Even though we went to Zion National Park more than 4 years ago, before all the hypes from the Internet made Zion become National Parking Lot, we didn’t dare to finish The Narrows, the narrowest section at the end of The Temple of Sinawava trail as we didn’t prepare enough. During the Spring Break 2018, I decided that we must finish the famous trail with our latest gear: Canon 5D mark IV and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 III, that we bought a few months ago but we didn’t have time to travel anywhere.
Before the trip, I did lots of research to prepare for the strenuous hike. This trail is strenuous not because of its height but due to lots of water from the Virgin River, as well as the danger of flash flood that can kill anyone at anytime. I did double check the weather many days in advance until an hour we actually hiked into the Narrows to make sure that the current would not be too extreme (website to check). They will close the trail if the stream is more than 150 cfs and the current at the time we hiked was about 103 cfs, which was pretty strong if you ask me. I saw some people failed into the water, including Duy, and I almost got myself washed away by the current too.
How to get to The Narrows
During the Winter when it’s less crowded, you can drive up to the Temple of Sinawava but in other months, you can take the free shuttle from the Human Museum or the Visitor center. It will be the last stop (stop 9) at The Temple of Sinawava trail. Hiking up the trail for about less than a mile along the Virgin River, you will meet the warning sign of the danger of flash flood before the Virgin River. Don’t let the little river fool you, it could be flash flood even in day with clear sky!
What to bring?
Of course you will need lots of water even on this wet trail. The weather in Zion could be up to 100F in the Summer, so bring plenty of water for this hike. Don’t get yourself exhausted on this trail as you need to hike back.
You need to be in the water for this trail so be prepared to get wet! Don’t wear jeans and cotton shirt as it could be sticky and cold. I saw a few people wore normally clothes and jumped into the water in March, and it wouldn’t be wise as the water was about chest deep.
You can rent the dry suit to hike in the Narrows from several shops outside of the park but some of them may require online reservation only. The price could be $60/day for a dry suite, hiking shoes, some neoprene socks and maybe a walking pole. I figured I could buy a wader for $100 from Amazon, a pair of wader shoes and a waterproof bag for $20, which could be double the price for rental gear, but I can reuse them and also I don’t have to compete with other tourists.
The wader already had the socks so it kept me from the water most of the time. However, if you fall into the deep water, you definitely get wet! The waterproof backpack provided good protection for my camera and purse so I didn’t have to worry much about the water at chest deep.
At the end of the Temple of Sinawava trail, we put on the wader and wader shoes and jumped into the water. I was scared at first when I felt the water at my knee but it turned out that no water got into the wader! With some confident, we started walking upstream with other tourists with colorful rental dry suits. At the end of March, the weather is nice to hike at Zion, at about 40-60F.
The water was cold and the stream was pretty strong (more than 100 cfs) when we were there. “When the current goes above 70 CFS, walking against the current becomes challenging and crossings of mid-thigh deep are frequent with pools that can be chest deep.” (Official website). With the tripod, we tried to stay stable on the loose rocks under the water, but sometimes my tripod got shorten and I almost fell into the water many times.
We hiked for about an hour until we saw the sun went down and many tourists went back. We didn’t like to be left alone in the dark, and the water level was quickly went up as I saw Duy nearly swam in the water. A guy was floating on his back and let the downstream take him back to the trail start which seemed to be pretty fun but we couldn’t do that with our gear…
Overall, the experience was awesome and we got lots of good pictures. I was nervous the entire trip but being in the Narrows to see the soaring red cliff was the most amazing feeling I ever had, and no pictures can describe how it was!