log jam. Tim tried to free up my stick with his, and in the process, he lost his, also. For the next 8 miles of the hike, we were without a walking stick.

The walking stick really helps you keep your balance, especially while walking over slippery rocks with a current tugging at your legs.

A walking stick is better than hiking poles. The caps on the end of the poles can get stuck between the rocks.


A pair of closed-toe, lightweight shoes or boots is ideal. If you wear sandals, even hiking sandals like those made by Keen, your risk having your feet cut up by rocks. Hiking shoes are also a bad idea since they get heavy and waterlogged.

We rented neoprene socks and canyoneering boots from Zion Adventure Company. The neoprene socks kept our feet warm, even in 49°F water, and the boots were sturdy but did not hold much water.

I will say that our biggest problem with hiking the Narrows was foot pain. Tim got quite a few monster blisters over the course of the hike (but he tends to get blisters easily). I experienced a lot of pain in the ball of my left foot, which I assume was from wearing a pair of shoes I was not used to wearing.

However, I don’t think we would have done anything differently. Without the neoprene socks, our feet would have been completely numb, making our hike much more difficult.

Dry Suit/Dry Pants

During the summer months, when the air and water temperature is warm, you do not need dry pants.

In fall months, having this gear is a very good idea. Dry pants keep your legs dry from the waist down, which also helps to keep you warm. Towards the middle to the end of October, you may need a full dry suit, which also keeps your upper body and arms dry.

Renting Gear in Springdale

We used two companies for this trip. We planned to get everything from Zion Adventure Company, since we had a great experience with them a year before. However, Zion Outfitters had those awesome waterproof backpacks. These backpacks are a much better option than stuffing your personal backpack into a large dry bag, in my opinion.

Both companies are great. However, the boots at Zion Outfitters looked like they were newer and in better condition than Zion Adventure Company. This, of course, can change from year to year, but I recommend looking at both websites and to see all of the gear they offer.

With Zion Adventure Company, we did the “Dry Suit Package” for $57 per person, which included the dry suit, walking stick, neoprene socks, and boots.

At Zion Outfitters, we each rented a waterproof backpack for $10 per person. It was absolutely worth it.

Useful Links:

How to Keep Camera Gear Dry

One of the challenges of hiking the Narrows is keeping your camera dry and still take photos when you want to.

Zion Narrows Hike

The best option is to use a waterproof camera. But what if you want to bring your nice DSLR? It’s risky, but here’s what I did.

For the first section of the hike, until we got to Big Springs, I carried my camera in my hand. I had it strapped to me with a Black Rapid cross-body camera strap to prevent me from dropping it. This is typically what I do on most hikes. Of course, if I slipped and fell, I risked getting my camera wet.

Once past Big Springs, when water levels get higher and the obstacles became more challenging, I kept the camera in a dry bag. I used an 8 liter Sea to Summit Big River dry bag. I strapped this to the outside of Tim’s backpack and had to take it in and out of this bag in order to take photos. It was kind of pain to do it this way, but it did keep the camera safe. And we safely got it through deep water crossings and several slip and falls along the river.

Tim also carried a tripod, which I used a few times. We did not spend as much time as I would have liked photographing the river because of our time constraints.

Zion Narrows Top Down

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Safe to Drink the Water in the Virgin River?

I spoke to a Zion park ranger about this. She told me to avoid drinking the water between Chamberlain’s Ranch and Deep Creek (mile 9), even if I filtered it and treated it. Run-off from the farms can make the water in this section unsafe to drink. Once you reach the campsites, just past mile 9, the water is safe to drink if you have a water filter.

What’s it like hiking in 50°F water?

Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I’m the type of person who gets numb feet and hands even when it’s not all that cold outside. So I expected to have cold, numb feet for most of the hike. With the neoprene socks it wasn’t like that at all. Our feet actually felt quite toasty.

What if you have to pee or poop?

When you have to pee, it’s recommended that you pee right into the river.

If you have to poop, you will have to pack it and bring it with you, which is part of the “Leave no Trace” ethics of hiking. You can purchase special bags for this in Springdale, or bring your own Ziplock bags.

How much of the hike will be in the river?

