Winter Hiking the Zion Narrows

Details

Distance

10 miles

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Jared Blitz

Fewer people, no crowds; the very best way to experience the Narrows with some peace of mind if you can handle the 38 degree Virgin River. The deep hues of the high canyon walls and the blue/green waste deep pools make this a can't miss.

There are 2 ways you can hike the Narrows - top down from Chamberlain's Ranch (16 miles - permit required) or bottom up from the Temple of Sinawava (10 miles - no permit required). The Park Rangers recommended bottom-up during the winter due to accessibility. I believe there is too much snowfall to do the canyoneering from top-down. Regardless, I was more awestruck by the beginning of the hike than near the end.

The nice thing about hiking the Narrows during the winter is the amount of freedom allowed by Zion Nat'l Park. During any time of year except for the winter it can be difficult to find parking, it's overcrowded (especially in the summer), and you have to rely on the tram system. That means you get to see less, you wait more, and you encounter more unpleasant people. Winter in Zion allows you to drive your car directly into Zion Lodge and all through the 7 mile scenic drive that's usually closed off to traffic, where you can park right at the Temple of Sinawava entrance (large picnic area and bathrooms here) that leads to a flat, 1 mile hike to the mouth of the Narrows. Even better, Zion Lodge offers cheaper nightly rates to draw in customers that includes free breakfast from their restaurant for every night you're booked, so you don't have to stay outside the park. The rooms are very clean and comfortable, and the lodge is directly in the heart of the canyon for ultimate convenience.

The hike itself requires a dry suit that you can rent outside of the park for a reasonable price. Since the water is running between 35-40 degrees you're risking your life if you try to hike without one. With that said, I was trying to save money and decided to use a wet suit I owned underneath some pants and a heavy jacket; liberally taped my neoprene socks to my feet and the wet suit, and wore some mid range boots for traction, which you'll need. The rocks were much more difficult to walk on than I expected. I used my tripod as my walking stick. Word of advice - get a real walking stick.

Now that you're in the water, take your time. I saw a total of 12-15 people the entire day I was out. Everyone seemed more intent on moving fast through the Narrows rather exploring the uniqueness of what they were immersed in. People were slipping and falling all over the place.

Do make sure you start early because the winter sunset is usually around 4:30, and when that sun goes down it will get pitch black in the Narrows.

When you're done with the hike there is plenty of room at the entrance to dry off and use the restrooms. Your car will also be in the same area, giving you the opportunity for a quick exit. My recommendation is to rent a room at the lodge and head straight back there to decompress and get comfortable.

Caution: If you use a wet suit like I did (it did keep me warm the whole way), keep in mind the air is just as cold as the water and you're sweating a lot under your dry suit/wet suit. I removed my wet suit and warmed up some food at my car while changing into dry clothing. Thinking I was safe because I was fairly comfortable, I ended up getting hypothermia, spending the rest of the night shivering uncontrollably under the covers, fully clothed, with the heat on in my room - after a 30 minute hot shower and a hot meal.

Well worth the adventure!

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Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Groups
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Waterfall

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