How to Hike the Zion Narrows

All pictures are my own unless otherwise noted/sourced; do not use without permission.

Imagine hiking in slot canyons. Even better, hiking in the river and inside a narrow slot canyon! This will WOW you indefinitely!

In order to hike the Zion Narrows, you will have to hike in the cold Virgin River (or you can do the walk on the paved trail but it’s not the same), and walk through greasy and slippery rocks (this is unavoidable). However, the views along the way are worth every step of the way! The canyon walls are incredible, words can’t even begin to describe its beauty. Inside the slot canyon, some cliffs will reveal cool stripes (some call it looking like zebra stripes) due to mineral deposits. Some sections of the hike, the water is a beautiful turquoise blue.

If you start hiking early, water will be clear and absolutely beautiful. You’ll be able to see what you’re stepping on, which makes it easier to navigate in the river. Later on the day as more people start to hike, the water becomes murky and difficult to see what lies underneath. I almost fell multiple times coming back because I couldn’t see what I was stepping on.

Needless to say, the Zion Narrows is hands-down one of my favorite hikes of all time. Also called “the Narrows”, this hike is a very popular one, but not everyone goes all the way or even half way. However, I highly recommended going all the way up to the Confluence or Wall Street. The farther you get, the less people there will be. It makes for a much better experience.

Ways to Hike the Zion Narrows

Hike the one mile paved Riverside Walk (also wheelchair accessible)

The easiest way to see the Zion Narrows (although not the best), is the one-mile paved Riverside Walk. This trail is flat, therefore it is wheelchair accessible and very easy to get walk. The Riverside Walk offers beautiful sceneries and great photo opportunities. It is set next to the Virgin River so there are many openings should you want to dip your feet in the cold water. However, it gets very crowded later in the day. The end of this trail is the beginning of the Narrows hike.

Hike the Zion Narrows in the Virgin River Bottom-Up

Hiking the Zion Narrows bottom-up is one of the most popular routes. It is for good reason. It is absolutely unique and beautiful, but also because anyone can go anytime!

Hiking bottom-up, you can go all the way to Big Spring (this is as far as you’re allowed to go without a permit), which is 10 miles roundtrip. However, you can go as short as 1 mile, or as far as 10 miles. It’s completely up to you.

Bottom-up Hiking Distances (from Temple of Sinawava)

To Mystery Falls – 3 miles roundtrip

To the Confluence – 6 miles roundtrip

To Wall Street – 7.5 miles roundtrip

To Big Spring – 10 miles roundtrip

Distance: 1 - 10 miles round trip

Duration: 1 - 7 hours or more

Difficulty: Easy - Moderate

Permit Required: No

Bathrooms: at Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop

Map of Bottom-up hike, thanks to Zion Guru

Here's a gallery from my Narrows hike.

Gate to the Narrows

Beautiful views

Sun light in the background

Mystery Falls

Walking on greasy rocks

The Confluence ("Fork") where it splits two ways

When your buddy couldn't make it, and you ask a stranger to take a picture of you. UGH.

To the right of the Confluence - to Veiled Falls

The highest the water got for me. It was so much fun!

Later on, water became murky due to increased hikers.

More people coming....

Made it back to the Gate of the Narrows.


Hike the Zion Narrows in the Virgin River Top-Down

Hiking the Zion Narrows Top-Down is for those who has the time, and wants to explore the Narrows more. This route is considered more challenging. There are two options available for this hike. You can do either full day hike, or camp overnight. Both require a permit. Camping is limited to only 40 persons a day.

The Top-Down hike starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch, and you would hike all the way down to the Temple of Sinawava. From Chamberlain’s Ranch, hiking 5 miles will take you to the Upper Narrows, and continuing down from that you will reach Deep Creek, which is a good spot for lunch. Afterwards, you’ll reach the lower Narrows where the Bottom-Up hikers are.Write your text here...

Distance: 16 miles round trip

Duration: 10+ hours

Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult, strenuous

Permit Required: Yes, available at Wilderness Desk at the Zion National Park Visitor's Center or ONLINE

Map of Top-Down hike, thanks to Zion Guru

How to Get There

For the Riverside Walk and Bottom-Up hikes to the Zion Narrows, take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, which is the last shuttle stop.  

