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Hiking the Legendary Zion Narrows

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Hiking the Legendary Zion Narrows
Zion National Park, Utah

“The Indians call the canyon through which it runs “Mu-koon’-tu-weap” or Straight Canyon. Entering this, we have to wade upstream; often the water fills the entire channel, and although we travel many miles, we find no flood plain, talus, or broken piles of rock at the foot of the cliff. The walls have smooth, plain faces and are everywhere very regular and vertical for a thousand feet or more, where they seem to break back in shelving slopes to higher altitudes; and everywhere as we go along we find springs bursting out at the foot of the walls, and, passing these, the river above becomes steadily smaller; the great body of water, which runs below, bursts out from beneath this great bed of red sandstone; as we go up the canyon, it comes to be but a creek, and then a brook.” – John Wesley Powell, describing the Zion Narrows hike, 1872.

The Zion Narrows, or more formally, the narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River, has become one of the most famous hikes in the world. The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 2,000-feet (610-meters) deep, and at times only 20 to 30-feet (6 to 9-meters) wide. The Narrows, with its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, grand Ponderosa pines, and hanging gardens can be an incredible experience.

Zion Narrows

Hiking The Narrows means hiking in the Virgin River – Much of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river. The easiest (and most traveled) way to experience The Narrows is to ride the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, walk the 1 mile to the end of the paved Riverside Walk, and begin wading up the river. This is an out-and-back hike with no formal destination, a tributary creek approximately two hours upstream from the end of the paved trail at Orderville Canyon is considered the unofficial goal and turn-around spot.

Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows

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And a little disclaimer about hiking the Zion Narrows… Don’t be an a$$hole. Jeans and flip flops are not appropriate attire to hike in, period. If this is what you choose to wear, I will repeatedly laugh at you, as I hope anyone else would, when (not “if”) you continuously fall in the river and then bitch about your iPhone getting wet. People watching is seriously top-notch in the Narrows.

2 Responses to "Hiking the Legendary Zion Narrows"
  1. Jeff Beer says:

    Hi! Great photos, and I really appreciate how you describe the hikes to get to these awesome locations.

    Is this hike difficult at all? I’m 54 years old with mild COPD, and haven’t hiked much for years. I’ll be training up for the next year to get ready for a road trip in August/September next year, but I won’t be doing any vertical scrambles or rappelling 🙂

    Thanks, and again, your photos are amazing.

    • brendan caffrey says:

      Thanks Jeff! As for if it’s hard or not, that’s a tough thing to answer. You are walking IN the river a lot of the time so you really can’t see your feet and step-by-feel. That in itself makes it tough. But it’s fairly flat and you can go in as far as you want and turn around since it’s an out-and-back hike. There are usually a lot of people in there as well. Good luck!

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