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Narrows Top-to-Bottom
Route

Narrows Top-to-Bottom

 
Narrows Top-to-Bottom

Page Type: Route

Location: Utah, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.35160°N / 112.94083°W

Object Title: Narrows Top-to-Bottom

Route Type: Hiking, Canyoneering

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Time Required: One to two days

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Route Quality: 
 - 4 Votes
 

 

Page By: Dan the Jones, Dustiano

Created/Edited: Nov 1, 2006 / Nov 2, 2006

Object ID: 240241

Hits: 5895 

Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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Trailhead and Directions

Your hike starts at Chamberlain's Ranch: Chamberlain's Ranch is up to a 1½-hour drive from Zion Canyon, along paved and dirt roads. The dirt and mud roads are passable for normal cars only when dry. When wet, they may be impassable even for 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Snow and boulders sometimes close the road entirely in winter. From Springdale drive east on Highway 9. When you reach the park’s East Entrance station (you'll be exiting), drive an additional 2½ miles east on Route 9. Turn left on North Fork Road and continue 18 miles to a bridge that crosses the North Fork of the Virgin River. Turn left beyond the bridge and drive ¼ mile to the gate of Chamberlain’s Ranch. Please close the gate behind you. Drive ½ mile further and park just before the road crosses the river. To begin your hike, cross the river and follow the road for approximately 3 miles. Enter the river at the end of the road. Chamberlain's Ranch is a private ranch outside of Zion National Park. Please respect private property.

Commercial shuttle service is available to Chamberlain’s Ranch. There is a fee charged per person and seating is limited. Call Zion Canyon Transportation toll free at 1-877-635-5993, Zion Rock and Mountain Guides 435-772-3303 or Red Rock Tours at 435-635-9104

At the end of your hike at the Temple of Sinawava, you must either catch the Zion Canyon Shuttle back to the visitor center (during peak season), or pick up a 2nd car you left at the Temple of Sinawava parking lot located at the end of Floor of the Valley Road (allowed during the off season).

Route Description

 
Zion Narrows
The First Narrows

Day-Hike From Top to Bottom
Walking the entire length of the Narrows can be a grueling experience for some. Under favorable conditions, the 16-mile route takes an average of 12 hours. The route has been done in 7 hours by well-conditioned hikers. Because the trailhead at Chamberlain's Ranch is a 1½-hour drive from the Temple of Sinawava, either two vehicles or a shuttle is necessary.

Overnight Hike From Top to Bottom
To enjoy the Narrows at a more leisurely pace, some visitors choose to spend a night in the gorge. There are 12 numbered campsites, each located above the high water mark at a different spot along the route. Only one-night stays are allowed. Campsites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis upon completion of a backcountry permit. Permits may be obtained at either visitor center, the day before the planned hike or until noon on the day the hike begins. Campsite capacity is limited, and only two sites can accommodate groups larger than six.

Basic Overview
After leaving the ranch you walk through the woods on a wide, but gradually lessoning jeep trail. At some point it becomes obvious it is time to enter the water, but it doesn't have to become a full commitment yet! Your path weaves in and out of the water, crossing to and fro, as the water never quite gets above you knees. The hills around you begin growing, but barely hint at what is arriving in your future. Several miles into your hike, you come to a crack in a wall that the river flows into. It's not until you enter this crack, the first narrows, that you realize that it is not just another hike. With the walls close by you will hike downstream until you reach an impassable waterfall. Hike up and left to bypass. Soon after you arrive at the confluence of Deep Creek, where the water gets noticeably deeper and more difficult to negotiate. It's also funny, this is where you begin to learn to work with the flow instead of against it. Following the current brings you past giant boulders, springs on steep sandstone walls, past small patches of trees, and several campsites. In several locations the water was over my head and I was forced to float, using my stick to steer! Big Springs was the most obvious spot I came upon until the breathless heights and colors of the Narrows and Wall Street, closer to the end of the 16 mile day. The route is simple - keep heading downstream, while taking care not to miss the landmarks which mark your time. Keep a careful eye to the sky - even a rainstorm tens of miles away can cause a life-threatening flash flood here.

