During our RV travels, we got to see more beauty and natural wonders than I ever could have dreamed possible. Unfortunately, the Narrows hike in Zion National Park was not a part of that list.
Visiting in December is not the best way to increase your chances of getting to hike the Narrows (big surprise). In fact, there are several things you should know before planning your hike.
Advance preparation will put you in the best position to have a great experience hiking the Narrows.
You can learn from our seasonal mistiming. I have some other key tips about the Narrows hike based on our experience visiting Zion National Park.
What You Should Know About Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park
As I said, I did not get to enjoy the Narrows hike when we visited Zion National Park (in December). So this isn’t one of my top tips, but it’s good to know that December is not the best time for this hike. Which is why we made the drive right up to the mouth of the Slot Canyon.
We were tempted to wade into the icy river water. But, we were completely unprepared so despite the temptation, we knew that would be a mistake. It was disappointing to miss our chance at the Narrows.
That said, we enjoyed so much natural beauty in this breathtaking national park that the disappointment was short-lived. One key reason was Kolob.
I highly recommend a visit to the Kolob Canyons section of the park, which is located in the northwest area of the main park. You will view exceptional landscapes and hike trails with fewer crowds.
We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Kolob, a less-visited area of Zion National Park.
I can tell you this: Just getting a small taste of what the Narrows hike might be like convinced me to make it back there and complete that hike as soon as I possibly can. There’s a good chance that Zion National Park and the Narrows will be a part of our itinerary on our next RV adventure. After all, it’s only about an 18-hour drive from our home in Texas.
With all that said, this information about hiking the Narrows is as much for my future self as it is for all our amazing readers. The point is, I will be as prepared as possible to make that hike a treasured memory. And I hope this article helps you with your preparations as well. Let’s go.
Check the Weather Forecast
When we visited Zion National Park in December, we arrived just in time for a bitter cold front. In nearby Kanarraville where we were staying, the temperatures plummeted to 11 degrees, freezing my RV water hose solid.
This was the spot where I gave in and purchased my first heated water hose…which was destroyed shortly afterward by another unfortunate freeze incident in Moab.
If RV living is in your future, check out the tough lessons I learned during our winter in an RV.
Needless to say, I didn’t plan very well for our first visit to Zion. It was a bit of a last-minute itinerary change, and we paid the price. Literally.
To be clear, I don’t regret the overall winter RVing experience. It offered a huge benefit as I am now that much wiser. I will be better prepared for our next trip. And, I get a chance to help you.
CHOOSE THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
That said, you may already be more prepared than I was at the time. No doubt you do your research in advance and know the average temperatures in Zion throughout the year.
To make it easy for you, here is a quick snapshot of the average low and high temperatures in Zion National Park by month.
I am sure you weren’t surprised to see the increasing temps throughout late spring and summer, with a peak in July. It’s also worth noting how the average low temperature declines quite a bit in late fall.
The average temperature range in September is 61 degrees to 91 degrees. That falls to a low of only 37 degrees in November.
Needless to say, plan your trip accordingly, especially during those colder months. Your national park experience will absolutely be impacted by (a) the time of year you visit, and (b) how you prepare for the trip.
Of course, the time of year impacts more than just the weather.
Check Average Number of Visitors
I believe the national and state parks are absolutely one of our nation’s greatest treasures.
I’ve written about them extensively. I realize I write most frequently about Glacier National Park because I am fully obsessed with its never-ending, awe-inspiring beauty.
And I also enjoy sharing tips and recommendations for how to fully enjoy US National Parks.
CHOOSE A MONTH WITH FEWER AVERAGE VISITORS
One of my tips (#1 in fact) for enjoying any national park is to choose a month or season that attracts the least volume of traffic, visitors, and fewest hikers on the trails. I do understand this seems like a pretty “self-absorbed” tip because it assumes that everyone is like me and actually wants to avoid the crowds.
I know the reality is that some of you may want to find the largest crowd you can and body surf your way to scenic locations on a sea of outstretched arms. If true, that fact would make you very similar to my 15-year-old son. So, I get it.
