The Narrows. The most famous hike in the entire US National Park system, we are told. We hadn’t heard of it until a couple we met in Bryce during the horseback ride recommended it. Then, when we arrived in Zion a couple of days ago we realized that it’s kind of a big deal.

The Narrows is a trail (or lack of one) that follows the Virgin River upstream from the last shuttle stop in the park. The Virgin River is a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. It runs 16 miles long and at times is only 20-30 feet wide. Every 100-150 yards there are areas of high ground (which as a hiker you are very aware of in case of flash flooding), and about two miles into the hike there is a stretch of river that is flanked by soaring cliffs: the Narrows. The hike is spectacular with soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs and hanging gardens. It’s not an easy hike, though. The water is about 65 degrees F, and at least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking and sometimes swimming in the river. The current is swift, the water is sometimes deep (like, up-to-my-neck deep) and the rocks underfoot can be slippery. We were well advised to rent a walking stick in town the day before, and it was perhaps the best $5 investment I’ve made in a while. That walking stick saved me from the drink on more than a few occasions!

We were given a map by our stick rental store with a few landmarks to follow, but apparently missed the final one that marks the end of the trail, because we went a lot further up river than we expected, to Big Springs, five miles from the drop off point. Although the park information advises that the hike is about eight hours, we arrived early at 6am to avoid any crowds (we were the only ones on the trail as far as we could see in either direction for most of the hike!) and made good time, doing the extended hike roundtrip in about six hours.

An early, long and exhausting hike, it was absolutely worth it and one of the most memorable hikes of the trip by far. A great way to end our Mighty Five road trip and taste of Utah. Back to Las Vegas tomorrow.