The best hike of my life so far? Definitely!
Certainly, the longest hike I’ve done yet, and one of the most challenging. Not so much as difficult in terms of elevation, but in the uniqueness of terrain and stamina. Much of it is wading in water, negotiating smooth rocks. As I was preparing for this hike, reading various blogs about what to bring, what time of the year is best, cautionary steps to take, I have to say…
I was very skeptical about even doing this.
But oh! Some of the challenges you put yourself through are also some of the most rewarding! And the best part? My family was with me: My husband, my brother and sister, and their families. We had kids with us as young as seven, and all of us hiked this gorgeous trail with little problem.None of us had done anything like this before, and even though we got separated several times, we always kept a look out for each other and made sure the small kids always had an adult with them. It made the day even more special, doing it as a family.
Let’s start with the basics.
Zion National Park is the southernmost National Park in Utah…and it’s HUGE. You could easily spend a week here, exploring everything. The tiny town of Springdale is the obvious home base for the park. There is even a free shuttle stopping at various points throughout the main drag of the town (running approximately every 20 minutes) to take you into the park. There is parking inside the park, but the shuttle is so much handier, and you won’t have to pay the fee for your vehicle.
From there you can get your park pass, and load up on any last-minute supplies you may need. They even have rentals for all of your hiking gear, if you did not bring your own. For example, a rental package that includes shoes and a walking stick will run you about 20 dollars per day.
You can board another free shuttle that will take you to all of the points inside the park. You can hop on and off along any of the nine stops. My family and I had one mission on the day we were there: to hike The Narrows. This can easily be a one-day, or even two-day hike if you wish. As with any hike, you can make it as short as you want. But with the Narrows, you will surely want to go for the long haul and carve out 5-7 hours (round trip) to get to the infamous “Wall Street” where the cliffs on either side of you narrow drastically and the scenery will blow your mind.
The Narrows hike is the last stop when taking the shuttle through the park, called the Temple of Sinawava. With a name like that, images of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom invaded my imagination. Turns out the scenery was not far off base! It’s about a 40-minute ride from the park’s entrance. So if you are hiking The Narrows for 5-7 hours, you’ll want to start as early as possible.
At the Temple of Sinawava trailhead, you will have an easy, 1-mile paved walk before you approach the Virgin River, which you will be mostly hiking in. At this point, most folks will pause to change into waterproof shoes, and/or secure their gear/backpacks for some fun wading in the water! If you didn’t bring a walking stick, you may just get lucky at this point, as there tend to be ones propped up along the water’s edge for the taking (just be sure you’re not stealing someone else’s stick!)
That first tentative step in the water is exhilarating! You will be hiking on and off through the river for 2-3 hours before you get to ‘Wall Street’ where the 1500-foot walls start to close in on you and the scene is, well, very Indiana Jones! This section goes on for about 2 miles and it is where we stopped to turn back around. Throughout this hike, even though I was looking down much of the time, watching my footing on the rocks, you have to remember to pause, and look up! For around every bend of this hike is a super spectacular view. The hike back was WAY easier and quicker. I was amazed at how quick the return trip was.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HIKING THE NARROWS
- This is not a loop trail. You hike as far as you want, then go back the same way you came. The entire length is over 10 miles, so it may not even be possible to do it in a day unless you are a very seasoned hiker and don’t take many breaks.
- There is always the possibility of bad weather. If there is any chance of rain, the park rangers will strongly advise you NOT to do this hike, and may even shut down the trail. Flash floods will occur and you don’t want to get caught at the bottom of a canyon when that happens!
- Bring a packed lunch, plenty of water, wear a hat and sunscreen. The right shoes are important. They should be breathable and/or waterproof. I wore my trusty closed-toed Keen sandals and they were perfect for this hike. I also wore a sturdy backpack (carrying food, water, and other essentials) the whole way and was fine.
- Using a walking stick is not required, but VERY HELPFUL. I started out without one and struggled a bit to navigate the rocks in the water. But a kind hiker gave me his on the way back and it was like night and day – I breezed through the trail on the return trip with that stick! If you are at all unsteady on your feet, you really do need one.
- You can certainly do this hike alone, but bringing people with you is way better. Being with my family, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
- The middle of summer is the best time for this hike, where there is the least chance of rain (i.e. flash floods), and the weather is not too hot (remember you have cool water to walk through!)
- Other than navigating through water and rocks, this hike is easy – no elevation issues to deal with. There are many opportunities to take breaks along the water’s edge.
- Although the water level is mostly less than knee high, there will be points where you will be wading up to your waist or even your chest, for a bit. So wear lightweight clothes you don’t mind getting wet in! But take heart, they will dry quickly, especially in summer.
- This is a world-famous hike, so you will have LOTS of company! Especially during tourist season in the summer months. And also, this trail may not be open in the late fall through early spring months, due to ever-changing weather conditions.
- No matter what time of day you start out, you will want to head back at a time where you will be out of the water before sundown. Because again, there is always the possibility of rain, which will turn into flash floods in the canyon river! And if at any time you see rain clouds threaten, turn back!