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The Narrows is one of those popular hikes that lives up to the hype. When I first heard of the hike in Zion National Park a few years ago and realized that it included walking in water, I knew we should give it a try. The scenery is gorgeous, and the cooling water would be welcome in the summer heat of July. Since Zion National Park is popular in the summer, you want to be well-informed about the park. You also have a choice to make when you decide to hike The Narrows–do you rent gear or not? I hope our experience will help you navigate the park and make the best choices for you and your family.

Arriving at Springdale and Zion National Park

We arrived in Springdale, Utah, in the evening after driving from Tonopah, Nevada, where we stayed a night in te Clown Motel. To read about that adventure, click here. That drive included driving the Extraterrestrial Highway and stopping outside Area 51. I will write about that soon!

Normally, if the national park has a lodge, we try to stay at least a night there. But since Zion National Park requires you to just the shuttle service during the peak summer season, we thought maybe staying in Springdale might make more sense. If you stay at Zion Lodge, the only lodging inside the park, you can still use your car to get into the park and go to the lodge. We just didn’t know if it would be a hassle.

Springdale is just outside the park entrance, so we chose to stay a t Zion Park Motel, a cute mom-and-pop place that was close to the park and allowed for walking to shops and restaurants along the main strip. It was a great place to stay; I’ll write about that motel soon!

Zion National Park Sign

The next morning, maybe at around 9:00 a.m., we headed into the park to get access to the shuttle–the only way you can enter the park by vehicle during peak season. You’ll enter the park, pay the park fee or show your America the Beautiful Pass, and park near the visitor center.

That parking lot fills up fast, so you may want to consider taking a shuttle from Springdale to drop you off at the visitor center. You may have to pay for parking where you leave your car if you shuttle in from town. We found parking at the visitor center, so we didn’t try this option.

You can also arrange a private shuttle at some gear rental places. I don’t have a lot of information on that, though.

As far as renting gear, there is a convenient gear rental place right at the park entrance that we used–Zion Outfitter. They have two-hour parking in their lot, but you can also access them easily from the Zion National Park visitor center parking lot where you can park all day with park admission. Keep in mind, this lot gets full and stays full due to that.

To Rent Gear or Not?

Truth be told, we are not huge hikers. We take some trails on our visits to national and state parks. but we;re not really the “hike all day” type. We don’t even have hiking sticks of our own. And we’d never hiked anything I would call “difficult terrain.” So, the question of whether or not to rent gear was not an easy question to answer.

We flip-flopped back and forth, thinking our own shoes would be okay and we could maybe find a stick. But in the end, we realized that our personal shoes would get wet. And we were on an extended road trip. Drying the shoes could be a pain. We could buy shoes just for this, but that didn’t help with the cost, and then we’d be lugging around extra shoes. At $32 per person, the cost seemed reasonable.

We rented the Warm Weather Package from Zion Outfitter. This including the slide-reducing hiking boots, the neoprene socks, and a hiking stick. The socks are supposed to help reduce blisters due to walking in the water; they are not supposed to be waterproof.

You can reserve ahead of time, but we walked up that morning to pick up our gear. We filled out our waivers as we waited our turn, and then we paid and picked up our stuff. You can pick up the evening before before if you’re heading in early and they have what you need ready to go.

To get more information from Zion Outfitter, click here.

Zion Outfitter

Picking up your shoes is not unlike going bowling or to the roller rink. You can also sort through the sticks to find the one just for you.

Zion Outfitter

You can rent other items. One thing we considered was the waterproof backpack, but in the end, we decided to risk it. Since I was wearing the family backpack, I was feeling the pressure to not fall in the river. But it all turned out fine.

You can also rent bicycles at Zion Outfitter; just know that they recommend reservations.

Using the Shuttle in Zion National Park

After we secured our gear, it was time to line up for the free shuttle. There was a line, but it moved quickly since shuttles departed regularly.

Zion National Park Shuttle

Getting to The Narrows From the Shuttle Stop

The trailhead for the Narrows is the last stop on the shuttle route–The Temple of Sinawava. When you exit the shuttle, there is a restroom area. You then have to hike the paved, though dust-covered, River Walk for a mile before you get to the access point of the Virgin River where you begin your adventure.

There is a permitted hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch that includes this section of Narrows that is the out-and-back hike that most people do from the River Walk. It’s 16 miles long and not for the casual hiker.

As you can see below, I carried Kristin’s boots until we got to the water.

The Narrows

Be alert! You just may see wildlife along the trail.

The Narrows

You’ll get glimpse’s of the Virgin River before you get to the access point of the trail.

The Narrows Trail

Soon enough, you’ll get to the access point of the river. Some people simply walk around this area, especially if they didn’t bring gear. For others, the Narrows adventure begins here.

The Narrows Entrance

Hiking The Narrows

There’s a bit of a learning curve as you get your feet wet, so to speak. At first, Jeff steadied Kristin.

Hiking The Narrows

But soon enough, she became a river-hiking pro. We all did.

Hiking The Narrows

Pictures and descriptions don’t prepare you for the majesty of this slot canyon.

Hiking The Narrows

And though The Narrows can get crowded, it didn’t feel too congested as we embarked on our hike. The farther you go, the less crowded it seems.

Hiking The Narrows

The waterfalls on the canyon walls are a fun sight. It’s also a reminder to be safe when hiking The Narrows. Flash floods can turn the area into a nightmare during thunderstorms.

Hiking The Narrows

But when the sun is out, one can’t help but marvel at the beauty that surrounds you.

Hiking The Narrows

One of the great things about this hike is that it’s an out-and-back, so you can decide how far you want to hike. Since we aren’t huge hikers, we turned around sooner than a lot of people, but it worked for us. Experiencing the awesomeness of The Narrows for a couple of hours was just right for our family.

Soon, we left the Virgin River and made the mile hike back to the shuttle stop. Be aware that the ride back can take a while because there are so many stops. When we got back to the visitor center, we did our shopping in the gift shop before making our way back to the motel for a swim.

If you’re wondering if hiking The Narrows is right for your family, I would suggest that most school-age kids and older will be fine. You’ll have to decide if younger kids could do it, and of course, everyone is different. Kristin was 12 when she did the hike, and she did well.

There are other hikes in the area for different levels of ability, including the scary-sounding Angel Landing hike that involves using a chain to help you make the summit, but this is the only hike we did at Zion.

The Narrows is just one of those places everyone should see at least once. I wouldn’t hesitate to go again. The slot canyon is amazing, and you can’t beat hiking in the water in the summer. Definitely put The Narrows on your must-do list!

Check out some of our other adventures!

Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Clingmans Dome at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

The Narrows Zion National Park
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6 Comments

  1. Hiking in Zion National Park has long been on my bucket list. Your photos of the Narrows are incredible! Now I want to go more than ever.

  2. We were at Zion Natinal Park a few years ago. My girls hiked The Narrows — they thought it was fabulous!

  3. Hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park looks like an interesting adventure. The waterfalls in the Narrows would be amazing to see.

  4. I’m planning to hike at Zion National Park this summer. So your guide to The Narrows is perfect!

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