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Splashing Through Zion: The Epic Narrows Adventure to Big Springs!

High Point

High Point:
5,036 feet

Total Ascent

Total Ascent:
695 feet

Difficulty

Difficulty:
Difficult

Distance

Distance:
8.9 miles

Route Type

Route Type:
Out and back

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The Zion Narrows hike from Bottom Up to Big Springs in Zion National Park is an exhilarating journey through narrow canyons, involving wading through the Virgin River, with breathtaking scenery, towering walls, and refreshing waterfalls.



Overview

Embark on a thrilling adventure with the Zion Narrows hike from Bottom Up to Big Springs in Zion National Park, Utah. This hike offers an unparalleled experience as you wade through the Virgin River, surrounded by towering canyon walls and breathtaking scenery. Known as one of the most popular and iconic hikes in the park, the Narrows provides a unique blend of excitement and natural beauty. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a first-time visitor, the journey to Big Springs promises an unforgettable exploration of one of nature’s most magnificent creations.

So grab your gear, prepare for a splash, and get ready to be amazed by the wonders of the Zion Narrows.

The Virgin River carves its way through The Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah

Preparation and Gear

Before setting out on the Narrows hike, it’s essential to have the proper gear:

  • Quick-Dry Clothing: Wear lightweight, quick-dry clothing to stay comfortable while wading through the river.
  • Footwear: Use sturdy, water-resistant hiking shoes or river sandals with good traction.
  • Drysuit/Wetsuit: Depending on the season, a drysuit, wetsuit, or waders may be necessary to keep warm in the cold water.
  • Hiking Poles/Walking Stick: These are invaluable for balance and navigation in the river.
  • Waterproof Bag: Keep your belongings dry with a waterproof bag or dry sack.
  • Camera: Bring a waterproof camera to capture the stunning scenery.

Safety Considerations

Safety is paramount when hiking the Narrows:

  • Flash Flood Risk: The Narrows is prone to flash floods. Always check the weather forecast and consult with a ranger before starting the hike. Avoid the hike if there’s any chance of rain.
  • Early Start: Begin your hike early in the day to avoid large crowds and to have ample time to complete the hike before dark.

Trailhead and Initial Walk

Start your adventure by taking the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, the last stop on the shuttle route. From here, follow the paved Riverside Walk, a well-marked path that winds alongside the Virgin River. This easy, one-mile trail is perfect for all ages and skill levels, making it a popular destination for families and leisurely strolls. As you near the end of the pathway, the crowds will begin to thin out, signaling the start of your river adventure.

Entering the Narrows

At the end of the Riverside Walk, you’ll step into the Virgin River. This is where the true Narrows experience begins. The riverbed can be rocky and slippery, so take your time and use your hiking poles or walking stick for stability.

Key Landmarks and Points of Interest

Mystery Falls (0.3 miles)

After about 0.3 miles of wading upstream, you’ll come across Mystery Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading into the canyon. This spot is perfect for a quick break and photo opportunity.

Wall Street (1.5 miles)

Continuing upstream, you’ll enter “Wall Street,” the narrowest section of the canyon, approximately 1.5 miles from the start. The canyon walls tower high above, casting shadows over the river below and creating a dramatic and awe-inspiring environment. The towering walls and narrow passageways make this section one of the most iconic parts of the hike.

Orderville Canyon (1.5 miles)

Shortly after entering Wall Street, you’ll reach the confluence with Orderville Canyon, a side canyon that can be explored for a short distance. This side trip offers a different perspective on the Narrows and adds an extra layer of adventure to your hike.

Reaching Big Springs

Final Stretch (3.6 miles)

From the entrance to Orderville Canyon, continue upstream for approximately another two miles to reach Big Springs. This section of the hike is more challenging, with larger boulders and tricky navigation. However, the effort is well worth it as you approach Big Springs.

Big Springs (5.6 miles)

Big Springs is a stunning destination, marked by beautiful springs and waterfalls cascading from the canyon walls. This lush, green oasis is a refreshing contrast to the rugged, rocky terrain of the Narrows. For day hikers, this is the turnaround point, as continuing beyond Big Springs requires a permit.