Regardless, my primary tip stands. Because whether your preference is to share the experience with many or with absolutely no one, it’s a good idea to check average visitor counts in advance.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
If you enjoy meeting strangers on the trail, that’s cool. I’m not here to judge. For me, an escape to a national park like Zion for a hike through the Narrows is best enjoyed in solitude.
I don’t want to be rushed. I don’t want to be bumped. And I don’t want my ears assaulted by throngs of screaming park-goers chasing young kids. No, I don’t have anything against children. It’s an amazing experience for them to enjoy the great outdoors. It’s just that I don’t want to be pulled out of my nature-induced euphoria.
I’m just being honest and mentioning it because it sets up my next point. My favorite time to visit our national parks is outside of the busy summer season. With few exceptions, I think late fall is the perfect time for a park visit.
Related Reading: Least Crowded Hikes in Zion National Park
To you, I say: Choose your time to visit wisely. Know ahead of time what crowd conditions you enjoy and do some research to find a season that meets those factors.
According to the National Park Service, Zion welcomed more than 1.1 million visitors in June and July of 2022. That means nearly a quarter of the total 4.7 million recreational visitors went during the same two months.
There you have it. If crowd surfing is what you seek, early summer is your season.
If you do visit in July, remember the point above to check temperatures and pack accordingly. You’ll be hiking in 90+ degree heat! Please remember to carry enough drinking water.
An Early Morning Hike Is An Awesome Hike
Based on our experiences visiting and hiking in more than 15 U.S. national parks, we live by one rule: An early hike is an awesome hike.
Everything is better with an early morning start for a hike, no matter where you find yourself. There’s something about hiking through the world as it slowly wakes up and is warmed by the rising sun.
For me, early morning hikes are some of the most sacred and treasured experiences I hold onto from our travels.
You don’t have to be a morning person to take advantage of this tip hiking the Narrows, either. Nope, not at all. You just have to drag yourself out of bed “at the crack of dawn” this one time! Just once.
Even for a morning person like me, an early start isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
But it always, and I mean always, was 100% worth it. Especially if you happen to be a photographer!
That early morning light will help you capture the beauty of any location on Earth.
And an early morning start for the Narrows hike will be no different. I guarantee it. If you get started early enough, you can also avoid the bulk of the crowds.
Renting Canyon Hiking Gear
I have to acknowledge here that every single item I am covering is open to personal preference and interpretation. Weather, crowds, time of day…all completely up to you.
The tip I now offer is also shrouded in personal opinion. Knowing that, I will say: renting gear to hike the canyon may be the best money you ever spend.
The choice about whether or not to rent equipment is of course entirely up to you. Here’s a sample list of the types of rental equipment packages that are offered (and gear that is generally recommended) for hiking in the Narrows:
You will find some folks who have hiked the Narrows without this specialized equipment who will tell you that the rentals aren’t necessary.
Others will highly recommend spending a bit of cash to make your hike as enjoyable and successful as possible.
If you arrive early for the hike, there are often free walking sticks available near the start of the hike.
If I showed up here with my family of five, there is little chance I would spend the money to outfit everyone. That’s quite a wad of cash.
But, if I was hiking solo, I would likely spend the money, at least for the Footwear Package. You can decide what makes the most sense for you.
RECOMMENDED GEAR DEPENDS ON TIME OF YEAR
The decision whether or not to shell out the extra cash will likely depend on the time of year you visit. The temperature of the cold water may decide for you. Spend the cash to avoid hypothermia, or at a minimum, to avoid a really unpleasant experience.
If you are visiting during any season other than summer and think you will want the dry suit package, it is highly recommended that you make reservations with Zion Adventure Company or another local Zion outfitter.
IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO RENT HIKING GEAR
Even if you decide not to rent gear, please don’t head out to hike the Narrows wearing open-toed shoes or sandals. Your toes will never be the same.
The hike is primarily over the slippery rocks of a river bed, which are difficult to navigate even in closed-toed shoes. Do yourself a favor and wear appropriate hiking shoes and socks. Also, bring extra socks so you can change into a dry pair after the hike.
I also recommend packing a walking stick. Or use an alarm so you can try to get at the trailhead early enough for a free stick.
Flash Floods Are A Thing
With a sudden downpour popping up in the area, your experience on the Narrows hike will change rapidly.
