Making plans for The Narrows Zion Hike? These must-know tourist tips will help you make the most of your Zion Canyon Hike on the Virgin River.
The Weber Fam Bam just returned from a road trip to Zion National Park in Utah, and it was quite possibly the best outdoorsy vacation we’ve ever taken!
If you haven’t been to Zion National Park, then you are missing one of America’s most beautiful parks, but there was an experience that stood out from the rest and totally made our vacation…
The Narrows Zion Hike
It truly was an adventure that I know my entire family will never forget and is a family memory that we will always cherish as one of the most spectacular hikes we’ve ever experienced.
When I think of “Hiking”, I envision lacing up my sneakers, packing a backpack with some snacks, water, and sunscreen, and then walking down a path in the woods…well, hiking The Zion Narrows is SO much more than that, and honestly, you need to do some preparation to maximize your experience.
To help you avoid the common pitfalls of other hikers I saw while we were in The Narrows, I’m going to break down my top tips for making it the best experience possible!
Just as the Boy Scout Motto Says, “Be Prepared”…that’s the best advice for navigating The Narrows too! If you just show up and hope for the best, there will definitely be things you wish you had done differently.
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1. TRANSPORTATION IS TOPS
Before you even begin your trip to Zion, you will want to make travel arrangements to get into Zion National Park. While we visited in August 2020, there was very limited seating on the shuttle bus available due to social distancing procedures (aka Covid-19 Corona Virus pandemic protocols).
If you know weeks in advance of the date you want to go into the park, you can book your Zion Shuttle tickets ($1 each) online at:
Go to REC.GOV and search for “Zion Shuttle Tickets”
If you are a last-minute traveler like our family was, you can book tickets the day before you want to enter the park on the same website (recreation.gov). The online portal to buy the tickets opens at 9 AM.
*HOT TICKET TIP!* Log in to your rec.gov account or create a new account before Zion National Park Shuttle Tickets go on sale. You are only able to add a ticket to your cart and pay if you are logged into your account.
2. SUIT UP!
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have the right equipment! We saw so many people really struggling to navigate the terrain and strong water flow currents during our hike and all of them were not properly equipped.
I am a bit of a cheapskate and definitely debated with my hubby about renting hiking gear equipment.
He then reminded me that we had kids hiking (all in the preteen/teenage group) and that a small investment in appropriate hiking tools may be the “make or break” decision in our family’s success and ultimate enjoyment of hiking the Zion Narrows.
So, we opted to get the “Warm Weather Package” from Zion Outfitter which included, Canyoneering Boots, Neoprene Socks, and a Hiking Walking Stick for $35/person.
*Side Note*: If the Narrows hikers in your party have any stability issues, using walking sticks might be a must-have! We used our hiking poles more than we anticipated we would.
Getting the hiking gear was BY FAR the best decision we made on our entire trip! It made the hike so much more enjoyable and easier!
And honestly, the water temperature was so chilly (even though our trip was during the summer months and the outside temp was over 100) that the neoprene socks worked amazingly well in the cold water.
Here’s a link to their website so you can check out the gear and most up to date info about pricing and packages :
3. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
In my opinion, the best time of year for The Narrows Zion hike is between Summer and Early Fall when the water is warmer.
If you go during colder seasons, you will want to be sure you check the weather forecast and have the right gear to avoid hypothermia. Even a short hike in frigid temps can be dangerous so please use caution when choosing when you plan to hike in Zion National Park.
4. BE AN EARLY BIRD
I advise getting on a shuttle route as early as you can and beginning your Zion Narrows hike earlier in the morning for a few reasons!
1. With Zion National Park offering such spectacular hikes, the Narrows is at the top of that popularity list so it can get quite crowded during peak times of the year, and there are fewer crowds on the hike earlier in the day since most hikers start their adventure a little later in the morning.
When it comes to Zion, the early Narrows hikers get the worm and least busy experience!
