Active Travel, Hiking, USA

Hiking the Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Our badminton tournament trip to St. George, Utah, being very close to Zion National Park, presented us with another chance to hike the Narrows.  Eight years ago, high water level prevented us from attempting this most popular hike within this spectacular National Park.

Zion National Park

We woke up early to a dry and clear day.  One hour of smooth driving on interstate 9, we arrived at the Zion National Park visitor center.  We spoke to the park ranger to ensure the Narrows is open for hiking, picked up a trail map, and then join a queue of people waiting outside for the free Park shuttle bus that drop passengers off at various scenic view points and hiking trail heads.

Waiting for Park Shuttle Bus

We noticed many hikers had rental waterproof boots, jackets, pants, and hiking poles on the shuttle bus.  They were obviously all headed to hike the Narrows.  We felt somewhat unprepared since we only had water sandals and hiking poles.  But we decided that we would just have to assess the water level, and tolerate the cold water while hiking as far as we can.

Angels Landing, the other popular hike (very exposed at the top)

Eight years ago, we had hiked Angels Landing, another signature hike in the Zion National Park.   We snapped a picture of it as the shuttle bus went by the gigantic sheer cliff.  Our hike will be very different today.  Instead of dealing with my fear of heights, I will have to deal with fear of fast flowing water in a slot canyon.  Blessed with another sunny day in this beautiful National Park, we were determined to hike the trail even if it meant some discomfort along the way.

The Narrows is the most popular hike in Zion National Park and one of the world’s best slot canyon hikes.  It is also rated in many publications as one of the world’s top 100 hikes.  The Zion Narrows are created by water that continuously flows through this section of Zion National Park for many thousands of years.

Three Patriarchs on route to trail head

Approximately twenty five miles north of Zion National Park is Cedar Mountain with elevations ranging over 11,000 feet. Some of the snow melt and rain from this plateau drains south into a basin that is just above Zion National Park. In this basin several tributaries come together to create a good flow of water that becomes the Virgin River and this waterway continues to cut deeper and deeper into the sandstone formations of Zion National Park.

The “Riverside Walk”, leading to the Narrows hike

The Zion Narrows are cut hundreds of feet into various layers of sandstone and form a narrow passage that winds through the northern section of Zion National Park. The Zion Narrows section of the park is just over 16 miles long.  During summer and early fall the Zion Narrows are normally very enjoyable. In spring time, depending on annual precipitation, the Zion Narrows has a water flow that is not safe for access and flash flood can have deadly consequences if one happened to be at a section without high ground.

Waterfall along the trail

We hiked 30 minutes along the Riverside Walk to the trail head, and then another 1.5 hours into the Narrows before turning around as we were getting a bit cold from the swift running water.  The return journey was somewhat easier as we were now used to navigating in a zigzag fashion to higher and sunnier spots through the watery trail.

Thigh deep in some spots

We got back to the trail head in good time, dried off and changed to our dry shoes.  Then took the shuttle bus back to the visitor center where our rental car was parked.

We got back to St. George just before dusk, and celebrated the day with a nice dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.  We were glad to have finally hiked the Narrows as part of our trip to St. George, Utah for the Huntsman World Senior Games (see post on Huntsman Games).

 

 

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