|The Mongol hordes arrive by midday!|
August 18, 2015
Zion NP: The Narrows
The Narrows gorge is found at the end of Zion Canyon, where the walls narrow to only 20 feet wide and the cliffs tower 1500 feet above you. There's no trail along the canyon, only packed sand where many feet have gone before. But most of the way is in the river. Water levels were actually pretty low when we were there, with the river mostly about calf deep and occasionally thigh deep. I avoided actually getting my shorts wet. The overnight hikers coming down river weren't so lucky, they had some sections about chest deep, and had to carry their packs over their heads. It wouldn't have taken much more flow for the water to be considerably higher, either. We decided to turn around before crossing a deep section.
There's a very narrow window in the year where it is possible to hike The Narrows in Zion National Park. Since most of the hike is in the river, it needs to be warm outside. It also needs to be dry in the sky...nothing like a flash flood to ruin your day. Check Current Water Levels before you go!
It was surprisingly cool in the canyon. Considering we would see 109 F in our car heading to Las Vegas later that afternoon, the chilly air was a nice reprieve from the heat. Walking in wet shoes helped keep us cool as well! We had smeared our feet with waterproof goo, but it only helped a little bit. After hours of walking in water, our feet were pretty trashed when we got out. No blisters, though!
The scenery was amazing. In places there was only the canyon walls and the river, with a narrow stretch of sky above us. Sun rarely touched us down at the bottom. Water clarity was pretty good on the way up, less so heading back when many feet had thrown up silt everywhere. We walked about 4 miles up river, and the rocks seemed to get bigger and rounder further in, making footing slippery. We kept our gear in dry bags in case we did slip, but our walking poles helped maintain balance and we didn't take a dunking.
Of course, with a narrow window of opportunity to see this natural gem, it means everyone else has the same idea at the same time, so don't expect to be the only ones there! We're lucky, we got up early to start our hike up the Narrows. We were able to wade upriver in relative solitude, with a few people here and there in the canyon. By the time we headed back downriver, the hordes had shown up. I'm talking too many people to count clogging every inch of the river. I bet we saw 1000 people by the time we were back at the trailhead. Still well worth the hike. If we do it again we might think about getting a permit for the 16 mile downriver trip from Chamberlain's ranch, that would be quite an adventure!