Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park was our family favorite excursion we did on our RV adventure around the USA.
The river hike exceeded all our expectations and I highly recommend everyone put this on their bucket list if you haven’t yet been to Utah’s First National Park. Even if you’ve already got activities such as going whale watching california or going sky diving, adding this hike to your list is another goal to aim towards.
It was absolutely breathtaking and really a unique experience.
What is The Narrows Hike?
The Virgin River has carved an amazing gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. The Narrows river hike is definitely an unforgettable experience with its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, and hanging gardens. You access the river hike by taking the Zion National Park shuttle from the Visitor Center to the last stop The Temple of Sinawava. From there you follow the signs for the River Walk and hike one mile down on the paved path until it ends at the Narrows and wade on in!
TIP: We had the kids wear their regular tennis shoes to hike the River Walk and then change into their water shoes once they got there. We just left our tennis shoes and socks up on the banks while we were in the river. The kids were very happy to have dry shoes and socks to put on at the end. Keith and I hadn’t brought a change of footwear and wished we would’ve.
What can you expect on the hike?
The Narrows isn’t necessarily easy by any means, but it can be as leisurely or strenuous as you want to make it. The majority of the time is spent wading, walking and sometimes swimming in the cold river. There is no maintained trail because the route is the river. How awesome is that?
When we first all stepped into the water, we were freezing and wondering how we would ever make it. Perseverance pays off for sure and you get acclimated to all of the elements quickly! Hike up as far as you want to go and then turn around and retrace your steps.
The round trip hike is 5 miles if you go all the way to Orderville Canyon and Wall Street, but really there is not a formal destination. It gets pretty strenuous fighting the currents and slippery rocks toward the end. We spent about 5 hours doing this hike. We took sandwiches, energy bars and lots of water in our backpacks to picnic on the banks here and there.
What should you wear to do The Narrows Hike?
There are several companies in town that you can rent proper gear from, entailing walking sticks and special shoes. I don’t know what it costs to rent these, but we saw a lot of people who did that. We feel it’s important for the kids (and us as well) to make do with what they have and learn to be uncomfortable at times. (Life lesson teaching: Life isn’t always going to be full of perfect comfort. It’s good to learn to work through some discomfort and see that you are just fine in the end. Off my parenting soapbox now and back to the hike….)
The kids wore their Walmart water shoes, while I wore my waterproof hiking boots, as that was what was recommended footwear. I’m not sure if that was the best idea though as I felt like I had heavy ankle weights on a majority of the time. The boots did provide good support and had ideal tread on the bottom, where the kids definitely were able to feel the rocks through their thin water shoes. The rocks underfoot can be very slippery as well but you will slip around no matter what shoes you are wearing. We even saw people doing the hike barefoot too, even though you should wear some type of closed toe shoe.
We did not take walking sticks with us, although a lot of people had them and were voicing to me that I really should have one as I tried to get my footing in the beginning. It’s all in your preference and families abilities. I don’t mind a challenge so I went without. It is definitely cooler in the Narrows compared to other areas in Zion, so you may want to have a long sleeve shirt with you too.