Photo Gallery: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows
By Michael Lanza
The sound of rushing water increased in volume as we walked downstream in the calf-deep North Fork of the Virgin River, where walls press in close and reach toward the clouds 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 greenery 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 just 20 to 30 feet across in places, with sandstone walls that rise as much as a thousand feet tall.
The Narrows is generally done as a two-day, 16-mile hike, descending 1,500 vertical feet, from the starting trailhead at Chamberlain Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava Trailhead at the upper end of Zion Canyon. Summer and fall are the prime seasons for hiking The Narrows, which is frequently unsafe because of high water levels from April through June.
And this is exactly the time of year that I picked up a Last Minute Permit for the popular, overnight hike down The Narrows, when a friend and I had just about perfect weather for the trip. See more on that by scrolling past the photo gallery (below).
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.
You can apply for a Last Minute permit for unreserved campsites between seven and two days in advance of your starting date; see https://zionpermits.nps.gov/lastminutedrawingapply.cfm.
Not surprisingly, this incomparable adventure is among “My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips” and “My 25 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever,” and our campsite in The Narrows graces my list of 25 favorite backcountry campsites.
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