Approximate times on your hike, including appropriations for typical breaks:
Chamberlain’s Ranch 0:00 Start
End of 4x4 Road 1:00 hour elapsed time
First Narrows 3:30 hours elapsed time
Waterfall (passable on left) 4:15 hours elapsed time
Deep Creek (noticeable difference in effort needed)5:00 hours elapsed time
Kolob Creek 5:45 hours elapsed time
The Grotto 6:00 hours elapsed time
Goose Creek 6:35 hours elapsed time
Big Springs 7:20 hours elapsed time
Orderville Canyon (you can usually start to see bottom-uppers here) 10:00 hours elapsed time
Riverside Walk (tourists abound) 11:50 hours elapsed time
Temple of Sinawava 12:20 hours elapsed time

It is best to track your progress by recognizing side canyons and landmarks. Deep Creek, Kolob Creek, the Grotto and Big Springs are all fairly obvious, but watch closely for the mouth of Goose Creek.

When to go?


Month
Water Flow
1=least
10=most
Water Temp
(degrees f)
Narrows Traffic
1=least
10=most
Flood Danger
1=lowest
10=highest
Bottom Up
open?
Top Down
Open?
January 2-4 40-45 1 1-2 Mostly Rarely
February 2-4 40-45 1-2 1-2 Yes Rarely
March 3-7 40-45 3-5 1-2 Yes Rarely
April 4-10 45-50 4-6 3-4 Mostly Sometimes
May 3-7 50-55 5-7 3-4 Yes Mostly
June 2-4 55-60 6-8 3-4 Yes Yes
July 1-3 60-65 7-10 5-8 Yes Yes
August 1-4 60-65 7-10 5-10 Yes Yes
September 2-4 55-60 5-8 5-10 Yes Yes
October 2-3 50-55 4-7 3-4 Yes Yes
November 2-3 45-50 3-5 1-2 Yes Mostly
December 2-4 40-45 2-3 1-2 Yes Sometimes

Essential Gear

 
Zion Narrows
Big Springs

 
Zion Narrows
Waterfall on your path

Footwear

Hiking the Narrows is like walking on slippery bowling balls. It requires balancing on algae-coated rocks in and out of a swiftly flowing river. A sturdy canyoneering boot is recommended, as it will allow water to flow freely through, yet still remain "sticky" underwater. These are available for rent in Springdale, as is almost anything you may need for a successful Narrows hike.


Clothing

Even in mid-summer the Narrows are chilly. The water is cold, breezes blow steadily, and very little sunlight penetrates to the canyon floor. Although in the heat of the summer the hike can be completed in shorts and a tee, you will surely need warmer clothes for an overnight stay in the cold canyon. A wetsuit will be needed in the cooler weather. In the winter months a drysuit and a change of clothes will become a necessity


Drinking Water

Water in the Virgin River and its springs is not safe to drink untreated. It has passed over rangeland and may be contaminated with an illness-causing bacteria called giardia. Either treat the water you collect by filter, tablets, or by boiling, or carry in all the water you'll need.


Walking Stick

Sounds silly to you? To help maintain your balance, a walking stick is highly recommended. Hiking the Narrows without one increases your chance of injury and fatigue. Also, it is handy to probe the riverbed ahead for holes. Cutting trees or bushes to make a walking stick is strictly prohibited, both in the park and at Chamberlain's Ranch.


Waterproofing

Even the most experienced hikers fall occasionally in the Narrows. Several drybags are a good idea for your camera, maps, clothes, etc.


Potential Extras

Headlamp, even for day travel

First aid kit

Trash bags for packing out food scraps and toilet paper

"Wag Bag" for packing out "other" organic material - NPS usually distributes...

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat - there is some mild sun exposure

Topographic map (available for purchase at Zion Visitor Centers)





Red Tape


Back Country Permits are required for any top-down travel. You will also be lightly pressured to book a campsite, "just in case." It may be a good idea! The NPS limits permits to 40 per day, and parties no larger than 12. This is strictly enforced; violators will be cited.

Campsite Capacities


Campsite #1 - 6 People
Campsite #2 - 4 People
Campsite #3 - 4 People
Campsite #4 - 6 People
Campsite #5 - 2 People
Campsite #6 - 4 People
Campsite #7 - 6 People
Campsite #8 - 12 People
Campsite #9 - 6 People
Campsite #10 - 6 People
Campsite #11 - 4 People
Campsite #12 - 6 People

Weather and Flash Flood Potential


Flash Flood Warnings



Local Upfitters


Zion Adventures

Images

Zion NarrowsBlack Gates of the Virginupper narrowsHeading up Orderville Canyon from the Narrows