ZION NARROWS DAY HIKE (from the Temple of Sinawava) 

Zion Narrows day hikeOverview:
For tourists or casual hikers who want to see the best of the Zion Narrows, this is the route to do. Starting at the Temple of Sinawava, you can hike up the Riverside Walk trail and then continue hiking right up the river to see some of the best "narrows" sections of the North Fork of the Virgin River. Hike up as far as you want to go and then turn around and retrace your steps. A side hike up Orderville Canyon is also a good detour to see even more amazing slot canyon scenery. As a round-trip hike, this can be as leisurely or strenuous as you wish to make it.

Detailed Description:
You do not need a backcountry permit to hike the Narrows this way. Starting at the Temple of Sinawava (the last stop for the Zion Canyon shuttle bus system), hike up the pleasant Riverside Walk trail until it ends about a mile north. Now the fun begins -- it's time to start hiking right in the water!

Zion Narrows day hikeFor the majority of the day, you will be hiking in knee to waist deep water with the riverbed alternating between sections of sand and sections with a lot of loose rocks and boulders. Brereton and Dunaway mention the footing being akin to "trying to walk on greased bowling balls." While maybe not that bad, hiking poles (or a stick) as well as good footwear will be invaluable. (Please see the equipment recommendations below.) While the water is usually less than waist deep, you may encounter a handful of pockets of chest-deep water or even a swimmer. And while the water current is generally mild, many narrow crossings can be strong enough to challenge your balance. (If the water where you are standing is very deep, usually you can move to your left or right to find a more shallow alternative route.)

Less than half-a-mile from the Temple of Sinawava, you will pass Mystery Falls, a beautiful spot where water rolls down the sandstone walls from the canyon above. Roughly 1.5 miles from ToS is the beginning of the section that many Springdale outfitters call "Wall Street" -- the start of the narrowest section of canyon where you will now be hiking in the water almost all of the time. And soon after, you will pass the mouth of Orderville Canyon on the right (east) side of the river.

Upstream from Orderville Canyon, the Narrows remain dark and impressive with no high ground to climb up to in the event of the thunderstorm or flash flood. If you have the time and the energy, you might make it two miles upstream from Orderville Canyon to reach Big Springs -- another magical spot where beautiful waterfalls come right out of the walls on the west side of the canyon. This area is sprinkled with several big boulders and a few deep channels, but with some effort, you should find a way around.

When you have had enough, turn around and return the way you came back to the Temple of Sinawava. (Most people turn around a mile or so upstream of Orderville Canyon.)

Water Levels and Flash Floods:
What description of the Narrows would be complete without warning about the danger of flash foods and water levels! The difficulty of hiking the Narrows is greatly affected by water flow, and a strong enough rain storm can turn a calm and shallow stream into a deadly wall of rushing water. Please check the weather forecast and/or the Backcountry Desk for current conditions and for any advisories. Remember that it doesn't have to be raining directly above you for a threat to be possible. To see the current and median water levels, check the USGS's water data website.

Seasons and Spring Runoff:
The hiking season for the Zion Narrows is typically summer and autumn, but the start of the season is controlled by the spring runoff and water levels. Usually the Narrows are open for business in late May or early June, but in record snowfall years like 2005 and 2011, the Narrows weren't open until mid-July. To see the current and median water levels, check the USGS's water data website. It is possible to hike the Narrows bottom-up in fall and winter, provided you are adequately prepared for the cold water; wetsuits or even drysuits may be called for, depending on the temperatures.

Equipment Recommendations:
Good footwear that covers your toes are must, as are hiking poles (or a hiking stick) and a fleece. Please see the Zion Narrows Overview page for specific recommendations.

Dealing with Human Waste:
For the first mile of the hike, there are plenty of pockets of vegetated shoreline. While most hikers will choose to hike from shore to shore rather than staying in the water all of the time, please do your best to avoid trampling the plantlife. If you need to pee, it is actually best to go in the river rather than on the shore. If you need to do more than pee, be prepared to pack it out. The pockets of shore near the Temple of Sinawava have a reputation for wreaking of human waste. If you think you've found a secret spot to go to the bathroom, rest assured that somebody else has already used it!

Zion Narrows Day Hiker's Map
(Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs.)

Note: While viewing the map, click on the map
to return to this page.

Joe's Spin:
The Zion Narrows day hike is an all-time classic; it's one of the best hikes in Zion and arguably one of the best hikes in any American National Park! With its amazing scenery and the thrill of hiking in water all day, who could ask for more? This hike is strenuous and demanding, but you can turn around whenever you like. But if you want any sense of solitude, start hiking very early in the day; by mid-afternoon, the lower sections of the Narrows hike resemble a school playground with many, many people sharing the river.

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