Zion Narrows – Bottom Up

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Location: 

Visited: March 27, 2016

Description: Popular hike through the Virgin River through slot canyons

Length: 1-8+ miles (depends on how far you want to go)

Duration: 2-5 hours

Difficulty: Easy to strenuous

Terrain: Rocky river bottom with big rocks and small pebbles and water pushing against you on the way up

Parking: Shuttle ride to Temple of Sinawava (9) stop

Best time to go: Late spring, summer & fall (tends to be the warmest but must check weather warnings to avoid flash floods)

Important things to know: Be careful when forecast calls for rain, there can always be a potential for flash flood. Be aware of all park alerts.

Bring: Camera, watershoes, water, sunscreen, waterproof case for phone or camera


No trip to Zion would be complete without getting your feet wet in the Narrows… or in this case your entire lower body. This “trail” is sculpted and cut by the Virgin River and requires wading and swimming in the water 75% of the time. It is considered to be one of the best hikes in Zion and is great for first-timers who want to hike through a river.

After hiking over 10 miles that morning, we were ready to dip our sweaty bodies in a refreshing pool of water. We were looking for an afternoon delight πŸ˜› to revitalize our energy; the narrows seemed like the perfect answer! Without any proper gear (except brand new water shoes from REI), we hopped on a shuttle and headed to our final adventure for the day.

We arrived at the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, and made our way towards the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a 1 mile, one way walk to the start of the Narrows. It’s a well-maintained trail with a few minor elevation changes.

Reaching the start of the Narrows, we saw a large crowd on the river bank. Uuuuuuugh… Fortunately, we were surprised to see there were hardly any hikers in the water. We must have gotten here at the perfect time!


Little did we know, the hike through the Narrows wasn’t lacking hikers because we came at the perfect time… it was empty because the water was FREEZING! Testing the temperature with our feet already made us want to jump back onto the safety of the bank. After a quick pep talk, we knew we had to just go for it. We set tiny goals for ourselves: One river bank after another… that’s the only goal you need πŸ˜…  In, we went.

Left Foot. Right Foot. Left Ankle. Right Ankle. Left Calf. Right Calf. Thighs, are you ready?! OMFG!

Our bodies were shivering and shaking as we waded through the river. The water felt like sharp needles and it only got worse the deeper we went. What the f*ck did we get ourselves into?!

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“This shit is FREEZING”

We reached the first river bank and welcomed the embankment like a warm blanket. We wanted to keep the momentum going so we walked briskly and before we knew it, we were back in water.

We tried to lie to ourselves and say it wasn’t cold. We stared at every neoprene, dry-suited, canyoneer-booted, walking-stick hiker with envy. Without proper gear, the water is numbing! With proper gear, the water feels like a nice breeze (according to hikers with proper gear…) While they looked ready to be launched into space, here were 3 girls who probably looked like fools freezing in normal workout attire.

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“Searching for those dry-suits…”

Fast forward through our incessant whining… eventually, our bodies got use to the cold. HALLELUJAH! We were finally able to enjoy the true beauty of the Narrows without cursing to ourselves.

You can travel as far as you want or as far as your body will let you. The stretch of river is 8 miles long so props to you if you hike the whole way! Usually, hikers will go 3-4 miles into the canyon and head back. We only did a little more than a mile… mainly because hiking against the river is time-consuming and we were cutting it close to the last shuttle bus of the day. 

Although we didn’t get to hike too far, we did catch some great views. Not too far into the hike, we caught Mystery Falls – a “weeping rock” where water rolls down the sandstone canyon wall.

A bit farther, you’ll catch an almost cave-like formation over the river.

As we decided to turn back around, we met a new friend who was hiking in regular old jeans! Maybe that is the secret to keeping warm??? We got a laugh as we headed back towards the beginning of the trail.

Hiking through the Narrows is the ultimate adventure for any Zion visitor. Though we wish we could have gone farther up the river, we were happy to have had a chance to experience it. 😁😍


@HikeSnobs Tips:

  • Be prepared for the cold. Try to go when it’s warmer.
  • Closed toed shoes might be better, we had water sandals and got a few blisters from all the little rocks in the river.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Leave us a message below!

12 thoughts on “Zion Narrows – Bottom Up

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