We made it just under a mile into the Zion Narrows before turning around. This edition of trail stories covers our partial journey into one of Utah's many natural treasures.
You can hike The Narrows in two directions: top-to-bottom (downstream) or the other way around. This hike started at the bottom of The Narrows and proceeding upstream. To access the trailhead in this direction, start at any shuttle stop within Zion National Park. Exit the shuttle at The Temple of Sinawava then follow the trail (and the crowd) to The Narrows.
Apart from the well-maintained footpath from the shuttle stop to the Temple of Sinawava, this is going to be a wet and possibly muddy hike. Your options for footwear are either: boots, hiking sandals, water shoes, or barefoot. The Zion Adventure Co. in Springdale rents out water boots. We opted for something in between water shoes (kids) and barefoot (dad). Barefoot wasn't a bad choice, but I'm used to walking on rocky ocean reefs. Rocks in the Virgin River are mostly worn smooth and many guides will liken the experience to walking on wet bowling balls. Because of this I highly recommend bringing some hiking poles or at least a fallen tree branch for balance and for feeling out footing ahead of you. It's hard to know how deep that next step will be with all that silt flowing through. You will lose your footing and end up wetter than expected anyway. Keep your electronics dry and have fun in one of nature's great water parks!
The hike doesn't actually start until the man-made path ends. There's a small area at this point where you can change shoes, eat, or play in some shallow water - but why? Things get so much more interesting beyond that. There may or may not be riverbank to walk along, which will vary depending on the water level. Either way, you'll be up close and personal with sheer sandstone walls lining the canyon. We didn't make it too far inside The Narrows but I feel like every quarter mile has an attraction; whether it's a water seep, rock formation, or one of the many shifting sand bars. There was literally something new around every corner, I just wanted to keep going.
As for rest stops along the way, you're going to have to take what nature gives you at that season and water level. Take breaks often and don't count on a wide open riverbank or cove past the one you're at. If a place looks like a good sit-down lunch spot - take it, as you may be in knee-deep water for awhile until the next opportunity to do so.
Kids can walk most of the way if the water is shallow enough, though there were plenty of times where we had to carry them across the deeper areas. Expect to do this as you cross the river multiple times to access the next section of shallow water.
If you're in Zion, hike The Narrows. The full hike is 16 miles and as tempting as it will be to keep going don't overextend your family's ability, equipment and water supply. During the summer, this wet and shaded adventure will be a welcome escape from the desert heat.