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The experience is unparalleled: wading in a knee-deep stream less than fifty feet wide, with thousand-foot canyon walls soaring overhead.
This is the Narrows, one of the most famous slot canyons in the world.
Its full length is more than 10 miles, but the final four miles above its mouth in Zion Canyon are some of the narrowest and most dramatic, and this section is easily accessible.
The only path through this tight gorge is the riverbed itself, and it flows year round.
Rushing water and slippery rocks lead to many minor injuries, but with careful foot placement, the hike is not difficult. The Narrows begins at the Temple of Sinawava stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle.
From there, take the roughly 1-mile, paved Riverside Walk to its terminus, enter the water, and begin hiking upstream.
Whether you continue for only a few minutes or several hours, one thing is certain: you will get wet! Before attempting to hike The Narrows, there are several things to consider, including the season in which you are visiting, the short term weather forecast, and how you are dressed.
Most visitors attempt The Narrows in the late spring and summer when air and water temperatures are at their warmest, and water levels in the river are typically lower.
The hike remains open in all seasons, but a wetsuit or drysuit is a good idea in cold weather. Closed-toed shoes and a hiking stick are strongly recommended for safety, as are layered clothing and a waterproof bag to keep your supplies dry.
The depth of the river can fluctuate greatly from step to step, ranging anywhere from ankle deep to chest deep.
The bottom of the river is comprised of slick, uneven cobbles, making a walking stick an incredibly useful tool for navigating the gorge. It is inadvisable to enter the canyon if storms are forecast for the region, due to the heightened risk of life-threatening flash floods.
Monitor weather forecasts and heed all National Park Service warnings prior to attempting this hike.
The Narrows are off limits during high water and do not reopen until the Park Service determines it is safe. Roughly 4 miles of the Narrows are open to hikers without any special permit, but continuing upstream of a point called Big Springs requires a permit from the National Park Service.
Big Springs is as far as you can go in a day hike of the Narrows from Zion Canyon. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/thenarrows.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Narrows_(Zion_National_Park)