Located in Washington, Iron and Kane Counties in Southwestern Utah, the Zion Wilderness encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The wilderness is part of Zion National Park and is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas. The area is a showcase of geology. Geologic processes have played an important role in shaping Zion. The arid climate and sparse vegetation allow the exposure of large expanses of bare rock and reveal the park
Beautiful and grand views of southwestern Utah's high country at the beginning trailhead (Chamberland's Ranch). When the dirt road ends and you enter the river, naturally, the views become more limited in distance as you progress and descend into the canyon. There are areas where the canyon walls ascend over 2,000ft in front of you and the views are absolutely stunning. At around the 6 hour mark, the waterfall is a great stop for rest and taking photos. The hike can be completed in one haul, but I would highly recommend conducting it over a two day period and planning this awesome adventure by securing your permits and campsite reservations well in advance. This hike is only accessible during certain months of the year and, while not impossible to reserve, its popularity is one of the highest within Zion National Park. The majority of the campsites are located around the half-way point of this 15 mile hike. Whether you choose to do this in one day or over the course of two, you will feel a great sense of achievement each day from what this hike has to offer. 85-90% of this hike is executed by traversing through the river. High quality hiking shoes/boots that are specifically designed for long distance hiking and also function well while completely submerged in water are vital to completing this hike comfortably. Most of us rented the Five Ten Canyoneer boots with neoprene socks and this equipment worked extremely well. Prior to the confluence with Deep Creek there are a few physical obstacles due to debris build up from flash flooding, but nothing that can't be negotiated easily and without the use of specific equipment or special climbing techniques. After Deep Creek (also the beginning of the stretch of campsites), expect a 1.5 to 2 mile per hour pace at best to complete the remaining 7 miles to the Temple of Sinawava. The darker the rock you're trying to step on, the more slippery it is. The depth and rate of flow of the river after meeting Deep Creek creates some challenges and it's highly advised to carry at least one, if not two, trekking poles that you'll find are imperative to providing you with support and will prevent you from falling into the river. There are many points along this hike that allow you to take in the natural settings and just observe. If you schedule this hike over two days, the view of the stars through the top of the canyon is awesome and hard to capture without a professional camera. If you're able to stay awake until after sunset, it's a view you'll never forget. If you take the time to plan the logistics of this hike in advance, you won't be disappointed with it. Enjoy!
I did this hike several years ago, but I want to post a review since there are so few! If someone has done it more recently, let us know what has changed.
This is one of the coolest hikes in the US, but it is challenging for sure. Mostly just for time, distance, and logistics. We had tried and failed to get a permit one season. The next season we had one but it rained. Finally we got a permit, the weather was willing, AND we had a baby sitter/driver to drop us! Let's do this!!
We saw the estimated time of 12 hours, but my husband figured that meant we could do it in 8 or 9. Uh, not quite. It really did take the full 12 hours. And that was with him driving me like drill sergeant! At about half way, knowing the bottom half is slower, we could see our schedule for making it out before dark was not happening. So he started limiting our breaks to, "You've got 3 minutes and the timer starts now." I was ready to throw a rock at him. But thank goodness, because it was just getting dark on that last 1/4 mile and it was tough going without the light. My parents were at the end getting pretty darn worried about where we were as well. But it all worked out well in the end
Now for the hike: it's truly amazing. It starts as an easy walk through a private ranch. Then as the canyon narrows and you get into the stream, it is just beautiful and energizing. After the halfway mark, where the river rises, the scenery is spectacular! You are hiking from knee to chest deep and there are several mandatory swims. Meaning you jump off a rock into the water with all your gear on and paddle across to a shallower section. (How do people keep all their camping stuff dry? Do they dry bag everything?)
You can rent special water shoes from outfitters in town, but I just went in hiking boots and it was fine. Don't wear dinky water shoes, you need thick soled boots to protect your feet from 12 hours of walking on rocks. My husband said it felt like walking on bowling balls and it can be tough on the ankles, so sturdy shoes are super important. A walking stick is super duper helpful. Balance can be an issue, especially where the current is swifter. And it just helps you navigate the rocky bottom.
This hike is a toughie but yields tremendous rewards. You get to see otherworldly beauty that very few people have a chance to see on one of the best hikes in the country. And you feel like a super hero when you reach the end.
This quiet area is just down the road from Zion Ponderosa. The trail is an old road that is pretty sandy at times. We had rented a mini van so we didn't make it far on the road but an off-roading type truck or car could go as far as the yellow house. As you follow along the trail you begin to wonder if your getting anywhere and then you enter Zion National Park and then Jolley Gulch is straight ahead. Careful as it is a long way down. I crawled on my stomach to the edge and took pictures looking down as it was dangerous. There was equipment there for belaying down into the slot canyon so someone had gone down that day it appeared. It was a fantastic little hike that made for a great cap to the day of hiking we had just finished.
I'm just back from Zion, where I did the Narrows top-down. The campsites have been moved. For instance, site #1 is now past the waterfall, down by Deep Creek. Do yourself a favor and get an updated map from the rangers at the visitors center.