Utah Hiking, Nature March 03, 2019
Only A Few Lucky Visitors Per Day Are Allowed At This Secret Canyon In Utah
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s most treasured gems, and its beauty has been discovered by people all over the world. In 2017, Zion was the country’s third most visited park, with 4,504,813 visitors during that year. To protect the wild beauty of the park, as well as the safety of its visitors, Zion has undergone many changes throughout the years, including requiring permits for some hikes.
Take a look at this awe-inspiring hike that most Utahns will never take, but many have on their bucket list:
Many visitors to Zion National Park hike at least a little bit of the Narrows Trail.
The bottom portion of the trail is located at the end of the Riverside Walk, and during much of the year it's a fun, easy hike right through the middle of the Virgin River. If you're there during the summer, expect to find tons of people joining you; most people wade through the river for a mile or so, then turn back.
For a completely different experience, hike The Narrows from the top to the bottom.
The trail starts at Chamberlain's Ranch, which is actually just outside the park's borders, then works its way 16 miles to the bottom. It's not crowded with tourists, and you'll experience some of Zion's most incredible beauty as you make your way down the trail. Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
This trail is not for everyone.
It requires experience, skills, and a wilderness permit. While super fit hikers can complete The Narrows hike in one day, most people make it an overnighter. The one-day trek takes even the fittest, fastest hikers 12-18 hours to complete.
This part of Zion National Park is remote and wild - a true sight to behold for those who are capable of making the journey. To keep this place pristine, strict rules are in place.
There are 12 campsites in The Narrows, offering space for between 2 and 12 campers, depending on the site. The largest number of people allowed in The Narrows overnight would be 70, assuming that each site contained the maximum number of campers allowed. You aren't allowed to have any camp fires, and you have to pack out everything you pack in (including toilet paper and human waste).
Only 24 day hiking permits are issued per day, so if this hike is on your bucket list it might take you awhile to snag one.
Each day permit allows groups up to 12 people, but day hikers are only allowed during summer months, otherwise there's not 12 hours of daylight in which to complete the hike.
Permits become available on Zion National Park's website every month on the 5th, and may be reserved up to three months in advance.
During summer months, permits can sell out in a matter of minutes, but if for some reason some slots are unfilled, you can apply for a last-minute day hiking permit 7-12 days before the date. Overnight campers can also check in at the Visitor Center the day before they plan to hike to see if a slot is available. You won't want to plan on getting a last-minute spot for this adventure, but if you're at Zion already, you can always give it a try.
The park notes that the best time to attempt the top-down Narrows hike is during the late spring and early summer months, when the river is at its lowest.
When the river is flowing at 120 cubic feet per second or more, no permits are issued. Even when water levels are low, flash floods can and do occur, and if there are flash flood warnings, your permit may be declined (you'll get a rain-check to hike a different day).
You'll want to make sure you have the appropriate gear for The Narrows.
You'll need good hiking boots with ankle support to navigate the slippery river rocks. Even during the summer, the canyon can get cool, so come prepared with plenty of synthetic or wool layers. A first aid kit is a must, as well as plenty of water, a water purification system, and food. All of your gear should be kept in waterproof bags.
Make sure you know what to do in an emergency; Zion National Park makes it clear that you're responsible for your own safety.
Broken bones, heat stroke, and hypothermia are just some of the dangers you might encounter while hiking The Narrows. Make sure you're adequately prepared, and make safety a priority.
Hiking The Narrows from top to bottom is challenging, to be sure. It's even a challenge just to get the permit! But if you're looking for an absolutely amazing experience - one that most visitors to Zion will never have - this hike is well worth every bit of planning and effort.
Have you hiked the narrows from the top down? If so, we’d love to hear about your adventure!
For more information about the permit process, visit, and if you’re planning a trip to Zion soon, you might want the check out these
10 best hikes in the park.