Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Narrows - Zion National Park

The Narrows is one of the quintessential hikes in the National Park system. If you ever visit Zion -and you should- take the time to do as much of this hike as you feel comfortable doing. Flash flooding is really the only danger here, so heed the weather reports. Other than rain, I don't think you need to worry about too much. Most people self-regulate the speed they are hiking the often-slippery river rocks.  If you rush, you do risk twisting an ankle. But there is no reason to hurry. Take your time and enjoy the stunning setting. As long as you are carefully placing your feet on the river bottom and using a walking stick for balance, this hike is very enjoyable. 
One of the best things about Zion is the comaraderie of the visitors. Because they do not allow cars up past Canyon Junction, everyone must take the park shuttles. The shuttles are a great time to meet fellow travellers. In most parks, visitors are isolated in their cars. Here, the shuttles create small temporary communities that provide great advice and enthusiasm. They are very convenient and easy to use. Hopefully, more and more parks will ban cars if the park layout makes sense to do so.

Take the shuttle from the Visitor Center up to the Temple of Sinawava. You then can stroll the mile-long Riverwalk trail up into the valley. This trail is very easy walking. In addition to the stunning sandstone cliff walls,  you will be approached by hordes of squirrels. They are great posers and beggers. Don't feed them!

You will also see some beautiful rock seeps that supply wildflowers with a contstant supply of moisture. We saw columbine, violets, pink shooting star, and several types of fern. At the end of the Riverwalk, go ahead and jump in the river. Might as well get your feet wet. The canyon immediately gets narrower and more grand. Within 50 yards, the river also gets deeper. Since the river levels rise and fall, I can't really advise you on what this will be like. Both times I've done the hike, the water level only reached my waist. However, I can tell you that this is the deepest part of the hike. And it also feels great on a hot day! 

Around the first big corner, you will see a small water fall coming down the rock face.

I'm not going to give you a full tour of the Narrows. You should explore it for yourself. I've seen hundreds of people hiking it as quickly as possible, never bothering to look around. Don't be like that! The further you go, the more beautiful it gets. There is plenty of time to hike the best parts of the river if you start in the morning. When you have gone as far as you feel comfortable, turn around and head back to the Temple of Sinawava. You will find that you have gotten much better at negotiating the terrain on your way back. No doubt, the lighting has changed too and your perspective on this beautiful canyon will grow more appreciative.

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