The trek through the Narrows of Zion National Park is a stunning sight: The path can be as skinny as 20 feet wide, while the vertical red canyon walls shoot up to 2,000 feet high on either side. It’s considered one of the best hikes in the world — but be prepared to get very wet.
Slot canyons, narrow canyons that are drastically taller than they are wide, are often on the bucket list for intrepid hikers. However, although they are formed over time by water rushing through rock, only a few still have a river running through them. That’s what makes the Narrows so legendary.
The hike through the Narrows, located on the North Fork of the Virgin River in Utah’s Zion Park, starts at the section of the canyon known as the Temple of Sinawava, and ranges from two to sixteen miles depending on the route.
The trek will simultaneously delight your eyes with one of the most beautiful sights imaginable and drench your clothes with cold water. This is because, for a third of the hike, the Virgin River fills the Zion Canyon from wall to wall, forcing hikers to slosh through the water atop slippery rocks to move forward, sometimes submerged as much as chest deep.
Adventurers looking for a real challenge will attempt the Narrows in the spring, when the snowmelt makes for even higher water levels, although if the flow rate reaches 120 cubic feet per second the river is closed off to tourists.
Hiking through a slot canyon is not without its risk. Despite the dry climate of the American Southwest, the number one danger is the canyon filling with too much water. During a rain storm, the water level can rise quickly in such a narrow space. Tragically, 11 tourists drowned in Utah’s Antelope Canyon in 1997 when the water level rose in the tight, inescapable pit.
Despite the risk, thousands of adventurers wade through the Narrows every day. After two hours of hiking through the river, trekkers will reach “Wall Street,” a deep, dramatic canyon — appropriately named, considering its wealth of good views.