Zion National Park – The Narrows – Day #3

After the Canyon Overlook, H- and I had lunch at the park cafe where she works and then we changed clothes for the Narrows.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the Narrows is one of the most famous trails in Zion National Park.  Hikers can travel 6 miles up the Virgin River (any further requires a canyoning permit) but can turn around at any point.  In fact, most tourists just do about half a mile.

The Narrows is unlike most trails because you actually hike in the river, with water going from about calf-deep one moment to swimming depth a few minutes later (dry bag required for cameras!).  I would say about 98% of hikers bring walking sticks, which are very helpful for navigating the slippery terrain and small rapids.  I, of course, didn’t even think about it beforehand, so I ended up facing the Narrows sans walking stick.  Surprisingly, despite my normal clumsiness, I did quite well, especially in the water where I didn’t fall once!

My problem was when we periodically transitioned from water to land.  Along the canyon walls there were some rocky patches you could walk on for awhile to give you a break from the water and current.  There I fell three times on the way back, probably because I was in a hurry and my shoes were a lot slicker than I had originally thought.  The second time I was terrified for a moment that I had sprained my ankle, wondering how in the world H- was going to get me back to the trailhead, but thankfully I just slightly twisted it and after a moments rest, I could walk on it again, although I did try to stay in the water as much as possible afterwards.

When the shuttle bus dropped us off at the Narrows stop (called the Temple of Sinawava for reasons I still don’t understand) we had a flat 1 mile paved walk before we got to the actual river trailhead.  H- and I passed some very interesting people along the way – little girls in froofy yellow dresses, an older lady who for some reason thought she was headed to the Weeping Rock, and tons of people dressed inappropriately for hiking in water.

H- decided we should hike the Narrows in the heat of the day because the water would be ridiculously cold and she was right!  The water was shockingly cold and it took a few moments to adjust.  Every time we transitioned from the rocky patches back to the water, we felt it again and the same goes for anytime we waded our way through deeper water.  I can’t imagine trying the same hike in late fall or early spring – I’d freeze!

The first quarter to half mile, the river was chock-full of people, lots of small kids and people in bathing suits.  Slowly but surely, people started to turn back around until eventually it was just a family with two kids, a younger couple, and H- and I.  We didn’t even realize at first that people were dropping like flies; we were laughing way too hard.  I was waving my arms around like a gymnast trying to stick a landing and H- almost got swept away a few times.  We had the best time out in the water and, I may be biased, but I think we looked like we were having way more fun than the other people around us 🙂

In the Narrows, it’s super easy to lose track of time and distance.  H- and I didn’t think about bringing a watch and every time we asked a fellow hiker, we got a different off-the-wall time that didn’t jive with the one before.  Distance wise, there are no real markers along the way, so it’s hard to tell how far you’ve walked.  H- looked it up afterwards and thinks we hiked about 2.5 miles because we got to the “Wall Street” area of the Narrows, which most guide books and web sites say requires a 6hr round trip.  It took us 5.5 hours round trip, which sounds about right for the distance considering we were fighting the current  most of the time.

Overall, the Narrows was probably the most fun I’ve had on a hike in a long time.  I had no idea 5.5 hours could just fly like that and I wholeheartedly recommend the Narrows for anyone traveling to Zion!

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