With all this lingering rain and snow well into the month of June, I keep reminiscing about the desert and all the great trips we’ve taken out there. For anyone planning to head out there this year, I thought I would share some tips and recommendations for our most memorable hikes in Zion National Park. We went in the month of May, before it gets too hot and temperatures were pleasant.
In no particular order, here were the places we visited, all of which I would love to do again!
- The Narrows.
This should be on every hiker and backpacker’s to-do list -unique and spectacular! The Narrows follow a river which travels 16 miles from it’s entry point to the standard exit inside the park. There are a few ways to do this trip.
Many people elect to the lower Narrows only, which has the most dramatic section of the canyon. There is a paved path down to the river, from where you can head upstream as far as you like, then hike back down and out. This is a good option if you don’t have an overnight permit or you are short on time.
The other option is to nab one of the 12 overnight campsites in the canyon and hike the whole thing from top to bottom. We took a shuttle to the top of the canyon, hiked to our campsite above the river, then hiked out the next day through the lower canyon. I’d highly recommend this route to see the full variety that the canyon has to offer. Just be sure to apply for the limited permits months in advance!
The final option would be to hike from the top to the bottom in one day, a full 16 miles. This should only be done by very fit, experienced hikers. Keep in mind that not only is the distance long, but the majority of the time you are crossing the river back and forth or walking right in the water. This means slippery rocks, deep water and fairly slow going, so plan for a long day if you decide to attempt this.
Considerations: The water is cold and can range from ankle deep to chest deep. Special footwear is recommended to keep your feet warm and give you traction on the slippery rocks. There are great outfitters in town where you can rent neoprene canyoneering shoes, as well as dry pants and dry tops, which you will definitely want. We went with only the pants since water levels were low, but if water was running high you would want a dry top and possibly a dry bag to keep your gear dry. Finally, you can rent a long walking staff which is used for balance when crossing the rapids as well as to measure water depth before entering. I usually like trekking poles but this was perfect for this trip. Not to mention they are fun to play with. Sword fight anyone?
2) Angels Landing
This is probably one of the most popular hikes in the park, and for good reason! It starts with a series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, then up through a shady canyon until you reach Scout Lookout, a nice broad platform where you get your first look at the final scramble section.
The “trail” from here becomes narrow, with significant cliff exposure on both sides, not recommended for small children or those with a fear of heights. However, it is not difficult and the park has installed chains in the more dangerous sections to use for balance.
Considerations: Start early! The lower trail gets very hot and would be unpleasant in the sun. In addition, the scramble section is quite narrow and can be dangerous when you have to go around people on cliff edges. Beat the crowds and get ‘er done first thing in the morning. Wear good footwear (no sandals!) and don’t attempt this hike if it is wet or icy.
3) The Subway
The Subway is another canyon hike where you spend a good amount of time hiking up or down the river. If you do the entire canyon from top to bottom, you will need rappelling and canyoneering gear and skills. The other option is to hike in from the lower canyon until you reach the “Subway” section, then turn back just below he technical portion of the canyon. This is what we did and we loved it! It is such a unique place, as the canyon continues to narrow as you head upstream, until it forms it’s namesake tunnel.
Considerations: This hike requires a permit, which should be obtained in advance due to high demand. Just like the Narrows and other canyons, be wary of flash flood dangers and check the forecast with the rangers. Expect your feet to be wet most of the time, neoprene socks or shoes recommended.
4) Hidden Canyon
Hidden Canyon is a lesser known but easily accessible hike. It has a few cliffy sections similar to Angels Landing, with chains installed for balance. It was one of my favorite hikes due to variety, scenery and fewer crowds.
Considerations: Good footwear and lots of water!
I can’t wait to get back to Zion, it’s a huge park full of opportunities for adventure. Whether you like hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking or camping, you will find your adventure here!