Julie United States 18 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.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

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.

US National Parks List

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.

Start Planning Your Adventure

Ready to start planning your adventure? Here are two more articles about the Zion Narrows.

Zion Narrows: Hiking the Top-Down Route in One Day

Zion Narrows Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up. Which One Should You Choose?

Does this look like something you would like to do? Comment below if you have any questions.

More Information about Zion & Utah

ZION NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Zion National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

HIKES IN ZION: Observation Point, Angels Landing, Canyon Overlook, and the West Rim Trail are some of the top hiking trails in Zion. For the full list, read our Best Hikes in Zion guide.

ZION TRAVEL INFORMATION: Before you go, here are 5 important things to know about Zion National Park.

AMERICAN SOUTHWEST ITINERARY: If you have 10 days, learn how to road trip through the American Southwest, visiting several national parks, state parks, and scenic spots in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.

BRYCE CANYON: Learn how to plan your visit in our Bryce Canyon Travel Guide. We also have information on how to spend One Day in Bryce Canyon and how to hike the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trails.

GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE: In Grand Staircase-Escalante, drive Cottonwood Canyon Road, hike Willis Creek, and hike through Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches.

MORE GREAT HIKES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS: From hikes to the tallest peaks to beautiful coast trails, read our Guide to the Best Day Hikes in the US National Parks. If you prefer to keep your hikes short and sweet, read our guide to the Best Short Hikes in the National Parks.


Read all of our articles about Utah in our Utah Travel Guide and the United States in our USA Travel Guide.

More Epic Adventures from Around the World:


Hike Zion Narrows in Photos


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Comments 18

  1. Avatar for Diego

    Hello Julie . We are a couple going in November 7th. We just want to go to Wall Street and back. Is it possible to go? Who should we contact / where to leave the car/ where to rent clothes / I saw everything green on the nps permits site …
    And what is an average temperature rate both water and weather ? Thanks so much and I am not sure if I should take anything else in consideration? We are in good shape, 40 years old and my girl is 35 thanks.
    From what I investigated this is one of the best things to do in the canyon along with antelope canyon . Thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Diego. Most of the answers to your questions can be found in our Guide to the Zion Narrows. That will have the approximate water temp since we did the hike about the same time that you are planning to do it. Since you will be hiking out and back from the Riverside Walk (doing the hike “bottom up”), you will not need a permit. To get to the start of the hike, you will ride the Zion Shuttle to the very end of the canyon (Temple of Sinawava) and then walk the Riverside Walk trail to the Virgin River. So, you will leave your car at the parking lot of the Visitor Center. Gear can be rented in Springdale (there are links to stores in our Guide). And you don’t need to contact anyone. You can just show up and do this hike. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Kathie McGlaughlin
    Kathie McGlaughlin

    We hiked this from the bottom up to Wall Street in November 2019. We were definitely out of our comfort zone as my husband and I are seniors. But our daughter and son-in-law arranged it, went with us and we had an amazing experience! Having appropriate gear is essential in November. Seeing your photos makes me want to go back! Enjoyed sharing your journey!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
    2. Avatar for Diego
  3. Avatar for Sofia Fernandes
    Sofia Fernandes

    Hi Julie – your pics were fabulous and the article very informative. I would like to do this trip with my 19 year old daughter. Question – do you know of any your company who does this trip with a guid and spend a night so that we can break this journey of 19 miles. Appreciate your help. Thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I don’t personally know of any guides who do this but I recommend contacting Zion Adventures. They offer guided trips in Zion National Park so they might be able to guide your trip or recommend someone for you. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

    2. Avatar for Howard Smith
      Howard Smith

      You might check with Zion Guru we used them the last time we hiked at Zion. We went with Johnathan the owner, he was the best!

  4. Avatar for Melissa G. Fuller
    Melissa G. Fuller

    Thanks for posting your Narrows hike, from Chamberlain’s Ranch! I have hiked bottom up to around Wall Street (I think), then turned around to go back to Temple of Sinawew. I did this primarily because my friend and I were in the water and it was up to my neck. I am only 4’11”. My question is how long did u and your friend have to swim? I am going back to hike in October. I can swim, float, and tread water, but only swim confidently on my back. Any advise on how long I would be swimming would make me feel better if we hike further than this area where we have to swim. I have hiked the narrows other times but that was the furest I went when water was up to my neck. Also, I had ankle/foot surgery last year where they took about 2 inches of my posterior tibia out of my inner left foot. I remember that my feet were fine in the water with those rented socks and dry suit and my Timberland boots. Did u have problems with your footing in the water where your ankles felt weak? I’ve been working hard to build up strength in my ankles and that foot that now has 2 screws inside on bottom of foot and 1 screw in the inner foot area that stretched the remainder tendons and muscles together. I really want to do the narrows again with my husband as far as we can go. Any advise about: 1)swimming time and how long in minutes; 2) ankle weakness or problems in the water. Much success and fun on your next hikes. The Smokey Mountains, Death Valley and Grand Canyon Bright Angel trail were great!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Melissa. There were two sections where we swam/floated for maybe 25 feet (2 to 3 minutes), when we did this in October. Our dry suits helped us float in the water, so we mostly doggy-paddled these parts. One of the hardest parts about this hike was the constant walking on uneven surfaces. We did not have any problems where our ankles felt weak, but I did experience some foot pain, which is unusual for me, but it’s because I wore rented boots that I was not accustomed to. If you have hiked to Wall Street, then you know what to expect, at least with regards to the uneven surfaces. If you are planning to hike the Narrows bottom-up, you can always turn around when you are ready, whether you get tired, or if you start to experience problems with your ankle. Best of luck to you on your hike! Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Kristin

    Hi Julie, thank you so much for your post. My husband and I are very excited to do this trail in 1 day in June. From what I understand we cannot get a permit until 3 months before. We are very fit so not worried about that, but my question is; is the trail marked? Will we be able to navigate easily?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, it is very easy to follow. If you do it from the top-down, you will be dropped off near the trailhead. This is well marked and easy to find. Once you get to the Virgin River, you simply walk down it until you get to the Riverside Trail. It will be obvious because there will be a lot of people here. Enjoy the hike! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for PK Tevatia
    PK Tevatia

    # Julie, your description of visit to Zion National park was really wonderful.
    I also visited Zion in Feb. 2019. Went on trail with family members for 2 miles by the side of the river. That was also very enjoyable.
    Reading your article has refreshed our trip also.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  7. Avatar for John Klassen
    John Klassen

    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. Avatar for Julie Post

      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

  8. Avatar for Whitney
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      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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