The Zion Narrows has become one of the most well known hiking/canyoneering routes in the world. There are basically two way's to see the narrows, either way you will get wet, it is a river hike.
- From the top - 16 miles. A permit is required for anyone doing the narrows from the top-down. There are two types of permits. Day-hiking permit or an over-night permit, there are 12 campsites in the narrows and you get assigned to a specific site. Normal day-hike time is around 12 hours. Over-night time is 36 hours but there are many variables. A shuttle is necessary to get to the trail head. The narrows can be very busy during peak season, your will see a lot less people going top-down.
- From the bottom - 4+ miles. A permit is not required. The distance varies because when hiking the narrows from the bottom you hike up as far as you would like then turn around and come back. Many hikers try to reach orderville canyon, a tributary approximately 2 hours from the end the paved trail. In the vicinity of orderville the narrows become quite spectacular.
Flash flooding and other seasonal concerns
Flash flooding is a REAL danger in the Zion Narrows. Check weather forecasts and and with the Park Service to find out if a flash flood watch or a flash flood warning has been issued. The narrows is a enormous drainage with multiple tributaries that can flash. Here are 2 different point forecasts and the NPS link. Springdale. Cedar Mountain. Zion NPS Information. The Zion Narrows is routinely closed to hikers during spring run-off, normally April-May. Depending on snow-pack it can be closed through mid-July. The most comfortable time of year to do the narrows is June-September. It can be done in the winter but is cold, icy and dangerous. The water needs to be less than 120 cfs or the park service will not issue top-down permits. Here is a link to the water gauge used to determine if the narrows are open. North Fork, Virgin River, Springdale Utah.
Clothing and Footwear
Hypothermia is the #1 killer of outdoor recreationalists. Even in the summer your should bring some synthetic layers for warmth, spring and Fall you will need even more. Dry-suits and/or wet suits are mandatory in late Fall. Hiking the narrows in the winter is not recommended. Neoprene booties can be a good way to keep you feet warm during the colder seasons. There are outfitters in Spingdale that rent/sale neoprene booties as well as river hiking shoes. The river shoe are not completely necessary but can be nice. Sturdy hiking or running shoe work fine. Heavy leather hiking boots that do not drain are going to make a long day even longer.
Kayaking the Zion Narrows
Kayaking is currently allowed during spring run-off. The park service is currently investigating new management procedures for this activity due to a double fatality in 2010 and multiple rescues in 2009. Hypothermia was the dominant factor in these incidents. Do not under estimate Kayaking the Narrows. It is extremely dangerous.