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.
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.
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.
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