For the Top-Down hike to the Zion Narrows, you have to make an arrangement for a stop at Chamberlain’s Ranch.  

More about the shuttle service:

  • The shuttle runs from May through late November or early December; the schedule changes but you can find out more from the Zion National Park site HERE.

  • Anyone can ride the park shuttle, no reservations needed.

  • When shuttles are in season, you cannot drive on Zion Canyon Scenic; it is closed to personal vehicles.

  • Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes inside the park.

  • From the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to the Temple of Sinawava, it takes shuttles 45 minutes’ drive, so plan accordingly.

  • If you miss the last shuttle of the day (it can be full, so try to avoid taking last shuttle), you will have to walk about 8 miles back to the Visitor Center.

  • There will usually be long lines waiting for shuttles – so plan accordingly.

Map of Zion Canyon Line shuttle stops, thanks to National Park Service.

IMPORTANT: Things to know about the Virgin River Flow Rate

Due to flash flood hazards, this section is extremely important.

  • Flow rate is measured by Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS)

  • If flow rate is 150 CFS or higher, then the river / Zion Narrows hike is closed.

  • If you’re doing the Top-Down hike, the flow rate needs to be under 120 CFS.

You can check the Virgin River Flow Rate HERE.

An example of the chart showing the Virgin River flow rate in May of 2024

What to Know About Toxic Cyanobacteria

Toxic Cyanobacteria is a current issue at Zion, including the Virgin River. These bacteria may produce dangerous toxins, targeting the liver and nervous system of humans and animals alike. It is recommended not to swim or submerge oneself in the water, as well as keeping pets out of the water. Having known this, hiking the Zion Narrows is at your own risk.

Please check HERE for current Toxic Cyanobacteria conditions.

What to Wear

· Clothes in layers; preferably clothes that are quick-dry

· Light jacket

· Water resistant hiking boots; trail shoes work fine too

· Neoprene socks to help offer warmth and padding (thank me later)

· You can rent equipment for the hike here:

  • Zion Outfitters

    • Reservations not necessary but available on their site.

    • Rental equipment can be picked the morning of your hike or the evening before, anytime from 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM, and due at 8pm the day of your hike.

  • Zion Guru

    • Rental equipment may be picked up the day before your hike from 2:00 PM -7:30 PM, and due back before closing on the day of your hike.

What to Bring

· Map of the Narrows (either on your phone or a paper map – trust me it helps with trying to figure out where are you or how far along you are in the Narrows)

· Dry bag to put your stuff in

· Hiking poles

· First aid kit

· Flashlight/headlamp

· Snacks

· Enough water

**for after hike: change of clothes, shoes, socks

Where to Stay

As with all National Parks, accommodations aren’t exactly close by. However, if you want to stay at Zion National Park, you can camp. Otherwise, your options are outside the park.

Campgrounds (reservations required; click on each campground to reserve):

· Watchman – camping available year round

· South – camping available Spring - Fall

· Lava Point – camping available Spring - Fall

Best Time to Visit

Summer is the best time to hike the Zion Narrows. Although early fall is an option too (and probably lesser crowds). This is when the water is at its warmest and water level isn’t too high. Weather is also nice in the slot canyons.

We went in late May, around Memorial weekend specifically. We started early, so we were blessed with cold weather and water. However, later on in the day, it was nice, warm, and breezy.


· START EARLY! I promise you it will be a much more peaceful experience. We started at 7.30am and it was really quiet. We came back around 1pm, and it was like you’re at Disneyland, very crowded.

· Be ready for walking on slippery bowling balls as they like to call it.

· Water can be anywhere from an inch to waist-deep AND cold; so be prepared.

· Check for river flow rates – this is VERY important. If you skipped my section on this, look again HERE.

· Check for flash flood warnings BEFORE your hike HERE.

· Check Road conditions before going HERE.

· If you forget your hiking poles, there might be some sticks near the entrance of the Narrows that people have left there that you can use.