A Pit Stop a Day (Day 18): Zion National Park’s The Narrows

Nate navigates the ‘Narrows’!

On Day 18, we woke up in Cliffrose Lodge and Gardens with a full day of exploring in Zion National Park ahead of us. Our primary destination was Zion’s ‘Narrows’, a hike up the Virgin River deep into the canyon. (Zion has many great hikes for families.)

We walked the few yards from Cliffrose to the park entrance and visitor’s center, where we paid our $25 park entrance fee (good for seven days) and picked up maps, junior ranger booklets, etc. We then took Zion’s mandatory shuttle (we wish all national parks would adapt this policy!) to its last stop, The Temple of Sinawava.

From there, we hiked the short Riverside Walk (paved and fairly even terrain) to the start of the ‘Narrows’. At this location, the trail simply ends and you continue up the canyon by wading through the river. It’s slow going, but tons of fun. The kids loved this style of ‘hiking’ because they had to pick and choose their own route up the river, and every step was an adventure. You can continue as far as you’d like (up to a boundary at the 2 hour mark; if you wish to continue further, you need to register for an overnight permit). Nate, Calvin, and I hiked about 30 minutes up the river, and in many places the water went up past our waist! The current was not fast, but it was present in many places.

Calvin about 1/2 mile into the ‘Narrows’.

Riverwalk Trail which leads to the entrance to the ‘Narrows’. (Suitable for all ages.)

Toby (age 5) only ventured about 10 minutes up the river before finding a nice place to stop and play in the banks with grandma and grandpa. What went to our waists went over his head, and he would be essentially swimming if he went further! Needless to say, visitors need to be very careful with young children, especially if they aren’t strong swimmers.

The water wasn’t warm by any means, but given the high temperatures in Zion, we quickly got used to it and enjoyed it. In many places, the canyon walls ‘narrow’, which doesn’t allow for any bank of the river, during which times you’re completely confined to the water. The national park closes the ‘Narrows’ when there’s threat of flash floods (storm clouds or rain), so be prepared for closures, especially in August.

Toby talks about his experience on the Pit Stops for Kids Cam:

Note: You can rent river hiking gear in Springdale (water shoes meant for hiking the Narrows and walking sticks). We opted to use decent hiking shoes (just resign yourself to getting them wet!) and extra socks in our pack. Sandals with good traction (think Keen or Teva) would work, too. If we had planned to hike any further than about 1 hour into the Narrows, we would have rented specialized equipment.

Extra Tip: If you’re visiting when the river is high (spring through July), go ahead and wear swimsuits/wading clothes. We were in shorts and t-shirts, and while we certainly didn’t get cold, it would have been simpler to be in swimsuits!

Date last visited: July 2010.

Distance off the interstate: About 30 minutes from I-15 off Hwy 9.

Bathrooms: Pit toilets are located at the shuttle stop before you start the hike.

Food Services: None. Pack food in or plan to stop for lunch at the Zion Lodge, located within the park (on a shuttle stop).

Directions: From the park entrance, take the shuttle to the last stop (The Temple of Sinawava) and take the Riverwalk trail.

Up Next: More hiking opportunities in Zion, including one not suitable for young kids!