Select Page

The Best Guide to Backpacking the Zion Narrows

The Best Guide to Backpacking the Zion Narrows

By Michael Lanza

The sound of rushing water increased in volume and the canyon walls pressed in close and reached toward the sliver of sky overhead as we walked downstream in the calf-deep North Fork of the Virgin River in The Narrows of Zion National Park. Turning a bend in the canyon, we came upon one of the most incongruous sights in the desert: a waterfall pouring from cracks in the canyon’s sandstone wall. Known as Big Spring, this oasis of cascading water and a hanging garden clinging to a redrock cliff is just one of the many wonders awaiting backpackers in Zion’s Narrows.

Day one in the upper Narrows, Zion National Park.
Day one in the upper Narrows, Zion National Park.

One of the most uniquely magnificent and coveted hikes in the National Park System, The Narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion squeezes down to about 20 feet across in places, with sandstone walls that rise as much as a thousand feet tall.

There are many great canyon hikes in the Southwest, but The Narrows is the archetypal great canyon hike. It will forever change your mental image of the meaning of those words. I think the photo gallery below will convince you to take this trip.

The Narrows is generally backpacked as a two-day hike from top to bottom, descending 1,500 vertical feet over the course of 16 miles, from the starting trailhead at Chamberlain Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava Trailhead at the end of the road in Zion Canyon.

Early summer and fall are the prime seasons for hiking The Narrows, which is frequently unsafe because of high water levels from April well into June and during July and August, when heavy rainstorms are common.

My downloadable e-guide “The Complete Guide to Backpacking The Narrows in Zion National Park” will tell you everything you need to know to plan and execute this classic backpacking trip. It is the most thorough guide you will find to backpacking Zion’s Narrows.

Join The Big Outside and get my complete e-guide to backpacking Zion’s Narrows free! Click here.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


 

Not surprisingly, I rank this incomparable adventure among “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest” and “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips,” and our campsite in The Narrows graces my list of 25 favorite backcountry campsites. I also consider it one of “The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First.”

See my feature story “Luck of the Draw, Part 2: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows,” with many more photos and a video, plus trip-planning tips. That story is premium content at The Big Outside and requires a full subscription, which cost just a few pennies over $4 a month for a full year, or less than 5 bucks for one month. Click here to find out more.

Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons at right, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.

 

See all of my stories about Zion National Park, hiking and backpacking in southern Utah, and about national park adventures at The Big Outside.

Get full access to my Zion stories and ALL stories at The Big Outside, plus a FREE e-guide. Join now!

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Those are stunning photos. I love your day 2 pictures the best.

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Thanks, Kevin. The canyon changes character from the first day to the second. It certainly keeps getting deeper and grander as you descend it. But the first day is beautiful, too, and varied, and you’ll see many fewer people than in the last couple hours of the second day, when you’re nearing the mouth of The Narrows.

      Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to the Big Outside

photo of Michael Lanza

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This