Water levels in these slot canyons can change dramatically throughout the day, depending in large part on whether rainfall nearby makes its way into this canyon.
The best thing you can do to prepare is stop at the ranger station or visitor center on your way in. The ranger will be able to provide you with forecast details and the likelihood of a flash flood that could affect your hike.
ARRIVE EARLIER THAN THE DAY OF YOUR HIKE
An even better plan is to give yourself an extra day. Arrive a day before your planned hike and take time to get the information you need.
Make appropriate plans, pack (or rent) the necessary gear, and get a good rest the night before hiking.
In addition, keep your eye on Zion National Park’s official page for details about weather conditions, road closures, and river conditions.
Be aware that the Narrows does close under certain conditions:
- When the flow rate of the Virgin River reaches 150 cubic feet per second
- During some periods of spring snowmelt
- When the National Weather Service issues a Flash Flood Warning
Keeping your eye on all of these details will give you the best opportunity to enjoy a hike in the Narrows you will never forget.
Don’t Miss Out on Wall Street
Many people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) on this hike, not knowing how far they should hike so that they don’t miss the really good stuff.
Let me help you out with that.
If you have the physical ability, at a bare minimum you should go in as far as Wall Street.
This is the narrowest and most breathtaking part of the Narrows hike. It’s where the width of the canyon walls shrinks to a mere 20-30 feet. Bask in the mesmerizing orange-red sheer walls of sandstone that glow and tower about 2,000 feet above your tiny frame in all their glory.
You want to be dwarfed by nature, you say? Then be sure to make it to Wall Street.
Wall Street is located approximately 2.5 miles from Temple of Sinawava if you are hiking bottom-up through the canyon, which is the most common route.
DURATION OF HIKE
Depending on your speed, it will take between 1.5 to 2.5 hours of hiking. Don’t worry, you’ll know when you get there!
Wall Street is a very common spot for hikers to turn around in the Narrows. But you don’t have to stop there. There are plenty more jaw-dropping views past this epic point of the hike as you continue to Big Springs (approximately 2 more miles).
If you have enough time, you can turn right and head into Orderville Canyon to extend the extraordinary adventure.
All told, if your goal is Wall Street, you should plan on about a six-hour excursion in order not to be rushed.
Allow yourself to make this a great time to sit and just be. Enjoy a relaxed pace to let the experience sink in and change you a bit.
Utah National Park Services
Visit the official site of the National Park Service for more information about Zion National Park. In addition to some stunning photographs to inspire you to make the trip, the site offers detailed descriptions and maps for hiking trails, hours of operation, and other useful information to help you plan your trip.
Before departure, check the site for up-to-date notifications about current conditions, including road and trail closures. Use the following links for topic-specific information.
It’s important to be prepared and bring the right gear when hiking the canyons. Hiking the Narrows means you’re going to get wet. Consider wearing waterproof pants and boots. When selecting your gear, keep in mind the water temperatures at certain times of year are going to be extremely chilly.
Carrying a walking stick will help you maintain your footing on the slippery rocks.
While it’s not necessary to complete the hike, you may want to pack your belongings in a dry bag. At a minimum, put any electronics you might be carrying into a secure Ziploc in your backpack.
RENTAL HIKING GEAR
Zion Adventures offers hiking gear rental packages. If you plan to rent gear during your adventure, I recommend contacting them sooner rather than later to make a reservation.
When Will You Hike Zion Narrows?
I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I want to jump in the car right now and make that 18-hour road trip to Zion National Park.
Pouring over these details and picturing these grand scenes in my mind just makes me feel a little stir-crazy, ready to road trip at any cost just to get a taste of this national park, and specifically the Narrows hike, as soon as possible.
If you feel the call as well, there’s a chance you and I might cross paths at this sacred spot sometime soon (I’m still thinking early fall).
I’ll keep an eye out for you and try to save you a walking stick.
Todd loves a competitive game of table tennis, a breathtaking hike, and exploring new places. He lived and traveled in an RV with his family as they traveled throughout much of the US and parts of Canada. Todd has extensive knowledge about RV travel, safety, and accessories and has shared many of his stories here on TREKKN. When he’s not busy launching and building small businesses, you may find him staring at pictures of Glacier National Park (probably his favorite spot on earth).