We were thrilled to get permits to hike The Narrows at Zion National Park. But then our hopes were almost crushed because up until the day before our permit date the Narrows (the full version hike) was closed because water levels were too high. Thankfully the day before our date the water level dropped just enough for us to be allowed to do our hike. At 220 cfs the Narrows is closed, on our day it was 218 cfs! Needless to say we knew it would be some deep, fast flowing, cold water. So we bought wetsuits from REI.
We had to take a private shuttle to be dropped off at Chamberlain Ranch.
We were nervous but excited to start our 16 mile trek through the Virgin River.
The first little bit of the hike is on a dirt road, but it wasn’t long before we were in the river.
Indian Paintbrush flowers.
First few steps in the river, not too deep yet. Also this water wasn’t too cold since it gets plenty of sunshine.
Working his way across the rocks. What we hadn’t thought about ahead of time was how difficult walking through a river would be even when it isn’t that deep. Someone described it as walking for 16 miles on slippery wet bowling balls that you can’t see and don’t know where they are at. I would say this pretty accurately summed it up
There were lots of trees and other debris in the water from the recent high waters and flash floods.
The first spot where the canyon started to get narrow.
Look it was narrow enough I could touch both sides with my poles.
Starting to get a little deeper.
Some of these obstacles were a little tricky to get through.
Made it to the first waterfall!
Jeb found a “narrow” spot too!
We had a hard time taking these pictures. The water was deep and it was super hard to fight the current to be able to stand still for the picture!
At this point we were 11 miles in with 5 to go. We felt very accomplished and even had a false sense of being “almost done”. But the next section was insanely slow going. Three more creeks join the river and the water gets a lot faster and deeper. At times the water was over our heads and we had to just float and kind of go with the current.
The pictures we took tend to show the calm spots of water (because this was when it was safe enough to get out the cameras and stand still and take pictures), but they are deceptive. The majority of the water had rapids that either had to be very carefully navigated or carefully avoided. Sometimes I felt like we were going whitewater rafting but without a raft, tube, or kayak. The rapids were probably class 3 in some places and we were strategic about avoiding these to keep from getting hurt.
This hike was one of the most unique experiences we have ever had hiking. It took 11.5 hours (the national park says to estimate 12 hours), and for more than 7 hours we didn’t see a single other person. It was very challenging at times and we definitely had to function as a team! I think most people that have done the Narrows have had a very different experience because of lower water levels. But we wouldn’t have changed it for anything!