Content Produced in Partnership with Visit St. George
“May your rivers flow without end … where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls." - Edward Abbey
Walking through the Narrows of Zion National Park is like delving deep into Earth’s vascular system. It is a mystical place where strange sights lurk behind every wavy sandstone wall, and the slots reverberate with nature’s melody. The Virgin River carved these passages out of the bedrock over the course of thousands and thousands of years and have since become one of Utah’s greatest natural gifts.
The gorge is 16-miles long and much of the hike is in the Virgin River. Sometimes the water is only a matter of inches deep, while in other places it can be waist high. If you plan on trekking through, be prepared to get wet (it's inevitable). This might mean bringing your swim trunks, gators or wearing a full on wetsuit depending on the season and temperature.
While Zion remains fairly warm throughout the year, winter can still chill the water to the point where your feet will turn blue, while the summertime will bring a reprieve from the intense heat. In the summer months, crowds come out in droves, which means the canyons (which amplify sound) start to get loud. When the Narrows taper to a thin, almost impassable slot, it can feel a bit claustrophobic. Another consideration: the canyon is frequently closed in the spring months as a result of runoff or flash flooding. April and May are dicey times to attempt a visit.
Knowing when to visit simply depends on your preference: are you more averse to crowds or temperature? In the winter, you will almost surely have the Narrows to yourself, to wander and savor privately. But be sure to rent a wetsuit and seek guidance from a local tour operator. Anyone can hike the Narrows from the Bottom Up, which is better for beginners or those short on time. However if you intend the more strenuous Top Down route (either as a one day trip or as an overnight), be prepared to obtain a permit to tackle the intense 16-mile jaunt.
However and whenever you do it, the sights are simply incredible. Waterfalls speckle the canyons as hikers move deeper and deeper into the Earth. Within those walls there is a magic that exists, a natural, quiet, and beautiful scene that refuses to be unfelt, or overlooked. While the waters of the Virgin River may only trickle along the slot canyon floors, those walls are filled with wonder that twist and turn, submerging visitors in light and splendor. If dreams existed anywhere, they'd probably take refuge in the wild solitude of the Zion's Narrows.