What to Expect Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

I absolutely loved hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park, it was my favorite hike from our entire Utah road trip! It might seem like an intimidating hike, and while it can be strenuous, I would definitely recommend it! Here is what to expect when hiking the Narrows + some tips!

What to Expect Hiking The Narrows in Zion

However far up the river in The Narrows you go, you have to hike the same distance back.

Unlike most hikes, there is no set length for this one. You hike as far as you want to, but keep in mind, you have to hike alllll the way back as far as you came. So if you go up the river until you’re tired, guess what, you’re only halfway done. That’s not meant to discourage you from going further down, it’s seriously worth it, the canyon gets more and more narrow which is amazing to see. I think Shelly and I ended up hiking 7+ miles roundtrip (so 2.5 up the river and back + 2-mile roundtrip Riverside Walk).

What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows

On that note, it's a mile walk just to get to the start of the Narrows.

To get to the entry point in the river that starts The Narrows hike, you have to walk along the Riverside Walk that’s about a mile long. It’s a very beautiful and easy walk, but it does add that additional time and mile.

Riverside walk to the Narrows

If you aren’t wanting to do the full Narrows Hike, I’d recommend just doing the Riverside Walk to the start of the trail just to see how beautiful the canyons are.

Walk before the narrows hike
canyons along the narrows
River running through the narrows

The water in The Narrows is going to be cold no matter what time of year you go.

I had read up on hiking the narrows beforehand, and everything I read suggested long sleeves and renting the waterproof hiking boots. I was hesitant because I overheat pretty easily, but decided to wear shorts and a workout top with a long sleeve jean shirt over it, and that was perfect for me! 

What to Expect When Hiking The Narrows - canyons

It was pretty chilly because the water is really cold and since the canyons are so narrow (hence the name) you are hiking mostly in shade. I took my jean shirt off only in the last hour of the hike, which was well past noon and into the heat of the day.

Morning hike in the narrows
What to Expect in The Narrows

There is going to be a crowd.

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw my stories waiting in line for the Zion National Park shuttle bus… it literally looked like a line at Disney World. You have to go into it with the mindset that there are going to be tons of people, especially in the summertime. Shelly and I arrived at the visitors center at about 6:45 am. With the lines and shuttle ride (The Narrows is the last stop), we didn’t get to the hike until almost 8:30. Once on the hike, there were definitely parts that were more crowded than others, even that early. 

crowds hiking in zion

On our way back, there were twice as many people. I cannot stress enough to go early if you’re going to hike the narrows during the summer.

How crowded is the narrows hike

There is a good chance you might fall

With the combination of the moving water, uneven path, and big stones, there is a good chance you’re going to fall. I luckily didn’t, but I bring this up because I had my camera around my arm the entire time… had I fallen, and there were many around me that did, my camera would have gone right into the water. 

I highly recommend bringing a dry bag to put your valuables in. Even if its just a small one to put inside a larger backpack (what I did). I bought a 3-pack with variable sizes on Amazon, it’s only $10. If you’re interested in a more heavy duty one, this dry bag has thousands of great reviews and has several sizes to choose from.

Falling in the narrows

You definitely want to rent the hiking shoes and walking stick.

 read mixed reviews on whether or not renting was worth it, but we decided to go for it anyways and I am SO thankful we did. I cannot imagine hiking that in just regular ole tennis shoes. We rented from Zion Outfitter, and it was only $24 to rent the “Warm Weather Package” which included boots, neoprene socks (they keep your feet so warm), and the walking stick. They also have an option for when it’s colder that includes dry pants as well. Plus, why wouldn’t you want the boots, they’re superrrr fashionable 😉

Boot Rentals for the Narrows

I complained about the walking stick the entire walk to the river (Sorrry Shelly), it was heavy and awkward, but once in the river, I was SO thankful for it. There were many times when I would have fallen straight into the river had it not been for the walking stick. Plus it comes with the shoe rentals, so you might as well take advantage of that. 

You're going to want to bring snacks and lots of water.

This is a fairly strenuous hike, bringing some kind of energy bar or snack is highly recommended. And definitely bring lots of water. The rule of thumb is typically 1 liter of water for every hour you hike. An insulated water bottle like this one will keep your water cold the entire hike.

Canyons along the river in Zion

There are no bathrooms.

This one may prove tough for some people. There are no bathrooms along the trail, and honestly, not too many places where you can discreetly hide behind to go. They do have bathroom facilities at the trailhead, but if you’re hiking for a couple hours, you’re gonna have to go before you get back. Just be prepared for a potentially awkward situation.

no bathrooms on the narrows hike

The views will take your breath away.

Even though this hike doesn’t give sprawling views that go on for miles like the Overlook Trail, it gives you a different kind of amazing view. It’s crazy seeing how narrow the canyons get and how high they rise above you. It was easily my favorite hike of the entire trip.

Narrows rock formations
canyons in zion
light in the narrows canyons

I do not consider myself a major hiker, so for me, this was a pretty strenuous hike, but nothing unreasonable. Worried about whether or not you can handle it? Luckily the walk along the riverside is beautiful in itself, and even if you just hike up the river half a mile, you’ll still see the towering canyon walls and it will be worth it!

I hoped this post helped you know what to expect hiking The Narrows. Have you hiked it before? Do you have any additional recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!
xx Chels

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