A lot of mental preparation went into committing to hike The Narrows at Zion National Park. I knew I would be fine physically. Of course I would be cold, wet and tired but we would rent all the proper gear, bring tons of snacks and warm clothe. It was my mental state that I couldn’t quite whip into shape.
The Narrows is one of the most unique and famous hiking trails that Zion National Park has to offer. The trail is positioned amidst the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and under the Virgin River. Exquisitly detailed 1,000 foot high-walls surround you as you make your way through the cold waters of the 20-30 foot wide river. Let it be known that, even during the driest times of the year, you will be hiking through some amount of water.
None of the above actually worried me. I was excited for the challenge.
It was the (verbal and written) warning signs about flash floods that had me shaking in my water proof boots. They went something like: “There is ALWAYS a chance of a flash flood” and “Don’t go in the river if there is a chance of a flash flood” and “A flash flood could occur even if there are blue skies above. Beware!”
I was so confused.
A flash flood is caused by water runoff during or way after storms. Because of the shape and texture of The Narrows, the water between those beautiful abstract canyon walls rises quickly and fills up with immense force leaving hikers stranded, injured and even killed. Even the lovely man we rented our gear from couldn’t give me a percentage of how safe we would be. He didn’t want “to be responsible” should anything “go down”.
No one else in our group seemed concerned by these threats so I (wo)man’ed up.
I am incredibly happy that I did because I made it through and lived to write this blog post! That day was one of my favorites of the entire six month trip. The only struggle came in knowing where to place my feet as I manoeuvred through the dangerous bits. It’s all so funny to me now. At the beginning of the hike every step I took was motivated by fear; I was careful, gentle and limited myself to befriending the edges of the river. It was a completely different story on the way back. I was jumping from rock to rock, gliding through the deepest parts of the river and even running after my sister without worrying about fumbling around like a loser.
We hiked The Narrows for nearly seven hours that day but when we got back to the start I was all like, “Wait – should we do it again?”
We hired our gear from a rental store just outside the park entrance. We got water proof boots and pants (not actually water proof but they definitely kept us warmer), walking sticks and a dry bag. In the dry bag we kept bananas, sandwiches, waters and cameras. We went a little nuts considering there were some people doing the hike in flip flops, but better safe than getting your foot stuck between two rocks at the bottom of a deep pool. (I saw it happen.)
Time of Day
We started the hike at 8am which was nice because there was barely anyone around. On our way back to the start, it was the floods of people coming through the Narrows, not the flash floods that we had to watch out for. The only upside about going in the middle of the day is that the water temperature is a bit warmer.