Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is about three hour's drive from Las Vegas. Your author's
favorite park, Zion is a land of great heights and amazing canyons.
The most amazing is the narrows of the Virgin River, often called the
Zion Narrows. While the heart of the Narrows is the domain of the sturdy
hiker (see feature below), there is a paved trail in its lowest mile leading from the main
parking lot. Known as the "Gateway to the Narrows" the trail is the
park's most visited attraction.
The park is exceptionally versatile. While there are many beautiful
features adjacent to the park's main road, there are also many amazing
backcountry attractions awaiting hikers, backpackers, and rock climbers
of all skill levels.
Hiking the Zion Narrows
The term, "narrows", describes a canyon section where the walls of the canyon
crowd in very tightly against the riverbed. In the southwest, rivers, streams,
and even intermittent washes often cut sharply into soft, pliable, regions of
sandstone creating narrow, sheer-walled canyons of extraordinary beauty.
The narrows of the Virgin River, popularly called the "Zion Narrows", is one of the
world's most dramatic and beautiful narrow canyons. In some areas perpendicular
sandstone walls rise almost two thousand feet and are separated by only a few
feet of riverbed. Much of the canyon is lush with springs and greenery. Beautiful
stands of trees are found in the more open sections. The canyon is comfortable
even in midsummer.
Hiking the Narrows is a challenging and rewarding experience for anyone.
Most people employ a shuttle to the head of the canyon, then hike one-way
downstream. Hiking upstream is too strenuous for most. There is no trail.
One must spend much of the hike actually wading in the river on very slippery
rocks. There are frequently obstacles to be bypassed (sometimes strenuous,
generally not dangerous) such as rockfalls, rapids, deep pools, and even
one beautiful waterfall.
There is a touch of danger here. Sudden rain storms upstream can cause
flash floods resulting in a wall of water rushing downstream. Hikers must
be alert especially during thunderstorm season (July-August) and be prepared
to seek high ground. Also, cooler weather brings the real threat of hypothermia
due to being wet all the time.
The best, and safest, time to go is June or September. However it is an unforgetable
experience for any outdoor-loving person.