In the fall of 2015 we had a last minute change for our vacation destination because of a large fire in California. This change led us to Utah for a day at Zion National Park. We did some exploring of the park and discovered “The Narrows”. I thought the hike looked fun, but we were not prepared. I told my hubby that this is going on my bucket list, and I wanted to complete it before I was 60.
We decided to head back to Utah in the fall of 2016, but instead of a day in Utah we spent an entire week. We stayed in the St. George area which is beautiful in its self, and it was a great location to have as a home base. There are three national parks within a couple of hours of St. George.
The Narrows: The Narrows is the most popular hike in Zion National Park, and one of the world’s best slot canyon hikes. The trail is basically the Virgin River. The canyon is so narrow, the river covers the bottom in many spots, which means you have to wade or swim to proceed. Plan on being wet!
August and September does have the greatest potential of flash flooding. There had been a lot of rain before we arrived, and it had rained most days while we were in Utah. We had to watch the weather to see which day would be best. Flash flooding can be deadly when hiking in a slot canyon. I wanted an adventure but not that much, I did want to return from this vacation!
Planning the Hike: Preparation is key for this hike. We decided to do the Bottom-Up Hike which would be about 6-8 hours total. It is a day hike and does not require a permit. You can visit Utah.com for more information on The Narrows.
Gear: For us, we decided to take the advice of several outfitters and rent canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks, and a walking stick for the hike. We rented from Zion Outfitters, it cost $24.00 per person. We also discovered that you can rent the items the day before. This was great because we could get an early start the next morning, and then just drop off our wet gear when we were done. No dealing with very wet shoes on the flight home.
Clothing: Layers, layers, layers. The water is cold and there isn’t a lot of sun in the canyon. It is also best to not wear cotton, synthetic fabrics shed water better.
Food and supplies: You will need to bring water and food as this is a moderate to strenuous hike. We packed sandwiches, fruit and protein bars. Each of us carried enough water for the day. Be prepared, it is better to have more than enough water than to run out. It is important to pack your supplies in dry bags or zip lock bags. There is the potential to fall or step into deep water. Did I mention you will get wet! All a part of the adventure, right?
The day we chose turned out great, and there was only a low chance of flash flooding (bonus, less chance of dying).
The hike begins and we all head into the water at the same time. We soon discovered that with all the additional rain, the river wasn’t as clear, it looked like chocolate milk, which made this adventure a lot more challenging. The river bed can be sandy, muddy, or rocky so often you had no idea what you would be stepping into. This is one of the ways the walking stick was helpful, testing the areas ahead of you. In no time at all we discovered it was also helpful in the fast-moving current to help steady ourselves. The first portion was rather busy, but the further up the river we went, the less people.
The river winds through the canyon and around each bend was a different view.
We had made a goal to hike 3-4 hours into the canyon, hoping to make it to Big Springs. This is the stopping point if you hike bottom-up. We didn’t quite make it to Big Springs, but it was still an awesome adventure. I am glad I originally put it on my bucket list; I feel totally blessed that I was able to now cross it off that list.
Reflections: When we returned home from vacation, I was reflecting about this adventure. With any adventure, I feel you should enjoy the experience (which I totally did), but I also feel you should learn something about yourself and the experience. Here are some of my thoughts.
My Comfort Zone: This adventure took me out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. There was the obvious risk of personal injury, but I wondered if I would be able to do the actual hike because of all the unknowns on the hike. I am not one for unknowns, as I have mentioned in another post about getting out of our comfort zone, I like to be in control! In the river, every step is an unknown – would it be sand, mud, rock, or a drop off? All of which were possibilities. One step at a time, I persevered. Was everything easy? No, did I stumble or fall, yes to both of them. A couple of days after the hike, all the bruises on my legs were definitely evidence to that fact. Life is a lot like this, too. We are on our life journey and different situations in life come up, some we anticipate and others we don’t, but we still need to push on to our final destination in life whatever that might be.
The Path: Not everyone took the same path through the river, and obviously there were different results. Some liked the sandy ground, others liked walking on top of the rocks that could be seen. For the most part, people helped and guided others to the least treacherous path. I would like to think I would take this approach into my every-day-life, and help others when they may need it. I think in this fast-paced life we live in, we often overlook those around us that may need help or just a little guidance or maybe just a smile.
Preparedness: Not everyone had prepared for the hike the same. Some people were in the canyoneer footwear, some sandals, some regular shoes, and some were even barefoot. I am not sure how in the world walking in the rocky river barefoot is even possible, ouch! Most people did have walking sticks which I felt was very important, but some chose not to use one. This made me think about our individual journeys in life: each one of us prepares differently for our journey, and how we prepare often times determines our path and how successful we are on that journey. Since the walking stick was extremely important for my journey (it definitely kept me from stumbling a good portion of the time), I thought about what is important in my life that keeps me from “stumbling” in life. I would say that a good support system from family and friends is important, but for me the word of God is my “walking stick” for my life. When I lean on it, it comforts and guides me. This adventure wasn’t just about crossing something off my bucket list, I learned a lot about myself and the “paths” I would like to take in the future.
If you enjoy hiking and a little adventure in your life, I would encourage you to consider a visit to Zion National Park and a venture into The Narrows. National Geographic considers it one of the top 100 adventures in America.
Have you ever hiked The Narrows? Would you even want to hike The Narrows? What have you learned from an adventure in your life?
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