The Narrows | Strenuous Hikes in Zion National Park

  • Shuttle Stop 9, [Temple of Sinawava]
  • Estimated Roundtrip Time: up to 8 hours
  • Distance: 9.4 miles/15.1 kilometers
  • Elevation Change: 334 feet/102 meters

About The Narrows

At the final shuttle stop, at the very end of Floor of the Valley Road you’ll find the Temple of Sinawava bus stop. This is our destination for one of the more exciting day hikes Zion National Park has to offer and it has been said, and agreed upon by many, that this hike can be called the greatest hike in the entire American National park system. When you take the trek, decide for yourself. You may agree or disagree but you won’t come away without an exhilarating experience.

the narrows scoutendalemichael
The Narrows, by scoutendalemichael on Instagram.

Take in the Temple’s views from the south side of the parking lot, use the restroom facilities just to the north beside the Riverside Walk Trailhead and then prepare for the Zion Narrows Bottom Up Trail. This trail is specified as “bottom up” because the 16 mile top-down treks from Chamberlain’s Ranch are much more difficult, often involving overnight backpacking, and are highly regulated with only 80 hiking permits being issued per/day.

Our hike is only 5 miles in and 5 miles out, but they are plenty strenuous for a day hike and though we aren’t doing the 16 mile overnighter, strict precautions must be taken.

the narrows lizoneal
The Narrows, by lizoneal on Instagram.

Zion Narrows is situated in an extremely narrow slot canyon. There is nowhere in this thin gorge for excessive water to go but through. If you are in the narrows during a flash flood, you are in dire trouble. Permits for the top-down hikes are regulated and won’t be issued during periods of rain, heavy river flow, or extreme spring melts.

Our bottom-up trek has no such regulation so it is incumbent upon us to monitor our own safety and stay abreast of rain forecasts. Not only during our hike but before. Heavy rains and flooding will turn the water murky for days and make the already difficult footing even more treacherous.

the narrows rackphotographer
The Narrows, by rackphotographer on Instagram.

The first mile is on the Riverside Walk Trail. After rounding the final bend after Zion Stadium, we take the Narrows Bottom Up Trail and this is where things get interesting. From here to the end at Big Springs is a wet trail. You will be in and out of the North Fork of the Virgin River, wading in knee deep water, fording waist deep, and occasionally swimming across chest deep chasms. Gear up accordingly. Stable wet foot gear and hiking poles are nearly necessities, If you have your camera with you, bring a dry bag. You will need it.

the narrows swiss_outdoors
The Narrows, by swiss_outdoors on Instagram.

Mystery Canyon has flowing water coming down from the hanging canyon far above. Another mile up and we come across the section of the trail with the unofficial designation of “Wall Street”. This is the narrowest of the trek and beyond this point you will be in the water nearly 100% of the journey. The sheer walls and deep chasm precludes nearly all direct sunlight and is one of the reasons a headlamp is suggested just in case you find yourself hiking out as night falls.

the narrows girlsandplaces
The Narrows, by girlsandplaces on Instagram.

At the Orderville Canyon junction, the trail beyond may appear blocked but with a little boulder climbing and rock scrambling, you will make it over and continue on to emerge into the daylight at the rocky beach which marks Big Springs. Non-permit hikes end here, we turn around and enjoy the trek back to the Temple of Sinawava. The Narrows is absolutely unreal!