The Narrows (Top-Down) is a 15.5 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Duck Creek Village, Utah that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from March until October.
This unparalleled overnight or extended day hike follows the Virgin River through almost 16 miles of beautiful canyons. The Narrows is perhaps the most famous hike in Zion National Park. Most visitors take the day hike starting at the Temple of Sinawava, but they only get a small taste of this remarkable canyon. A more adventurous option is to take a shuttle to Chamberlain Ranch and walk 15.5 miles through the entire Narrows. This hike requires a Zion backcountry permit, which is available at https://zionpermits.nps.gov/index.cfm?. You can arrange your own shuttle or pay for a shuttle from a company in Springdale. One company that offers shuttle services is http://www.zionadventures.com/. There are 12 campsites in the Narrows. Sites 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 12 can be reserved online approximately 3 months in advance or through the park's lottery system. The rest of the sites may be reserved at the visitor center 1 day before the trip. Another option is to hike the entire 15.5 miles in a single day. This 12-hour-plus trip also requires a backcountry permit. Starting from the trailhead at Chamberlain Ranch, the first several miles of the hike are very easy, and you stay completely dry. After about 3 miles, the steam banks start rising on either side of the river to form short canyon walls. From this point, you'll have to cross the stream several times and walk in the stream for portions. After about 6 or 7 miles, there is a 12-foot waterfall. An easy trail around the waterfall is found to the left (south) of the waterfall. After about 8 miles, Deep Creek joins the North Fork of the Virgin River on the right, and the water volume more than doubles. This marks the half-way point in terms of distance but not for time. 3/4 mile after Goose Creek, Big Springs will be on your right. No camping is allowed in the last 4.5 miles between Big Springs and the Temple of Sinawava. This section of the Narrows has the deepest water and the tallest canyon walls.
Amazing. You can't get it all into a picture
I can't even begin to describe it. If it's cold definitely call an outfitting company. The water was about 39 degrees and it was about 35 degrees when we started. The dry pants and neoprene socks and mountaineering shoes make it comfortable even though it was cold.. Pictures don't do it justice. You just can't take it all in. It was my favorite.
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.
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.