Zion Narrows (Bottom Up)


This is hands down my favorite day hike and is one of the most unique outdoors experiences I’ve had. Most of the hike involves wading upstream through the Virgin River within a canyon thousands of feet high. Sheer red walls close in around the river to form an impressive narrow slot canyon. A side trip up Orderville Canyon reveals lush vegetation and fun obstacles before reaching a small waterfall.

The trail starts at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop in Zion National Park. On our trip we made sure to take the earliest shuttle we could get and that really helped with the crowds for the first half. The first mile of the hike is along an easy paved section until the trail drops you straight onto the riverbed. From that point on the only route is wading up through the Virgin River! The entire Narrows is 16 miles in length but most hikers stick to the first few miles as an out and back trip. From the bottom up route you can go as far as Big Spring (10 miles round trip). To hike the entire route you must go top down from Chamberlain’s Ranch which requires a permit for either a day or overnight trip.

The river depth can be anywhere from shin to chest deep. Initially the canyon walls are widely separated and the river is shallow so you can ease into it. It takes some time to get used to the cold water and walking on the slippery round rocks. As the river winds around bends the walls close in until you are walking in a slot canyon.

2.5 miles into the hike the river junctions with Orderville Canyon in which hikers can do a small side trip before the trail becomes technical. A short walk from the junction lies the first obstacle, a large boulder with a waterfall spilling over. The climb over is not overly difficult but you will get wet! Continuing upstream the canyon becomes lush with greenery for an entirely different experience. Additional obstacles include log crossings, boulders, and deep slippery pools until you reach a spectacular waterfall.

The next section of the Narrows beyond Orderville Canyon is called Wall Street, the tightest and most famous section of the hike. Beyond that, day hikers may continue as far up a Big Spring before they must return to the trailhead.

On our way back we ran into a TON of hikers! The biggest crowd was right at the beginning of the Narrows but I was really glad we left so early because in many of the upstream sections we were the only hikers. On the return hike we got stuck in a long slow moving line of people navigating through the river. I highly recommend getting on the earliest bus possible when visiting the Narrows.


The most popular time to visit Zion is April through October. Summer months can be extremely hot, exceeding 100F. It is very important to check the weather report and avoid entering slot canyons if rain is expected. This can cause very dangerous flash flooding.


A permit is not required to hike the Narrows from the bottom up, as long as you do not pass Big Springs. Permits are requried to hike the entire Narrows from the top down. Permits are also required for canyoneering trips in Orderville Canyon. See links section for more information on those options.

getting there

Zion National Park is located in Utah between the 15 and 89 highways. It’s about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas and 6.5 hours from Los Angeles depending on traffic.

For most months out of the year trailheads inside Zion National Park are only accessible via the free park shuttle due to the enormous amount of visitors. Parking is available in the Zion Canyon Visitor Center (if you arrive early enough) and also in the town of Springdale. See link for the current shuttle schedule.

The shuttle passes several trailheads within the park including Emerald Pools, the Grotto, and Angels Landing. Temple of Sinawava is the final stop and is the starting point for the Riverside Walk.

Updated April 2016

What to Pack

In addition to your standard day hike pack list, the following items are recommended for this hike:

Similar Trips