Hiking the Narrow, in southwest Utah’s Zion National Park is rated among the Top 100 hikes in the world by many publications and web-sites. It is a strenuous 16 mile trek through the Virgin River that typically takes 2 days if you are attempting the Top Down route.
Kati and I decided that we wanted to take this challenge and took a couple of friends with us. The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon with walls a thousand feet tall and the river just twenty to thirty feet wide in some parts. You can hike in the Narrows up a one-mile wheelchair accessible riverside walk, or by wading upstream for a few minutes. We decided to take the two-day top down approach, starting at Chamberlain Ranch and it was awe inspiring and so much fun.
A hike through The Narrows requires hiking in the Virgin River as there is no trail. The Narrows is a slot canyon prone to flash flooding so you have to be mindful of the weather when you go. We went at the end of September and it was magnificent except for an ugly coffee incident (more on that later).
There are 12 overnight camping sites within the Narrows and six are able to be booked online. The other six are first come first serve so we first got a site before making any other arrangements.
Getting your Camping site and Permit
The link to make get your permit is here.
You can only get a site 3 months in advance and they become available after the 5th of the month. Because of this, be flexible and be persistent. I stayed awake until 2AM and made our reservation and it was sold out within 15 minutes. According to the Zion website The Zion Wilderness has experienced a fifteen percent increase in the demand for Wilderness reservations and permits over the last 3 years.
As a result of the increased desire for Wilderness permits area reservations are quickly booked; almost immediately after becoming available on the 5th of each month.
The Wilderness permit system receives an extremely high volume of use on the 5th of each month and system users may find that they are unsuccessful in booking a reservation for their intended trip.
Don’t let that discourage you though. Be persistent, be flexible and if you are like me have a couple of tabs open with different dates to get a spot.
Now decide on your accommodations. There are many lodges and hotels in Springfield outside of the park. We decided to tent camp and secured a spot in the Zion Watchman campground. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the total Zion experience and our friends had not camped very much so we wanted to introduce them to the thrill of cooking over an open fire, waking up to a beautiful sunrise and going to sleep at night under the stars.
Once you get your Permit and Accommodation completed, the real fun begins.
Getting to Narrows and then to the Trail-head
Zion National Park is just 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, 4 hours from Salt Lake City and 6 to 7 hours from Los Angeles in the southwest corner of Utah. You can drive to the park, but during the park’s busy season (from April to November), the main canyon is accessible only by shuttle.
We flew into Las Vegas as there were many flights daily from southwest Florida and they were fairly inexpensive. You can check out flights and flight schedules from cheapest to most expensive here:
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