For about half of the time you will hike in the Virgin River. There is a trail that follows right along the water’s edge for sections of the hike. Walking here speeds up your progress and gives you quick breaks from trudging through the water. Be prepared to spend a lot of time criss-crossing the river as you walk on these shoreline trails.

It’s important to not stray from the river’s edge. By walking farther from the river, you can damage the fragile plant life.

Tips for Hiking the Narrows

If you hike with a GPS, don’t expect it to work well in the Narrows

We always hike with a GPS, but they tend to work poorly in slot canyons. Our Garmin GPS said we hiked 31 miles on the day we did this (towards the end it kind of felt that way). Talk about being way off!

Planning Checklist Before You Go

3 – 4 months before: Reserve your permit online. Book your hotel accommodations in Springdale. If you need a hotel recommendation, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express two times so far and always have a great experience.

3 – 4 weeks before: Reserve your shuttle to Chamberlain’s Ranch and reserve any gear that you plan to rent.

2 weeks before: Start checking weather conditions and flow rates in Zion. Visit the Zion National Park website for updates on closures in the park. Begin putting together the gear you will bring with you.

1 day before: Purchase your Narrows permit at the Visitor Office. Pick up rental gear in Springdale. Check the weather. Limit yourself to light and easy hikes in Zion to save your energy for tomorrow.

Day 0: Have fun hiking the Narrows!!

Did we miss anything? If you have any questions about hiking the Zion Narrows, or if you want to share your experience, comment below!

More Information about Zion

For more information about Zion National Park, click here to read our Guide to Zion National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

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Comments 46

  1. Love your website! So helpful and thankful. This is going to be a huge help for my road trip through Utah, Arizona and Nevada! Thanks again

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  2. Thank you for such a great, detailed post. I was wondering if you have any updates about hiking top down. From the comments it seems like people are still doing the top down, but there is conflicting information in the booking website. When I go to book a camp site it says “Chamberlain Ranch Trailhead to the Virgin River Narrows may be closed due to legal access issues for hikers. Permits are NOT valid for upstream access to campsites.” but the itinerary section in the very same page shows the top down path: “Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead (Begin Trip), Virgin Narrows Camp Area Site 1 (1 night), Temple of Sinawava Trailhead (End Trip).”

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      I just browsed the NPS website and I see what you are talking about. It still lets you reserve a campsite with the warning that you may be denied access from the Chamberlain Ranch trailhead, like you said. Currently, I don’t know any more about this than what is listed on the NPS website. I recommend sending them an email to get more information. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

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      Hello Claudia. I emailed the national park service. They wrote back and said that the legal issues have been resolved and hikers have access to the Chamberlain Ranch Trailhead. So, good news!! Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

  3. I love your website and all the invaluable information– it really has been a go to for trip planning! I notice I am no longer able to copy text from the website– something I did when making documents for my own trips (it was so helpful to organize all the information, such as hike stats and tips). Is there any chance you will enable the option once more? Thanks again for all your insights and tips!!

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      Hello Erica. I’m sorry about the inability to right click text now. We have had a lot of issues recently with people stealing our content so we had to do this in response to that. Cheers, Julie

      1. Ah, I was afraid it might have been something like that. That’s such a shame– I’m sorry to hear that happened, and hope you’re able to resolve it all!

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  4. Hi there! Your posts are SO helpful and I plan on using this itinerary and the Yellowstone itinerary for my roadtrip at the end of October. Quick question that hopefully you can answer – I just went on the shuttle website to purchase tickets for the day of our hike (10/25) and there was nothing available. I will definitely be online at at 9am MT the day before to hopefully score some shuttle tickets but in the event that I am not able to get tickets – is that detrimental to our day in Zion? Would it be possible to walk to the starting point at Riverside Walk?

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      Hello Danielle. Yes, if you cannot get shuttle tickets, you won’t be able to do the Riverside Walk. Sure, you can walk there, but it is an 8 mile walk to get to the trailhead from the Visitor Center, which is crazy. If you can’t get shuttle tickets, I just wrote a section at the bottom of our Zion hiking post about hikes you can do which don’t require the shuttle. You are not the only one struggling to get shuttle tickets…we are getting these questions every day. We were just in Yellowstone a little over a week ago and it was amazing…lower crowds and great animal sightings. Good luck with getting shuttle tickets and have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  5. I just hiked this on Wednesday and it was amazing! I wish I would have gotten a waterproof backpack like you recommended. When I was at about mile 5 the water was up to my chest and I had to stop and turn around because I could not keep my camera above water.

