This is a pre-scheduled post. I am in Illinois visiting my children and grandchildren. They do not have Internet service so I will be unable to respond to comments or visit your blogs until I return home.
This is a continuation of a travel series to Utah. To start at the beginning, go HERE. The rest of the posts in chronological order are HERE, HERE, and HERE!
I am so excited to share this post with you today as hiking The Narrows was the biggest thrill of my life! Zion National Park is famous for two of it's unique trails: Angels Landing and The Narrows. Both are described as "strenuous" and each has it's unique challenges. We could only do one long hike on our visit, and since I am terrified of heights we chose The Narrows. I'm actually terrified of water too because I can't swim, so I was pretty nervous of hiking The Narrows and Flash Floods was also a concern . The Narrows frequently closes if the water level is too high or if Flash Flooding is highly possible.
The Narrows is so famous that people fly in from all over the world just to hike it. The trail brochure describes it as "an unequaled adventure into a river system cradled by 1500 foot tall sandstone walls. Unlike any other hike in the world, it requires hiking in and crossing the Virgin River multiple times".
The water temperature changes throughout the year of course. On the day we were there the air was almost 100 degrees and the water temperature was 63 degrees. My son found it extraordinarily cold. I found it refreshing... but I have a lot more body fat than him! At times my feet grew numb, but there were so many opportunities to get out of the water and walk on rocky shores that they always warmed up quickly. I had water shoes on, but they weren't waterproof. If I could go back in time I would have rented the water shoes provided near the Visitor Center.
In all my life I have never experienced such amazing beauty. Walking in the crystal clear water and looking up at the towering canyon walls above was surreal!
The hike is one way in and one way out (plus a mile walk along Riverside Trail till you reach the shuttle stop) , so you always have to keep in mind that you have to turn around and hike back. Do not go so far and exhaust yourself so you're unable to hike back. The current of the river can be very swift and strong. I really experienced muscle fatigue constantly fighting the current and trying to balance on the slippery rocks in the river bend. When I really started slipping and almost falling down, I knew it was time to turn around and head back. We had just reached "Wall Street" the most famous part of The Narrows, when that happened.
The Narrows is 16 miles long. 90% of hikers make it to Wall Street and then turn around. After that the water becomes chest deep and more difficult to navigate.
There are several ways to hike The Narrows. The most popular way is the way we did it: from the bottom and back. You start at the Temple of Sinawava (stop # 9 on the shuttle bus) and hike one mile to the end of Riverside Walk (I will do a separate post on Riverside Walk next week). At the end of the walk you wade right into the river! In less than a mile you're in one of the narrowest, most beautiful areas of the canyon. Then if you hike further and reach Orderville Canyon (two hours upstream from the end of the trail) you see even more incredible beauty.
My son went off on his own for a bit to explore Orderville Canyon. It's a smaller, taller, darker tributary with less flowing water but a lot more rock scrambling. You can only go as far as "Veiled Falls" before you see a sign telling you not to go any further and you must turn around.
After you reach Orderville Canyon it gets more and more difficult to hike The Narrows, and here is where most hikers turn around. The water becomes chest deep and large boulders block the river. I stopped and rested at the entrance to Orderville Canyon while my son and husband went a bit further up the Narrows, but they quickly came back and said the current was getting stronger and the water a lot deeper and they were ready to turn around and head back.
There are two other ways to hike The Narrows but both require a permit. 1) A Day hike from top to bottom where you hike all 16 miles! and 2) an OVERNIGHT hike from top to bottom. I can't imagine spending the night inside The Narrows. I would imagine they would sleep on one of the rocky shores, but it would be king of scary to me.
The photo below looks kinda goofy but I had to share it. I wasn't posing at all. I was just standing there, staring at all the beauty around me, and feeling such a sense of awe, wonderment, and exhilaration. I wasn't even aware my husband was photographing me. The photo truly represents everything I was feeling on this hike! I loved every minute of it!
If you're wondering how long it took us to hike The Narrows, I have no idea. We were up at the crack of dawn and by the time we had breakfast and took the shuttle to reach The Narrows it was probably 8:30 a.m. We didn't rush to The Narrows, and instead we really took our time enjoying the gorgeous River Walk and Hanging Gardens. I think we were back at our hotel before 2:00 pm, for I know we rested awhile before heading out again that night for an evening hike.
The Zion National Park trail guide says to plan up to 8 hours for this hike, depending how far you go. My guess is that we were on this hike for about 4 hours.
The most difficult challenge of the hike is walking on the rocks in the water. This river bed is not a nice sandy bed. It is filled with slippery rocks of all shapes and sizes. No matter what your fitness level, it seems everyone struggles trying to walk on them. Having the proper footwear is a must! I can't recommend renting the footwear from the sports store outside the Visitor Center enough. My husband and I wish we would have! But it's $25.00 to rent the shoes, walking stick, and neoprene socks, and we thought spending $75.00 on the three of us was just too much money. It turned out my son didn't need the shoes or the walking stick at all. He ran through this water like he was running on air. But he grew up with a river and waterfall in his backyard so this was second nature for him. My husband had water sandals on and he struggled a bit as his shoes were a bit flimsy. I had water shoes on, and although they held up fairly well, I think I would have done better with the sturdy rental water boots.
I did rent the stick for $7.00 and I am so glad I did as it saved my life several times. I almost fell over at the end of my hike due to muscle fatigue, and I would have slammed my head on a rock had I not had my walking stick!
This post would be amiss if I didn't talk about my son for a minute, for I think he was the star of the day on this hike. As I said earlier, everyone was struggling on this hike, no matter what their age or fitness level. Although most hikers were very young and fit, we saw people of all ages and fitness levels including children. Zion National Park does not recommend children go on this hike, and the few kids I saw seemed to be really struggling. Their parents helped them along a lot, holding their hands and guiding them along. We saw a few older people, a couple I passed on our way out thinking "He's not going to make it that far." But the ONE person who seemed not to struggle ONE BIT at all was my son. He ran through the water like it was solid pavement, and was constantly way ahead of us. We usually found him high up on some rock formation patiently waiting for us to catch up. I constantly heard other hikers speak in amazement of him and giving him nicknames like "Little Monkey". He was something else!
I think this is called "Mystery Falls". It's so pretty how the water gently flows down the rock.
Posing in front of Mystery Falls. One of the advantages of going out the same way you came in is getting the same spots photographed in different light. When we started the trail it was early morning and the sun wasn't high enough to get inside the deep canyon walls. But by the time we were leaving, the sun was directly above us. We were amazed at how different everything looked with the brighter sunlight.
It was also so much warmer hiking in the sunlight, but it also got noticeably more crowded in the heat of the day.
You have to constantly watch where you're stepping or it's easy to stumble and fall in the water. I saw lots of people fall into the water who did not have sticks. If you have to choose between renting water shoes or renting a stick, I highly recommend renting the stick!
Can you spot my son Jordan in the picture below? It never ceases to amaze me how he manages to climb things.
And here he is again on top of another large boulder!
The coloring in the rock formation on the right blew me away!
And of course Jordan had to get up on top of that rock too! Everyone else just went through the water to get passed it! :)
So what do you think? Is this a hike you would ever attempt? I don't know if I would ever do it again as it was quite challenging for me at 57 years of age, but I sure am glad I did! I have such a sense of accomplishment and can cross this off my bucket list!
Have A Great Day! Amy
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