Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Zion Narrows Trip Report by Debbie Wood

On June 26th, 12 hikers headed out to backpack the Narrows of Zion. This is one of the best hikes in the country. It should be on everyone's bucket list. Hiking the Narrows from top to bottom requires a permit through the Zion Backcountry Office. Day hikes from the bottom do not require a permit.

We camped Friday night at Zion Canyon Campgrounds in Springdale. I would not recommend this campground. The sites are very small, and the place was very loud. The benefit of the campground is that it's right across the street from the outfitter that was going to shuttle us to Chamberlin's ranch in the morning.

We used Zion Adventure Company for all of our outfitting. They have a warm weather rental package for the Narrows. You get a walking stick, neoprene socks and canyoneering shoes for around $32 for both days. The hike can be done with water shoes and trekking poles, but the proper gear is recommended.

Zion Adventures has two morning shuttles to Chamberlin's Ranch. The first is at 6:30 am and the second is at 10:00 am. The cost for the shuttle is about $32 per person. It takes almost 1 ½ hours to get from Zion Adventures to Chamberlin's Ranch. Our group took the 6:30 am shuttle to Chamberlin's Ranch. This area is private property, so it is the closest you can get to the top of the Narrows. It is about a 2 miles hike from the shuttle drop off to the start of the Narrows. At this time of year, the water in the Virgin River is in the mid 50s. The air temperature was warm, but you are in the shade a lot of the time.

We camped at site #12. It is about 11 miles down the river. All of the sites seemed to be tree covered and spacious. The other spots hold 4-6 people. It took our group about 9 hours of hiking to get to camp. The water was fairly low, but still got up to waste deep in some spots. The rocks can be very slippery, and the current can be strong.

The second day was only about 5 miles. There were optional swims with water that was belly button deep. Since it was a short hiking day, we took a quick side trip up Orderville Canyon. This is a technical canyoneering trip, so we went as far as we could. It requires a permit and full canyoneering gear to hike the canyon from top to bottom. We began to see more day hikers once we reached this intersection. It was strange since we hadn't seen anyone is almost 24 hours. The further we got to the end of the hike, Temple of the Sinawava, the more people we saw.

Permits - Permits are required for all top to bottom hikes of the Narrows. I highly recommend taking 2 days for this hike so you can take your time to enjoy the beauty of the canyon.

Gear - Zion Adventure Company is the best! They provide rental gear and shuttle service. Be sure to try on rental gear before you take it with you. We had a few people with size issues. If your canyoneering shoes are too big, you may get rocks and blisters.

Any equipment you don't want wet must go in a dry bag. This includes camera, food, sleeping bag, additional clothes and anything else you want to keep dry.

To save weight, plan your gear ahead of time. Everyone in your group does not need a water filter. People can share tents, or not use a tent at all.

A walking stick is needed to help you balance; the currents can push you over.
A wet suit is recommended in the winter.

This hike is not for a beginning hiker or backpacking. The Narrows are 16 long, strenuous miles.

Warning - This is a slot canyon. The potential for a flash flood is tremendous. If the weather looks bad, do not go. You life may depend on it.