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      1. Hi Julie!
        Do you know if the opened up the chain link end of Angel’s landing trail yet?
        Also – do you know how to get last minute tickets for the shuttle? Do they release more the day before?

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          As far as I know, the chains on Angels Landing are open. They were closed in the spring but they reopened in the summer. I have not heard that they closed again, and on a quick look on the official Zion NPS website, I see no indication that they are closed. You can double check this at the visitor center in Zion when you get there. Some tickets for the shuttle are available one day in advance. Click here to learn more. Have fun in Zion! Cheers, Julie

  6. I am going in the second week in September and staying at the Zion lodge. Do you know if there is parking close to the temple of Sinawava

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      I believe the shuttle is running now (reservations are required) and if so, car traffic would not be allowed inside the park. I recommend visiting the Zion national park service website to get full details on transportation within the park. Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi Julie, We have used your website and detailed information so many times. We were fortunate to use your information in the past for Scotland, Slovenia and Crotia and now we are planning the Mighty 5. In the near future, we will use your great info on hiking the Dolomites in Italy. We really enjoy hiking and adventure travel. These are such un certain times, trying to do trip planning while watching an increase in Covid cases rise. We are hopeful that our travel plans will stay on track……but who knows??
    We are hoping and planning to head to Zion on October 22, 2020 and to hike the Narrows on October 23. We were originally trying to do the hike Top-Down but have recently discovered that the Park is not issuing permits right now. So, we will probably end up hiking the Narrows Bottom-Up. We would like to hike as far as we can knowing that we do have to turn around and hike back the way we came. I am looking for advice on how far to go? We are in our 50’s and in good shape. We would like to go as far as possible in the Narrows to see Wall street and Order ville Canyon but is there any rules or guidelines that the Park has in place for how far you can go in the Narrows? Do most people turn around at one particular place? Any advice is really appreciated!!
    Thanks, Sandra

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      You can go as far as Big Springs, which is 10 miles from the Temple of Sinawava, making this a 20 mile round trip hike, which is a lot. I would say turn around between Orderville Canyon and Big Springs. You will get to see Wall Street. But once you have seen enough, turn around. From what I know, there is not one particular turn around point. I am sure some people go all the to Big Springs since that is what is allowed, but you will get to see the narrow canyon and the very high walls without going that far.

      It will be slightly easier coming back, since you will be walking downhill and with the current. But it is a tiring hike. As far as the turn around point and regulations, I recommend double checking what the NPS website says. Things are different in many national parks right now due to Covid. However, I think these rules won’t change, but you should check ahead of time, just to avoid disappointment. You are going at a great time! Make sure you get all the gear you need (listed at the end of this post) the day before your hike. Enjoy those fall colors and lower crowds! Cheers, Julie

  8. We are hiking next week. Because the shuttles aren’t running, do you have any advice on when we should get to the temple of sinawava before the parking lot fills up? Thanks!

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      I’m not sure, since I don’t know what the traffic in the park has been like in the past few weeks. I would imagine that you would have to plan to get there very early (at or before sunrise?). The day before, you could ask a park ranger in the visitor center. Good luck!! Cheers, Julie

  9. Hi Julie, My husband and I are going to do the bottom up on the narrows. Do you think we need to rent any gear for that? This is our first hike of our 10 days trip though UT and AZ and I have a feeling my shoes will get very wet….what are your thoughts?


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      Yes, your feet will get totally soaked, since they will be submerged in the river. You can wear a pair of hiking shoes although these will get very heavy when wet. A better option is to rent a pair of boots from one of the shops in Springdale. You can pick them up the day before your hike and return them when finished. There are links to these companies in this post. A walking stick is also very helpful, as well as a dry bag for your things. Check out the recommended gear section of this article. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

  10. Hi Julie,

    Your blog has been so helpful as I plan our trip Spring Break to Zion National Park and ? (Still have a few days to plan). We are hoping that the Narrows will be open for us while we are there during the last week of March. I am guessing the neoprene socks, boots and waterproof backpacks are recommended for all seasons. Is it necessary for us to rent dry pants as well? I could see how the cold water temperatures could affect me so the pants would be helpful in my case. However, my son who is a young adult tends to run very warm could be very hot hiking in those pants. Would appreciate your thoughts.

