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A Guide to Hiking the Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows: Hiking the Narrows
Canyoneering is a popular sport in the Zion Narrows.
Canyoneering is a popular sport in the Zion Narrows.
Alexa Miller/Taxi/Gettty Images

There are plenty of hiking adventures in the world that offer stunning views and pristine environments, but Zion Narrows is a beauty among beauties. Whether you're on a leisurely day hike, a pulse-pounding top-down descent, or an overnight backpacking adventure, be sure to stop and appreciate the many amazing features the Narrows have to offer.

At the start of the "bottom-up" hike – the most popular hike through the Narrows – the walls of the canyon are about a quarter of a mile (402 meters) wide, but soon narrow to less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide in some places [source: National Park Service]. Hikers are sometimes so focused on the river beneath them that they forget to look up and take in the majesty of the perpendicular sandstone walls towering above them at 2,000 feet (609 meters) in some places. When hiking the narrows, be sure to wear water shoes. They'll help you navigate the slippery rocks so you can focus on the view.

There is definitely more to Zion Narrows than rocks and water. The Virgin River forms an area within Zion Canyon that is surprisingly lush with trees and plants considering the nearby arid Badlands. Among the most photographed elements of the Narrows are its hanging gardens, where wildflowers, ferns, and mosses jut out from the rocks high above the canyon floor. Visitors to the Zion Narrows may also spot a variety of wild animals, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and the California condor [source: National Park Service].

Keep in mind that when hiking the Narrows, there are serious risks, particularly along the more difficult stretches of trail on the "top-down" approach. Hikers should stay on the established trails and resist the urge to jump into pools of water from any distance while hiking. Hikers should be aware that they tackle the Narrows at their own risk, as rescue or medical assistance could be a long time coming to much of the trail. Hikers must also be aware of their impact on the pristine environment, packing out absolutely everything they bring in.

The Zion Narrows is a safe and spectacular outdoor adventure as long as you take a few basic precautions and observe a few practical rules. So far, our tips and recommendations have centered on able-bodied adults, but kids can also have a safe and fun time in the Narrows. That is, assuming parents keep in mind a few important points, which we discuss in the next section.