Zion Narrows Hike in Photos

Journey through the Zion Narrows in Photos

Julie United States 4 Comments

For millions of years, the Virgin River has been carving its way through layers of rock, forming the Zion Narrows. This canyon twists and turns for miles, creating one of the most unique hiking trails in the world.

There are several different ways you can hike the Narrows. Most people hike from the bottom-up, an out-and-back journey that takes you several miles upriver through some of the most scenic sections of the canyon.

For the ultimate experience, you can hike from the top-down, a 16-mile adventure that can be done as an epic day hike or an overnight backpacking trip.

We did this as a day hike from the top-down on October 29, 2018. Fall colors were at their peak, turning this photogenic journey into something even more spectacular.

In this article, journey through the Zion Narrows in photos, starting at Chamberlain’s Ranch and ending at the Riverside Walk.

Spoiler alert! This article is filled with photos of the Zion Narrows, so if you’re the type of person who would like to keep the hike a “surprise,” stop reading here. This article takes you mile by mile through the Zion Narrows in photos.

Stats on the Zion Narrows (from the Top-Down)

Distance: 16 miles (from the top-down)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: It takes 10 to 13 hours to do this hike. 12 hours is the average amount of time for most hikers (allowing for rest stops and photography).
When to go: The best time to go is summer and fall. In the spring, the Narrows are generally closed from mid-March through mid-May when flow rates are high from snowmelt. You can do this during the winter months with proper gear.
Before You Go: In order to hike the Narrows from the top-down, you must have a permit.

The Zion Narrows in Photos

Here is a map of the top-down hike. I photographed the Zion Narrows with a Canon 5D Mark IV camera and 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The camera tags the photos with GPS coordinates. In Lightroom, I chose selected photos from the hike and generated the map below using their coordinates. Each orange square represents a photo in this article. I added important landmarks along the way.

Zion Narrows Map

 

Chamberlain’s Ranch

The journey begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch. This is private property located outside of Zion National Park. Our day started at 6:15 am, with a shuttle ride from Springdale to Chamberlain’s Ranch. It took an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the ranch and our hike started at 8:15 in the morning.

Chamberlains Ranch Trailhead

The first three miles of the hike are quick and easy. You simply walk downhill on a gravel road.

Chamberlains Ranch Trail

Top Half of the Hike

At mile 3, just past Bulloch’s Cabin, the real hiking begins. The road ends, you walk down a short, steep riverbank, and enter the north fork of the Virgin River for the first time.

Start of the Virgin River

One of the coolest reasons to hike the narrows from the top-down is to watch as the canyon walls steadily grow higher and higher around you. At first, the walls are only 15 to 20 feet tall. Later in the hike, the walls tower hundreds of feet above you and even close in on you in some spots. It’s an awesome experience.

First part of River Hike

Walls get taller

Tim hiking the Narrows

It doesn’t take long for the walls to really gain some height. At about 4.5 miles into the hike, the walls begin to close in on you in spots, and this is where it first feels like you are hiking through a slot canyon.

Rock Arch Zion Narrows

Hiking Zion Narrows in Autumn

To hike in autumn, special gear is needed to stay warm and dry. We wore full body dry suits (with the arms tied around our waist for most of the hike), neoprene socks, special boots, and a hiking stick. When we did this, the water temperature was 50° Fahrenheit.

 

Another Arch

Log Jam

 

Just before mile 6, there is a short section of tall canyon walls. This is a nice little taste of what is to come later in the hike.

Zion Narrows in Autumn

First Slot Canyon

At mile 8.5, there is a small waterfall that you can bypass by hiking a trail around the south side of an enormous boulder.

Waterfall Zion Narrows

 

Just past these falls is a spectacular section of narrows. This was our favorite part of the hike. These walls are so tall and the canyon is so narrow, we were in awe of what we were seeing. By this point, Tim and I had been hiking on our own for several hours, and to experience this alone, without any other hikers, was magical.

Zion Narrows Hike in Autumn

Zion Narrows October

Hike Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows Campsites

At mile 9, Deep Creek joins the north fork of the Virgin River. The Virgin River now heads south towards the heart of Zion National Park. For two miles, you hike past the campsites used by backpackers and the joining of Kolob Creek and Goose Creek.