    Thank you!

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      Hello Jill. The first thing I would do is check the Zion NPS website to see the status of the Narrows. In many years it does not open until May, but this depends on the snowfall they receive. If the Narrows is open in March, you will be hiking in water that is fresh snow melt, so it will be extremely cold. You will absolutely need the dry pants (I recommend the full dry suit, because the water can come up over your shoulders in some spots), and so will your son. And yes, rent the boots, waterproof backpacks, and neoprene socks.

      I just checked conditions. The flow rate is low enough to do the hike (today) but the water temperature is 44 Fahrenheit. It looks like the Narrows is open. With the water being so cold, it might be better to hike it from the bottom-up, so you are not committing yourself to a 17 mile hike through frigid water (just a thought). Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  11. Hi Julie, great post! I’ll be doing the top-down day hike with a group in a month (mid-October) and this has a lot of great information!

    Can you tell me a little bit more about how you and Tim prepared physically for the hike? I can walk ‘til the cows come home and I’m a good swimmer but I’ve never been one for long distance running, even in my young, athletic days. What did your weekly running schedule look like?

    Thanks in advance!

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      Hello Steph. We trained roughly 6 days a week: 2 to 3 days running (one 10 mile run with one or two 4 mile runs), swam twice and week, and cycled one to two times per week. I was also doing a modified version of P90X (Ab ripper 3 times per week with 2 sessions of legs and upper body strengthening). The abdominal strengthening and strengthening your hip flexors helps a lot since this will make it easier to push your legs through the water. I did more of this than Tim and I felt a little better at the end than he did. If you can do a long walk of 10 miles per week with several shorter walks you should be fine. And throw in some core strengthening, I think that helps a lot. I hope you have a great time in the Narrows…what a great time of year! Cheers, Julie

  12. Hi, Julie! Thank you so much for taking the time to not only share your travels, but so much useful information with your readers and fellow travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. Over the past couple of years, your blog has came up in many of my searches, and I have referred to it for my and my husband’s recent trips to Scotland, Northern Norway and the Grand Canyon. We’re headed to the Dolomites in a few weeks for 10 days of hiking, and of course, I’ve read your posts for there as well. 🙂 To say that my husband and I are avid hikers is probably a gross understatement. We are experienced backpackers, but honestly enjoy long, difficult day hikes just as well. But, I digress…

    Right now, I’m in the planning stages for a short trip to Zion/Bryce in October, and I have secured a reservation for us to do the Narrows as a top-down day hike. Although I am a fit hiker/backpacker, I’m not the best swimmer, which makes me nervous for the Narrows. Water crossings up to my waist are practically second nature to me (they’re part of hiking where we live near the Smokies), but having to swim with a daypack in a canyon makes me jittery. Since we’re planning to go the same time of year as you hiked it, can you describe in a bit more detail how numerous and wide the areas requiring swimming were during your hike? I’d really appreciate it. Thank you again for the helpful post!

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      Hello Sarah. I’m glad you like our website and that we have been able to help you in your travels! You are about to do one of our favorite hikes at a wonderful time of year.

      You really don’t need great swimming abilities to hike the Narrows. Tim and I mostly floated these sections and paddled our arms a bit to speed things up (no freestyle or breast stroke necessary 🙂 ). If I remember correctly, there were 3 sections with water over our heads. These sections were not very big. For the smaller one, we maybe only had to float 6 feet to get to the other side. The longest section lasted for about 20 – 25 feet. We were wearing dry suits and did not squeeze all of the air out of them, so when we entered the water, they were buoyant, which helped us float these sections. If you can doggy paddle or do the side stroke you will be just fine.

      You can minimize how much of this deep water you go through by staying as close as you can to shore (although in one spot we were forced to enter the deep water). Tim and I just had so much fun that we chose to go through these sections this way. It’s almost easier to float than to wade in water that comes up to your waist (at least for us). And I do know that there are people who hike up and over boulders on the shoreline to avoid these sections, but it’s damaging to the vegetation and best avoided if possible.

