In order to hike the Zion Narrows from the top down a back-country permit is required, no matter if you hike the 25.7 km in one or more days. The permit is really hard to reserve over the internet and once you have been to Zion you will understand why. Water levels and flow rate of the Virgin river are unpredictable and flash floods are a reality.
The day before Day 1
We had managed to reserve 2 days camping in Zion’s Watchman campground over the internet, which was very lucky. Upon our arrival we went straight to the visitor center to apply for a back-country permit to hike the Zion Narrows and we got lucky again and got a permit for the next day. As there was a 30% flash flood risk for the 2nd day of our hike not many people were interested. The second challenge was transportation to the trail-head as we realized, most of the local outfitters didn’t go because part of the unpaved road was damaged from the previous flash flood the week before.
Shoes: As most of the hike is through water you need the right shoes, we were wearing water sandals (Merell and Keen) with toe protection, many people rent canyoneering boots from the local outfitters.
Tracking poles: We brought our tracking poles, while many people rent wooden sticks we were glad we had 2 poles each especially to keep balance with our overnight equipment, camera and tripod on our backs.
Length: 25.7 km 2 days 1 night
We were at the Zion Adventure Company store at 6am for departure to Chamberlain Ranch, the trailhead to the Zion Narrows is actually outside the park on private land. Quite a ride, we arrived around 8am.
The first few km the trail winds through fields crossing the river a few times, before you really get your feet wet.
For the next few km the canyon narrows gradually, getting steeper and steeper. We encountered a lost cow inside the narrowing canyon. The scenery is amazing, the air is much cooler inside the canyon and the water is quite fresh. It is about 10km before reaching the first of the 12 campsites that are spread out along the river. By the time we reached our designated site, #11 we were starving and dead tired.
We slept about 10 hours, breakfast, packed up all our things and went on our way. It was grey and raining a little but the water level and flow rate seemed unchanged. At big spring we met our campsite neighbor, filled up our water bottles and headed into what is commonly known as Wall street. Here the Narrows really are narrow and a few times it looked as if we had to jump into deep pools before noticing the secret passage around.
As we were warned that once you enter Wall street there would be no higher ground for the next 5km and it was raining we were a bit nervous, advancing at a fast pace until we met the first day hikers making their way up towards us. From here on it is only a few km to the shuttle stop.