Other Route Information

The above information is for the out and back hike up the Virgin River Narrows from the bottom, which can be almost 10 miles round-trip in length. Visitors who plan to hike top-down, 16 miles, through the Virgin River Narrows will need a Wilderness Permit.

Orderville Canyon, a tributary that flows into the Narrows about two miles up the hike, is a common destination for hikers. Upstream travel in Orderville Canyon is not allowed after ¼ mile. Hikers wishing to experience more of Orderville Canyon must acquire a canyoneering permit and complete the canyon top-down. Group size limits (12 people per group) apply beyond the junction with Orderville Canyon.

The Return Journey

The return hike follows the same route back downstream. Take your time on the return journey to appreciate the stunning surroundings and capture any sights you may have missed on the way up. The changing light throughout the day can offer new perspectives and photo opportunities.

Respecting the Environment

The Narrows is a fragile and pristine environment that requires our respect and care. Follow these guidelines to help preserve this natural wonder for future generations:

  • Leave No Trace: Pack out all trash and belongings. Do not leave any waste behind.
  • Avoid Vandalism: Do not leave mud-handprints on the canyon walls, build cairns, carve names, or create mud-art.
  • Stay on the Path: Stick to the river and established trails to avoid damaging the surrounding ecosystem.

Practical Tips

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout the hike.
  • Sun Protection: Wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun, especially in the exposed sections of the trail.
  • Timing: Plan your hike to ensure you have enough time to complete the round trip before dark. Starting early in the morning is recommended.
  • Permits: Remember that a permit is required if you plan to continue beyond Big Springs.

Natural and Human History of the Zion Narrows

Natural History

The Zion Narrows is a geological marvel shaped by millions of years of natural processes. The canyon’s dramatic formations are primarily composed of Navajo Sandstone, a type of sedimentary rock that dates back approximately 190 million years to the Jurassic Period. Over millennia, the Virgin River carved its way through this sandstone, creating the narrow, towering canyon walls that define the Narrows today.

The erosional power of the river, combined with seasonal variations in water flow, has resulted in the canyon’s unique features, such as slot canyons, hanging gardens, and natural springs. These elements create a diverse ecosystem within the canyon. The lush vegetation, including ferns and mosses, thrives in the moist, shaded environment provided by the canyon walls. Wildlife, such as mule deer, mountain lions, and various bird species, can also be found in the area, adding to the region’s rich biodiversity.

Human History

The Zion Narrows area has a long history of human habitation and use. Native American tribes, including the Southern Paiute, have lived in the Zion region for thousands of years. These early inhabitants utilized the canyons for shelter, hunting, and gathering, and their cultural heritage is reflected in the petroglyphs and artifacts found throughout Zion National Park.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, European-American explorers and settlers began to arrive in the area. One of the most significant explorations was led by John Wesley Powell, who is famous for his 1869 expedition down the Colorado River. Powell’s detailed descriptions of the region helped to bring national attention to the unique landscapes of the American Southwest.

The establishment of Zion National Park in 1919 marked a new era in the history of the Narrows. The park was created to preserve the stunning natural beauty and unique geological features of the area. Since then, the Narrows has become one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park, attracting adventurers from around the world.

Modern visitors to the Narrows can still see evidence of the area’s rich history. Along the trail, remnants of early settlements and old trails used by Native Americans and pioneers can sometimes be spotted. Additionally, efforts to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Narrows continue, ensuring that this remarkable landscape remains protected for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Conclusion

The Zion Narrows hike from Bottom Up to Big Springs is more than just a trail; it’s an unforgettable adventure through one of the most spectacular landscapes in Zion National Park. With its towering canyon walls, refreshing waterfalls, and the exhilarating challenge of wading through the Virgin River, this hike offers a unique and immersive experience for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Proper preparation and respect for the environment ensure that this natural wonder can be enjoyed for generations to come. So, as you conclude your journey and reflect on the awe-inspiring beauty of the Narrows, take with you the memories of a truly remarkable adventure that will stay with you forever. Happy trails!


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Terms of Use: As with each guide published on SKYBLUEOVERLAND.com, should you choose to these routes, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While taking a trail, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. SKYBLUE OVERLAND LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following this route.