      I also recommend renting a waterproof backpack like we recommend in the article, if you do not already own one.

      Have fun in Zion! Cheers, Julie

      1. Julie,

        Thank you so much for the quick and thorough reply; I truly appreciate it! Your comments have taken away my worries about the hike. I think it’s going to be a wonderful experience. Thank you again, and I look forward to reading about your future travels!


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      Looks like you had a great experience. I bet it was so nerve wracking for you since the Narrows opened so late this year. Thanks for sharing! Cheers, Julie

  13. The top down hike is a marketing genius’ best idea. It is not a good hike. In fact, it is miserable. If you want to walk 16 miles through a rocky
    slippery river with virtually the same view throughout, be my guest. You have to pay $100 for boots, waders and a brutal ride to the starting point. Every person on our trip, 12 people, all said “I didn’t picture this when I signed up” It keeps all those outfitters in town in business. Be warned

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      It was one of our favorite hiking experiences. To walk in the river, to pass through these canyons on our own, it was amazing. But that’s what keeps travel and hiking interesting…everyone has a different experience and a different opinion. Cheers, Julie

  14. Hi..thanks for your great and thorough article/trip log concerning The Narrows. It brought back wonderful memories of my own adventures there. In 1948, when I was 18, I traversed The Narrows top down with two male friends, Clyde F. Gillette and Jim Miller. The next year, Clyde and I were married. We made it a two-day trip, marveling at the magnificent scenery. Clyde had made the traverse in one day several years earlier. His Aunt Nellie Flanigan’s father-in-law, William Flanigan of Cedar City, was a true Utah pioneer, doing all the initial landscaping of the college and riding in the first car that entered the new Zion National Park. He and his brother Dave put the cable up on Cable Mountain to bring lumber down to the valley settlers. His love was adventure and Zion National Park. It was at his urging that I accompanied Clyde and Jim on the trip down The Narrows, as it was something no female had done before and he was a great believer in “firsts”! A group of family and friends awaited us when we arrived at the end of our journey..great memories. Clyde climbed the Great White Throne with about four fellow members of the Wasatch Mountain Club a number of years later. In Seotember 1957, with our four daughters (the youngest being 22 months old and mostly carried), we made a three day traverse of The Narrows without incident and with great fun. Our youngest made up a song mainly consisting of “Horsey, horsey” as she rode on our backs for the majority of the trip. We had had canvass webbing attached to innertubes to make little rafts that the girls hoped to float in the river with but the water was too low so the tubes were mostly carried..they all remember to this day their dad’s response to the constant question of when will we get to the bottom. .”Just around the next bend!”

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      Wow, this is great!! What wonderful adventures you and your family have had in the Narrows. That’s so great that you took your daughters with you. The raft is a perfect idea (for part of the hike we wished we had one too 🙂 ). Thanks so much for sharing. Cheers, Julie

  15. I love your excellent blog, guys! Spent the last hour reading it. So informative and helpful with the thorough details, great pics, and also personable and funny. I will definitely be using your posts as reference to help plan hikes in the future. We’ve done Nevada Falls and plan to do Half Dome. We’ve also done Zion, but would love to go back and do the Narrows in its entirety. Last year we did the loop around Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands……a beast of a hike. I recommend it. Sorry you lost your walking sticks in the river!

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      I’m glad you like our blog! 🙂 We almost did Upheaval Dome this past December, but with a 5 pm sunset, didn’t have enough time once we arrived in Canyonlands. It’s still on our list. The Narrows is one of our favorite hikes of all time and we loved the experience of being there in October. Hope you get there soon! Cheers, Julie

  16. Very informative post. We, colleagues, are planning to go in summer and your post will definitely be our guide in this tour. Thanks a lot for all of the details!

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  17. Fantastic post. Thanks a lot for all of the details! My wife and I are planning on doing The Narrows overnight in August. Your information helped me understand everything that’s needed for this trip. I’ve got a reminder set for June 5 to make sure I have a shot at booking a spot. Thanks a lot 🙂

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  18. My sister and I are planning to hike the Narrows late next summer so I really appreciate all the information you provided about completing this hike. Your post is so thorough and detailed that this could almost be our only reference. Thank you so much for posting this!!

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