Did you know Zion National Park was Utah’s First National Park? Well, I didn’t, but after visiting I can tell why this enchanting 147,000-acre parkland was named so in 1919. Hiking in Zion is world famous, lucky for us Utahns, it is only a few hour drive away from Northern Utah. There are many family friendly hikes in the park. One of the most legendary is the Zion Narrows. Doing this hike with kids intimidated me when we were planning our trip, but it proved to be our favorite hike of all.
The Narrows allows hiking in the Virgin River gorge surrounded by majestic walls, hanging gardens and nice cool temperatures to escape the summer heat. Water is usually knee to waist deep. We hiked with our two toddlers in Deuter hiking carriers. When water was shallow enough, we let them out to explore.
The great thing about this hike itself is the destination. You can turn around whenever you feel. The most common turn around points for families are House Rock (1 mile), Orderville Canyon (2 miles) and Wall Street (begins at Orderville and ends a little over half mile after) Zion Adventure Company has a great Narrows Trip Planner to help you plan beforehand.
BEFORE YOU GO
- The recommended times to go are from early spring into summer. This allows for warmer temperatures and by then the spring run off has receded which makes hiking easier and safer.
- Make sure to check current weather conditions before you go. The National Weather Service website has updates on weather forecast and flash flood warnings. You can also stop at the Visitor Center or any park ranger office for information.
- One of the main risks with hiking through a slot canyon is flash floods. During a flash flood, the water level rises quickly, within minutes, possibly within seconds. The Narrows are closed when the National Weather service issues a flash flood warning and for two hours after, so make sure to check before you go!
- Use the bathroom! There are no bathrooms in The Narrows. Make sure everyone uses the restroom at the Temple of Sinewava stop before you begin your hike.
WHAT TO BRING
- FOOTWEAR: Having the right footwear is key to having a enjoyable hike through the slot canyon. On their website, The National Park Service describes walking through The Narrows, like walking on slippery bowling balls. Good options for footwear are hiking boots with neoprene socks (you can pick these up from your outdoor retailer for around $20), water shoes (my favorite are the Keen and Tevas) or some old athletic shoes. Water shoes and athletic shoes are good for short hiking times, if you are planning on doing more than 2 hours, I’d go with hiking boots with neoprene socks.
- WALKING STICKS: One thing I wish I would have brought with us were walking sticks. I fell in the water (which was nice and refreshing don’t get me wrong) at least 5 times while carrying my daughter on my back in her carrier. The extra stability would have been amazing. Other hikers had wooden sticks, trail poles and broom handles, yes broom handles. May be a little funny looking, but they didn’t fall into the water repeatedly like I did.
- If you arrive early enough you will find a pile of walking sticks left by previous hikers at the entrance to the Narrows (after you walk down Riverside Walk). The Visitor Center or Sol Foods Supermarket in Springdale also have hiking sticks for purchase. You can also check with one of the local outfitting companies around the park to rent them (around $7).
- FOOD: Make sure to pack lots of water!. Pack what you think you’ll need, then add one more bottle. My husband and I both carried our CamelBak hydration packs. The bladder fit right into our hiking carrier pouches. Bring some high energy snacks, jerky, trail mix and granola bars are good options. We brought some fruit squeeze pouches that our kids love, they were easy for them to eat while being carried.
- CLOTHING: Hypothermia is a real danger when hiking The Narrows. Make sure to dress in layers. We visited in August so temperatures were well above 100 degrees (F) My children wore their swimsuits with no cover ups. My husband and I wore our swimsuits with a light layer over them. I packed some layers for my kids in a ziploc bag, just in case they got too cold.
Thanks Mandi for the good info! Now, who's ready to go!
What do you guys think? It sounds pretty doable with almost any age! Be sure to tag #thesaltproject so we can see you hiking The Narrows!
To get to the Trailhead:
- Ride the shuttle in Zion Canyon to Temple of Sinawava (last stop, takes about 45 minutes during summer season) Walk through the Riverside Walk (1 mile and wheelchair/stroller friendly) to arrive at the Gateway to the Narrows.
- Length: Variable, up to 16 miles
- Intensity : Easy to moderate
Loved the article about the Narrows! It was great.