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The Narrows: Top Down

One of the most scenic and sought after trails in the U.S. is the hike through The Narrows in Zion National Park. The top down hike requires a Wilderness Permit for either one or two days, and they can be tricky to acquire.

The National Park Service website states,

“Over half of all available Narrows permits are available using a calendar reservation system. Reservations are available online during a three-month time frame. On the fifth day of every month at 10:00 am MT, reservations for the next month become available. If they are still available, they can be made until 5:00 pm MT on the day before your trip.”

There are other ways to obtain the permits and other regulations that can be seen on the website.

My brother and sister-in-law were lucky enough to get a permit for a group of six and invited my friend and me to join them. We did the two-day hike and camped at one of the 12 predestined campsites in the canyon. The campsites were beautiful and well-maintained, up on a burm away from the water. We might have even had the company of a mountain lion watching us from a cave in the canyon wall across the stream. I’m still skeptical of this.

On the top down hike, the trail head starts on Chamberlain Ranch above the canyons. You can get a shuttle ride to the trail head through Zion Adventure Company, located in cozy Springdale just outside the park boundaries. You will be on the trail for approximately three miles on the private ranch, passing green fields and grazing cattle before entering what resembles the canyon trails. The trail gradually descends in elevation until you are hiking along the bottom and through the river. You will reach the end of the trail the second day at the Temple of Sinawava, where you will hike up a paved path to a park shuttle that will take you back to the visitors center.

“They’re Going To Be Wet and Sloppy No Matter How Tight They Are.”

Depending on the time of year you go, the water level in the canyon can be anywhere from ankle deep to chest high. The deepest it was for our group in early June was waist high at some points. Nevertheless, you still want to store phones and cameras in waterproof cases, and keep food in dry bags, just in case. We were trekking through water in and out of the Virgin River as the trail wound through the canyon approximately 50 – 60% of the hike.

You can rent a pair of neoprene socks and water hiking boots through that same company, Zion Adventure Company, that are supposed to be great for that kind of trail. The plus side to renting this hiking gear is that they keep your feet warm and the boots have great traction on the river rocks. However, I would not recommend renting them. Not unless you want massive blisters and trench foot.

The neoprene socks reek of the countless, sweaty feet that have been in them, and the hippies that run the shop recommend you get them a half-size bigger than your shoe size. That didn’t matter, the girl reassured me, because they’re going to be wet and sloppy no matter how tight they are. You might be better off buying your own pair of neoprene socks and using comfortable hiking boots.

Don’t Forget to Look Up

Hiking along the trail and through water, you tend to pay more attention to your footing and the path. Take a moment to look up every once in a while and take in the view. At points, the canyon walls can be a couple hundred feet high of sheer, red sandstone. Depending on the time of day, the view can be a unique experience because of the way the light illuminates the crevices. If you really love the outdoors, this can be one of the most enjoyable experiences you will have.

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