Once we arrived at the visitors center (which is mostly outdoors)we got our junior ranger booklets, filled up on Zion spring water, went to the bathroom and begrudgingly hopped on the busses to the end of the park. I was annoyed that we had to find parking in town, took forever getting “lunch” from the grocery store, and then the pedestrian entrance wasn’t clearly marked from the road. We were well over an hour past schedule. Once we were on the busses though, the excitement started to kick in. The plan was this: go as far as we felt we could and return based on temp, tired, and hungry. There was no telling what we would see or if we would be back on the bus in a matter of minutes- lol. The Bus ride was actually interesting and included information about the entire park and stops, as we drove to the northern end of the park.
We arrived at the Temple of Sinawava about 30 minutes later. Here we would take a paved trail called the Riverside Walk that leads to the opening of the narrows canyon in which we would travel. The paved trail is a nice easy mile with some incline and descent and plenty of photo ops. It leads to a nice open area at the start of the hike for the narrows (I’m still foggy as to whether the entire hike is called the narrows, or if there is a spot along the hike that is actually the narrows. The information seems to point to both so insert the appropriate understanding here).
I am going to add a major interjection. There is some information that I haven’t shared about the narrows that I feel belongs here:
There are a million ways to hike the narrows, we tried to prepare for half of them, while leaving the other half to chance. There are two directions to go, the way we went and a 13 mile trek in from the other side. The latter is an advanced hike, requires a permit and takes all day. The way we took was the bottom up hike – an in and back out kind of hike. Most turn around before we did and the rest turn around at the intersection of Orderville Canyon where the water is apparently deep enough that people felt they had to swim. You can also start in Orderville Canyon with climbing ropes and work your way to the narrows. All sounded awesome, we felt that the way we went was best suitable for our gear and our kids.
Speaking of gear. If you read all the guides they make it sound like it is impossible without renting canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks and walking sticks, this rental though takes a $10 day in a canyon to an $90 day for a family of 4. We debated endlessly about what to do and opted to just go for it with what we already owned.
With regards to Shoes we used our normal minimalist shoes that dry fast-ish. We found with this selection it’s best not wear socks, I felt like the cotton socks would hold the water against my skin and keep my feet from warming up, my children tested this theory and ended up taking off their socks. Also with kids who may need to turn around – thus not getting good use out of our rental investment – it was better to just go for it. On the other hand if you desire to move fast and hike hard as far as you can from sun up to sun down, by all means get canyoneering shoes and neoprene socks. The shoes have hard soles the grip wet rock and allow you to walk / hike or run at a good pace over and through the river without problem. Our way required a bit more caution. You can really do it whatever way you want, from barefoot to hiking boots, to high tech whatevers. I have even seen pictures of people carrying rafts in with the intend of riding back.
The walking stick is a must unless your ankles are strong, your balance is impeccable or you could careless about falling into the drink. There is a wall with natural sticks that may be available at the time of the hike – we lucked out and grabbed the last 4 as we walked in. People come and go all day, so I’m sure if you’re patient more will show. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, you can buy a walking stick for $10 at the local grocery, ($15 at the Zion Market just outside of the park) or take in ski poles or formal hiking sticks, whatever floats your boat and your style. Gail liked having the a tall heavy hiking stick that she could cautiously use both hands to navigate the water with.
“ON TO THE HIKE ALREADY !!!!” ok ok
We walked to the beginning of the narrows and headed in. The hike is basically a series of angular river crossings. There is a generally accepted path that zig zags – sometimes you follow the person in front other times you laugh as they fall in and go a different direction. There are brief spots of land and rock that you can walk on and get dry on, but it is more a river hike than anything else.
About an hour up the river there is a point where you come to the first waist high crossing. This is a point of division, many people (I’d say the majority) choose to turn around here. Some families split up as the youngers headed back with one family member or another. My children seemed to be the only ones under the age of 16 that went any further. The water was cold but not moving too fast at this point. It also happened to be the deepest crossing we had run into.
The scenery at every turn is amazing, and at most turns you can see / hear the next one calling you on. I managed to get my family to go at least one additional mile down the canyon asking them about up ahead turns that we saw. Once they were tuckered out and regenerating with snacks and drinks, I took the time to run down canyon and see just a couple of turns more.
As we hiked the day obviously progressed. We went from sun soaked river to light on the lower canyon wall to “well, it’s time to turn around because it cold and we are done with snacks.” The down fall to snack is that if you stop long enough your body temp cools from the hike. Our youngest began to shiver as we were preparing to hike back. Hypothermia is a real danger even in the summer, we were prepared for this though with multiple jackets shirts etc. He wasn’t into hypothermia mode yet, but as soon as wet shivers start in it’s important to act now rather than when it is too late. We got him dried up, covered in fleece, and headed back. Once he got his heart rate up again he was snug as a bug. We made it back to the Temple of Sinawava just in time to use the bathroom (everyone had to pee so bad – we didn’t feel right peeing in the river we were walking in), use the foot wash, and hop on the last bus back down.
Tired and hungry we called it a day. We still had more to see and do so we decided to come back the next day.