Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park has been on our list of must-do hikes. Although anyone can hike the bottom up half of the trail as a day hike, you need to get a permit to do the full top to bottom.
We opted to do the top-down overnight hike since we like to stop a lot for photos, and in hindsight, we were so glad we did the 16 mile hike over 2 days! We’re not the slowest hikers, but treading through the water throws in a new dynamic. You have to watch every step to make sure you don’t slip and fall.
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Last Updated: June 13, 2021
Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Narrows - The Top Down Hike (Backpacking)
The trail is relatively easy to follow. It’s well marked and you’re in a canyon for the majority of it. But ti help you plan your trip, we’ve taken a bunch of photos to share what it looks like.
The Narrows Top Down Hike
We woke up bright and early for our 6:30 AM shuttle pick up (see details at the bottom. we highly recommend it!) and after arriving at Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead at 8 AM, we were off!
The first 3 miles are nice and easy on a dirt road. Just before you hit the water, you find your first landmark – Bulloch’s Cabin. After arriving at the water, the next 6 miles, you work your way down the river where you zigzag through ankle-deep waters.
We stopped for a quick lunch. After being in the cold water, some warm food was nice.
The next main landmark is at the 8.5-mile mark. The North Fork Falls is a 10-foot tall boulder and log jam that makes for some nice photos. The trail is hidden here, but if you hug the left wall you will see a small passage that takes you to the other side. Roughly half a mile after that, the Virgin River converges with Deep Creek.
At this point, there was a large pool that was chest deep at its deepest point. We tried to stay dry by passing gear over and making a leap, but Jacob had no grip on his shoes and slipped and fell into the water.
After the rivers meet, the campsites start to appear. The campsites are scattered over the next 3 miles. We booked campsite #3 and were happy to get settled in. We arrived around 5:15PM, and sunset was around 6:45PM. It felt great to get out of our wet clothes and sit down for a warm meal.
This was our first time using our portable poop bags (everything needs to be carried out). How do you like our make-shift toilet?
Our Hiking Timeline
- After waking up on the second day, we packed up camp, used our toilet in a bag kit. (Yes, you have to carry your own poop out, and it was my least favorite part of the hike.)
- We got back into the water at 9 AM. We wound our way through the rest of the campsites and scoped out some better ones for next time. There was a natural pool at campsite 10.
- Around the 11.5-mile mark, you come across Big Springs, which is the furthest you can go if you hike bottom-up. We took a break here. If you happen to need more water, it’s a great place to replenish your drinking water.
- The lower section brings more obstacles, with large boulders to scramble and deep water. The lower half was mostly ankle to knee-deep, but there were some sections that you had to get in waist-deep (and the short people had to swim).
- Shortly afterward, you enter the most narrow part of the canyon along with a lot more day-hikers. This is where you’ll find the iconic Narrows photo opps at Wall Street.
- Another two miles of hiking takes you to the mouth of Orderville Canyon. The people coming out told us the water was chest-deep, and since we had all of our photography equipment with us, we decided to continue.
- The last landmark in the Narrows was a waterfall, and then it was our last stretch!
- After another mile and a half of hiking, you arrive on dry land. Once there, it’s another 20-30 minutes of hiking on the paved Riverside Walk trail to Temple of Sinawava.
- We caught a shuttle to the visitor’s center.
Essential Tips for Hiking the Narrows Top Down
- Day 1 was our favorite day because we felt alone in the wilderness. A total of 10 people did the top-down including us that day, and you really get to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the area. Day 2 gets crowded by the day hikers is much more touristy (still a cool day hike though!).
- The first day doesn’t have as many iconic spots you’ve seen in photos as the lower section, but there is still a lot to be appreciated.
- Don’t forget to cut down your toenails! I sliced my toes up pretty bad on the first day from the constant friction, which made day 2 pretty miserable.
- Don’t forget to bring flip flops. This was our biggest regret. After getting into our dry sleep clothes, we still had to walk around in wet shoes while setting up camp.
- We liked our campsite, but as we continued down, we saw that campsite 9 has a cool cave and campsite 10 has a pool that would be great for summer.
- We dried our wet clothes on tree branches, and though we worried that it would get wet from morning dew, it was fine. :) Also helps to have quick dry clothes.
- Day 2 the water is deeper than day 1. The deep portions usually only go for a few feet before you’re back in shallower water.
- Jacob’s shoes fared the best in the water out of all four of us, however, it had the least grip when climbing wet rocks.
- See our Packing Guide and TONS of additional tips here.
Best Places to Stay in Zion
- Zion Lodge (luxury) – it’s the only hotel inside the park. You must reserve rooms at least 6 months in advance especially during peak season.
- Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile (mid-range) – in Kanab and great if you have your pets with you!
- The Advenire St George (luxury) – loved our stay here for Zion and also the nearby hikes. It has a nice luxury boutique feel and is conveniently located in historic St George with plenty of great walking distance food options after a full, active day.
Have you tried hiking the Narrows? Have you done any of the permitted overnight hikes?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.