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The most visited hike in Zion National Park, the Narrows likely need no introduction, but I'll give them one. The Narrows of the Virgin River, or more often referred to as just The Narrows, offer one of the unique attractions in Zion National Park. As the Virgin River cuts its way through the sandstone layers of the park, it is funneled down to a narrow chasm 22' wide and over 1500' deep in its narrowest spots.
The Narrows refers to a 16-mile section of the Virgin River that starts at Chamberlains Ranch and winds its way down to the Temple Of Sinawava in the main Zion Canyon. Hiking the full distance will require a somewhat difficult to get permit and is generally done as a 2-day backpack. This description is for the far more popular hike up from the bottom (Temple Of Sinawava) as far as motivation allows and returning the same way. If you can make it about 2 hours up, you will visit the narrowest and deepest section of the Narrows, and awe-inspiring place some refer to as Wall Street.
The Narrows is my top recommendation for those visiting Zion, but requires a few caveats.
Not up for the adventurous river hike? Those who are wanting a tamer outing should still consider hiking to the entrance of the narrows. The Riverside Walk, the first part of this hike, is a well maintained and accessible trail that offers excellent scenery while being suitable for most. (2 miles round trip to the entrance to the narrows)
The hike starts at the end of the Zion Shuttle system. During summer/fall, taking the Zion Shuttle is the only way to reach the trailhead. Take the shuttle from the Visitor Center to its last stop in the canyon, the Temple of Sinawava.
Approach (20-30 minutes / 1 mile)
From the Temple of Sinawava, follow the wide and accessible Riverside Walk Trail for about 1 mile to its end at the entrance to the narrows.
From the stairs and large landing area, it is time to get your feet wet! Head upstream, major landmarks are:
Mystery Falls (10 minutes / 0.3 miles up from the end of the Riverside Walk) -This impressive 110' high waterfall marks the end of Mystery Canyon and is a favorite picture spot when canyoneers are descending from above.
From Mystery Falls, the usual path crisscrosses the Virgin countless times, staying on dry banks for short sections in between wades. As the walls begin to narrow at the start of Wall Street, however, you will be wading most of the time.
About 1.25 miles up from Mystery Falls, Wall Street starts when the walls narrow and the Virgin River fills the canyon bottom. Just a few minutes up from the start of Wall Street is the confluence with Orderville Canyon coming in on the right. Most groups will take 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the confluence with Orderville Canyon.
Continuing above the Orderville Canyon confluence, you are in the narrowest section of the Narrows. This section lasts about a mile and is stunning. As the walls begin to open, I would recommend this as the turn around spot. If continuing up the canyon, you are not allowed to continue past Big Springs. Finding Big Springs is easy, it is the obvious.. well.. Big Spring gushing from the wall. If you reach one of the designed NPS campsites you have gone too far.
Total distance one way to Big Spring is about 4.5 miles, 9 miles round trip. This will take most of a day given the slow walking in the narrows.
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