Deep Creek Zion Narrows

The confluence where Deep Creek joins the North Fork of the Virgin River. On the left hand side of this photo is campsite #1. If you look closely, you can see a small, yellow sign marking the campsite.

Zion Narrows in Photos

Wall Street

At mile 11, you will see Big Springs. This is really just a cluster of small waterfalls, but it’s an important landmark. When hiking from the top-down, this marks the point where “Wall Street” begins, one of the most spectacular sections of the hike. For those hiking from the bottom-up, this is the farthest north you can hike. Beyond this point you must have a permit.

Big Springs

For two miles, the canyon walls tower overhead. Even though it was a brilliantly sunny day, it was quite dark here, since the canyon walls are so tall and so narrow in spots.

Tim Rivenbark

Zion Narrows Hike October

Hiking Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows Day Hike

Wall Street Zion Narrows

The water flow felt stronger here and it can be chest deep (or deeper!) in some spots. Tim and I wore full body dry suits, which was a good thing, because in three places we actually swam part of the river. Yes, we were in over our heads (even Tim at 6′ 3″). I wish I had photos of this, but cameras and water do not mix well and I was not willing to take the risk.

It was in Wall Street where we saw people for the first time since Chamberlain’s Ranch.

The Final Stretch of the Narrows

Wall Street ends at mile 13.5. This is where Orderville Canyon joins the Virgin River. You can explore this canyon for about a mile if you have the time and energy. We skipped it, since we had limited daylight with it being late in the season.

Orderville Canyon

From Orderville Canyon, it is a gorgeous, relatively easy hike past boulders, forests, and more narrow canyons, until you get to the Riverside Walk at mile 15.

Zion Narrows Photography

Last part of the Narrows

How to Hike Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows Riverside Walk

Approaching the end of the Narrows. The small crowd of people is on the riverbank near the end of the Riverside Walk trail.

 

At this point, you are back on dry ground and it’s an easy one mile walk on a paved trail to reach the Temple of Sinawava.


Hiking the Narrows was one of our favorite hiking experiences, ever! For almost 10 miles, Tim and I were completely on our own without another person in sight. Hiking through the canyons, navigating obstacles along the way, and at times swimming through the river when it was up over our heads, felt like a real adventure.


Does this look like something you would like to do? In the next few days, I will be writing more about how to do this hike. There are a lot of logistics involved and lots to know before you go. In the meantime, feel free to comment below with any questions you may have.

More Information for Your Trip to Zion:

Looking for more adventures in Utah? Read all of our articles in our Utah Destination Guide.

More Epic Adventures from Around the World:

Hike Zion Narrows in Photos

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The Zion Narrows hike in photos. Journey from the top-down through the Narrows, the ultimate slot canyon experience and one of the best hikes in the world. #zionnarrows #zion #thenarrows #hiking #adventuretravel

Comments 4

  1. Julie, Just wanted to thank you for this post. I greatly enjoyed seeing the photos and reading your commentary. Many of the photographs are stunning in their beauty. Living in Quebec City, and at my age, I don’t think that I will ever do this strenuous hike, but I can experience it vicariously. I recently returned from a trip to Vegas at which time I also spent 4 days exploring and hiking the beautiful National Parks of SW Utah, including Zion. Since photography is one of my main hobbies, I also was curious as to how you kept your gear dry, but see that this was answered above. Thanks again. John

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m glad you liked the post! That whole area…Utah, Arizona, Nevada…is simply amazing. It keeps drawing us back. You have the option to hike from the bottom up. You only have to hike one mile up the Virgin River to get to some very pretty spots. Just try to avoid the summer months…I have recently heard that the river gets mobbed with hikers this time of year. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      For part of the hike, I wore a cross body strap that was attached to the camera so I wouldn’t drop it in the river. Of course, if I fell down (which I actually did one time, but kept the camera dry) the camera could still fall into the water, so even with the strap it was risky. For the deep sections, I put the camera in a small dry bag and then put that into a special waterproof backpack we rented in Springdale at Zion Outfitters. It was a big pain to do it this way but it kept the camera safe. Cheers, Julie

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