2. In the summer, it is much cooler earlier in the day, and although the flowing water cools you off some, you are more likely to have high temps and more sun exposure later in the day.
3. Flash floods can be a real danger especially later in the day so by starting to hike the Narrows earlier in the morning you maximize your time.
Our Trip Time Frame:
We got on the Springdale Shuttle at 7:15 (they start at 7 AM), arrived at Zion Outfitters (which is near the Zion Visitor Center) at 7:30.
We then got suited up by 7:45, and made it to the Zion Shuttle to head into the park before our 7-8 AM shuttle tickets expired.
5. “GO” BEFORE YOU GO!
Reminder – this ain’t Disneyland, folks, and there are NO RESTROOMS in The Narrows.
There are restrooms at the Zion Visitor Center where you board the Zion Shuttle, and your last chance for a bathroom pit stop is at The Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop before you get on the trail to The Narrows.
Especially since you may be waist-deep in cold water on your Narros hike, you will want to be sure you start your adventure with an empty bladder!
It’s important to take REST breaks on your hike, but there will be no RESTROOMS there for you for the entirety of The Narrows Zion hike!
6. BE A WEATHER WATCHER
One thing we were not aware of before our trip to Zion National Park was that the weather can be a bit tumultuous in Utah during the summer. Heck, we are from SoCal where it never even rains!
On the day we had planned to hike The Narrows, there was a “Probable” flash flood.
There is frequently flash flood potential, and it can be a very dangerous thing when you are in The Narrows because there is no “high ground” to escape to if the rain starts pouring.
We were a bit anxious about the forecast and kept an eye on the sky the entire time we were hiking.
Also, be sure to keep tabs on the color of the river water. We were warned if that water gets cloudy, get out as quickly as you can or find some high ground because cloudy river water means flash floods are coming!
The NOAA site has updates on flash flood warnings, and we saw signs at the Visitor Center and the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop warning us of “probable” flash floods, so be sure to check out the flash flood warning signage before you hike!
The National Park Service Website will also help you with the latest up-to-date information you might need with specific conditions for Zion National Park like hike and facility closures or weather, road, and campground conditions.
7. PACK LESS
I know “pack less” seems like a counter-intuitive thing to recommend when heading off for a day in nature, but the hike in The Narrows can be long, waterlogged, and strenuous, so only bring the essentials.
We actually brought too much stuff and regretted it!
Channel your inner minimalist and bring only the basics…phones to take pictures, water, energy bars, a small first aid kit, sunglasses, and some sunscreen…and that’s about it.
*HOT PACKING TIP* If you are renting equipment, wear flip flops to the outfitter’s store, that way you are not carrying heavy athletic shoes in your backpack during your hike!
Also, there are locker rentals at Zion Outfitter if you want to leave some things there before you get on the Zion Shuttle.
8. BRING A DRY BAG
Just like when you choose to sit in the front row of a sea animal water show…you ARE going to get wet when you hike The Narrows.
The deepest part of the water for us was right near where the hike begins which got up almost to my waist, and the water level was lower than normal when we were there!
So there will definitely be some deep wading on your trek, and you will most likely be wet for your entire hike.
For younger kids that we saw on the hike, they were at least chest-deep.
Out of the 5 of us in our family, 2 of us fell and got soaked!
The moral of these wet stories…bring a dry bag or waterproof backpack!
Since we are not professional hikers, we simply put any valuables (phones, snacks, and money) in a sealed Ziploc bag, but if you want professional-grade dry bags, you can purchase them from Amazon or at your local sports/outdoor recreation store.
9. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!!
Knowledge is power, especially when you are planning to hike The Narrows!
While we were in Zion, there was a bacteria bloom in the water, so we did take extra precautions to not get the river water in our eyes, nose, or mouth.
Conditions on the river are always changing, so make sure you get the latest updates before you head out on your adventure!
I hope these 9 tips for navigating The Narrows help you have a memory-filled day hike with tons of fun and none of the headaches!
Until next time, cheers to conquering The Narrows, and cheers to you!
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