Preparing to Hike the Zion Narrows through the Virgin River

What do I need to know before entering the Narrows? How far can I hike into the Narrows? What do I need to take to hike the Narrows? How did it get its name? Where does the river start and end?
Publish date:
Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows

What do I need to know before entering the Narrows?

All narrow canyons are potentially hazardous. Flash floods, cold water, and strong currents present real dangers that can be life-threatening. Your safety depends on your own good judgement, adequate preparation, and constant attention.

Watch for these indications of a possible flash flood:

* Any deterioration in weather conditions
* Build up of clouds or sounds of thunder
* Sudden changes in water clarity from clear to muddy
* Floating debris
* Rising water levels or stronger currents
* Increasing roar of water up canyon

If you observe any of these signs, seek higher ground immediately. Even climbing a few feet may save your life. Remain on high ground until conditions improve. Water levels usually drop within 24 hours. Flash floods do occur in the park during periods of low flash flood potential. A moderate or higher flash flood potential should be a serious cause for concern.

How far can I hike into the Narrows?

Weather and water conditions permitting, there are three ways to hike the Narrows:
(1) Short Day-hike = continue upstream beyond the end of the Riverside Walk. 1-to-5 hours, round trip. No permit required.
(2) Through Day-hike = Hike downstream from Chamberlain's Ranch. This long all day hike requires a shuttle to the trailhead and a permit.
(3) Overnight Hike = Hike downstream from Chamberlain's Ranch. This two-day hike requires a shuttle to the trailhead and a permit. Maximum stay is one night. Fires are not allowed.

What do I need to take to hike the Narrows?

Obtain weather and flash flood forecasts before starting your trip.Other necessary equipment:
* Wear sturdy boots or shoes with ankle support.
* Take a walking stick. Do not cut tree branches for sticks.
* Small children should not hike in the river due to strong currents and deep pools.
* Carry out all trash: food wrappers, apple cores, fruit peels, tissue paper - everything you carry in.
* Carry one gallon of drinking water per person for a full-day hike, food, sunglasses, sunscreen, and first aid kit.
* Take a sweater or windbreaker. The Narrows is much cooler than Zion Canyon.
* Pack gear in waterproof bags.
* Use the restroom at the Riverside Trailhead before hiking. There are no toilets in the Narrows.

How did the Virgin River get its name?

It is believed, but not certain, that the Virgin River was named "La Virgen" by Spanish Catholic Missionaries in honor of the Vigin Mary.

Where does the Virgon River start and end?

The North Fork of the Virgin river begins north of Zion at Cascade Falls which comes out of a cave near Navajo Lake (elevation 9,000 ft). The East Fork of the Virgin River originates above Long Valley. Both the North and East Forks of the Virgin River run through the park and empty into Lake Mead (approx. 1,000 ft elevation) and then into the Colorado River, which empties into the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez.



Favorite Zion hikes

Everyone should take the scenic short hike to Weeping Rock Trail. The half-mile climb is doable for almost everyone, yet offers many of the key attractions that make Zion, Zion.