By Dennis Pilipenko, college-bound teen travel blogger who frequently contributes to Celebrate the Weekend
On my family’s trip to Zion National Park in Utah last summer, my father and I undertook a hike up the Narrows, and the experience was much more enjoyable than the ominous name would lead you to believe. The Narrows is the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon, and most of it is submerged in water. You can hike up from Temple Sinawava or down from Chamberlain’s Reach to the Virgin River located at the base of the canyon, although to go down the river a permit is required. In addition, hiking down is the much more challenging course so it wouldn’t do for first timers.
Our first stop of the day was at the Zion Adventure Company in the town of Springdale. There, videos detailing how to safely hike the trail are shown on loop and you can rent or buy hiking gear. My father rented waterproof bags for our things and for cameras, and we both got water shoes and water socks. I cannot stress how important these two items are: if you don’t want to go down with hypothermia from the cold river, rent these. Your feet remain warm and it makes the hike a pleasant one and not a watery slog. Additionally, a hiking stick is very helpful to maintain steady footing along the river and ensure you do not trip and fall.
There are, of course, dangers to this particular trail. Flash flooding can occur, and tripping is a possibility in the river’s rocky course. The warning signs of flash flooding are:
-Rain has occurred recently upstream
-Debris begins to go downstream rapidly
-Water level rises
-Water color darkens
Flash floods can last up to several days, and require you to find higher footing or risk death. Despite this, they occur only a literal handful amount of times a year, and the risk of flash flooding can be checked beforehand and the danger level is posted along the trail. On our particular day at the end of June, the posted risk was at 30%.
The Beginning at Riverside Trail
We started our hike at the end of Riverside Trail, which we reached by a shuttle bus from Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center before heading into The Narrows. The trail itself is a beauty: humbling and stoic, the rocky surfaces extend on all sides as you walk below, with lush greenery protruding from the vast heights and occasional “islands” in the river.
The Beauty of Zion
As my father and I marveled in a comfortable hike, it took us about five hours of walking to complete our journey, ending at the fork in the trail that led to either the advanced trail Wall Street or the Veiled Falls. The hike never felt difficult, but rather a nice steady hike that allowed you to fully take in the environment while never letting you completely let go of your surroundings thanks to the rushing river. I felt lucky to have dodged any bad weather on our trip, as the sun was shining and unobstructed by clouds or rain.
Beware of Flash Floods
Funnily enough, as we got back in the shuttle bus, we noticed a park ranger beginning to warn people of upstream raining and that they were slowly closing the trail for the day. I myself had noticed a raised water level on the backward trek: my father and I were both wondering if the water levels had gotten much higher or if we just got lost and we shared a laugh over our good fortune. I recommend this hike as a moderate one, that can easily be accomplished but requires a decent amount of preparation.
For more information about The Narrows, here is a link to the park’s website.
About the Author
Dennis Pilipenko is part of the active family behind Celebrate the Weekend, a blog highlighting the adventures of Dennis, his two working parents and his 8-year old sister, Vi. They love planning vacations with activities that appeal to all family members and enjoy sharing them with their readers. While on a family road trip through the American southwest, Dennis and his dad especially enjoyed the Narrows trail in Zion National Park. He grew up in the Boston suburbs and will study actuarial science and mathematics at the University of Connecticut this fall.