Hiking enthusiasts are always looking to push their limits to new extremes. Whether it be a higher mountain, a longer trail, or an unfamiliar terrain, some backpackers will never be satisfied until they can say, ”been there, done that.” In Zion National Park in Utah, one trail gives adventurous hikers an opportunity to experience the wilderness from a unique and thrilling perspective.
The Narrows is a 16-mile trek that takes hikers wading through Zion’s Virgin River. The “trail” winds through a gorge whose walls scale up to a thousand feet high and narrow twenty to thirty feet apart in some sections. With water levels sometimes reaching your chest, getting wet should be the least of your concerns. The park recommends checking the conditions and weather forecasts the day of your trek, as flash floods can be a very real and deadly possibility.
Flickr photo via Steve Dunleavy
Hiking the full 16 miles can take up to two days. When backpacking, make sure to waterproof your belongings because slipping is inevitable (the National Parks Service page compares the hike to “walking on slippery bowling balls”). For visitors looking for a tamer experience, there’s the option to hike up river for as far as you’re comfortable and double-back the same day. You can also enjoy The Narrows from a paved riverside path that follows the first mile of the trek. While each option is breathtaking, hiking the complete trail is the only way to soak in the canyon in its full glory.
The Virgin River you’ll be wading through is the very feature that makes Zion such a special place. In an oasis surrounded by the unforgiving Utah desert, the river breathes life into the plants and animals that make the park their home. The river is also the architect responsible for carving the stunning sandstone cliffs and towers that draw sight-seekers to Zion year after year.
During a hike through The Narrows, sharp-eyed adventurers may be lucky enough to spot colorful frogs along the bank or peregrine falcons soaring above. Dawn and twilight offer the truly exceptional sight of sunlight illuminating the gold and crimson hues in the canyon walls. This is an essential trail for any hiking fanatic, and it’s one that can’t be matched anywhere else on earth.