The Narrows in Zion National Park
October 10, 2019
A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.
The Narrows in Zion National Park is a hike unlike any other. Most of the hike takes you through the water of the Virgin River. At times, the water barely covers your feet and others it's up to your neck as you're holding your pack above your head. It's thrilling and a fun change of pace to the traditional hiking. The Narrows can be a one day out-and-back hike from the bottom of the Narrows or a backpacking adventure starting from the top and ending at the bottom. Either way, the Narrows is a beautiful place and worth it every time.
My first experience with the Narrows was about two years ago. I had a friend I hadn't seen in years suggest I fly out to Vegas then drive out to experience the Narrows together. I bought my plane ticket that night and took off the next morning. I hardly say no to an adventure! When I arrived in Zion I went straight for the rental shop to rent my neoprene socks, shoes, and stick in preparation the next day. When I entered the Narrows the next morning, I was awestruck. Each river bend turn revealed another layer of beauty. I couldn't help but constantly stop to look up and the towering walls above me and take in each moment. After making it to Wall Street within the Narrows, I layed on a sun soaking rock to soak up the sun myself and reflect on my experience.
When returning home, I knew I had to share the Narrows with my parents. So when we had plans to head out to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I knew we would have to make a stop in Zion National Park. Overall, Zion is a stunner of a National Park. The rock formaitons are jaw dropping, deer become friendly neighbors at your campsite, the Virgin River runs through the park, and you can spot mountain sheep up in the cliffs. We could only stay two nights in Zion, but it'd be easy to spend at least a week exploring the entire park.
Our first and only full day in Zion meant we rented out neoprene socks, Adidas Terrexs, and sticks the night before in preparation. We rented our gear from Zion Outfitters, who made sure everything fit perfectly and warned us of the water temperatures. We later learned the warning was valid, as the water was extremely cold. The neoprene socks were an absolute lifesaver for our tos and feet.
We got a later start to our day then originally planned for the Narrows due to the fierce winds and freezing temperatures. We waited for the sun to warm up the valley before hopping on the tram to take us to the entrance of the Narrows. The entrance is a one-mile paved trail that winds along the river. I see it as an anticipation builder for what's to come. Once you go down the few steps at the end of the trail, you're welcomed by the Narrows with two large red rocked walls and a wide spot in the river. For us this also included the most serene shade of blue in spots of the river, showing its depth and purity.
When you first walking in the Narrows it feels as though you can't catch your footing. Yes, it's slippery, but that's not why. It's because it's such an odd feeling hiking against the river's water while trying to balance on differnt sized rocks. There's no real path or trail, you just find the way step-by-step that works for you. I absolutely love this about the Narrows, you make your own path. Sometimes that means crossing from one side of the river to the other, finding a moment of dirt path, or practically swimming. When crossing the river, I found my stick extremely important. It helped me keep a sturdy foundation as I always made sure to keep it in front of me and used it as my stabilizer when the current picked up.
It felt amazing to be in the Narrows again; to hike in a differnt headspace and time in my life. But what made it truly amazing was being able to share this hike with my parents. I loved watching them push against the water's current and feel accomplished. I loved watching them be patient with themselves and each other as they found their footing with each step. I loved watching them laugh so much as they would recover from a slip. But the moment I loved most was the one pictured below. We came along a deep section of the Narrows where there was no avoiding it. It was either walk in waist high water or attempt the even deeper other side. As we tip toed along trying to savor every last second of not being wet up to our waists, we laughed so hard together. That deep down in your belly laugh. Not sure how, but Tim caught a candid of this special moment.
After being dunked waist deep, we found a sunny spot of rocks to pile up on and eat a snack. We all grabbed handfuls of our favorites and sat there soaking in the moment and the sun. My mom's and my legs were a lovely shade of pink from the cold of the water, so the solar heat did us well. With a little snack in our stomachs, we continued towards another bend before turning around. The sun was fading fast behind the mountains and the water was only getting deeper further upstream. When we turned around it was almost more to find our footing due to the water pushing behind us, rushing us to find our foot placement among the rocks.
As the extra layers went on and we got closer to the end of our afternoon in the Narrows, I couldn't help but think how special of a day it was. Not only was I back in beautiful Zion, but I was there with three of the people that mean the most to me. And not only was I able to share the experience with them, but they loved it. I watched their eyes fill with curiousity and wonder as they pointed out each thing they found to be beautiful. The day also marked one year until I get to marry Tim. The Narrows will now hold a little extra something for me from here on out.