Photo Gallery: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows
By Michael Lanza
The sound of rushing water increased in volume as we walked downstream in the calf-deep North Fork of the Virgin River, where walls press in close and reach toward the clouds in The Narrows of Zion National Park. Turning a bend in the canyon, we came upon one of the most incongruous sights in the desert: a waterfall pouring from cracks in the canyon’s sandstone wall. Known as Big Springs, this oasis of cascading water and greenery clinging to a redrock cliff is just one of the many wonders awaiting backpackers in Zion’s Narrows.
One of the most uniquely magnificent and coveted hikes in the National Park System, The Narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion squeezes down to just 20 to 30 feet across in places, with sandstone walls that rise as much as a thousand feet tall. Not surprisingly, this incomparable adventure is among “My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips” and “My 25 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever,” and our campsite in The Narrows graces my list of 25 favorite backcountry campsites.
The Narrows is generally done as a two-day, 16-mile hike, descending 1,500 vertical feet, from the upper end at Chamberlain Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava Trailhead at the upper end of Zion Canyon. Summer and fall are the prime seasons for hiking The Narrows, which is frequently unsafe because of high water levels from April through June.
That means it’s time to start planning and submit a request for a backcountry permit reservation if you want to backpack The Narrows this September or October, because the park accepts reservation requests up to two months in advance, and this is a very popular trip.
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View the photo gallery below and watch for my upcoming feature story about backpacking Zion’s Narrows, with many more photos and a video, at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see nps.gov/zion for more information about getting a permit to backpack The Narrows.
See also all of my stories about Zion National Park and about national park adventures, as well as my stories:
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