So, you're interested in hiking The Narrows... And for good reason! This is one of the best hikes in the world, and one of the most photogenic. There are plenty of considerations to keep in mind to prepare for this hike. This page is designed to detail these considerations and to help you get a grasp on the best way to approach, and prepare for this unique hike.
There are two ways to approach "The Narrows" which will be detailed below. But first, let's go over some information that is pertinent to both approaches. Water levels in the Narrows varies depending on the time of year, recent flash floods and how much snow we received over the winter. During spring, snow melt will make the water levels higher and faster. Recently we have had poor snow years, resulting in easy hiking conditions in the spring. If the river flow rate of the Narrows exceeds 150 CFS the National Park will close the "Bottom Up". At 120 CFS the park will close the "Top Down". Historically, this is not uncommon during March and April. If you are visiting in these months, be sure to check with The National Park to learn whether the Narrows are open or not.
WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR IS BEST TO PHOTOGRAPH THE NARROWS
Light travels and changes throughout the year, offering different potential images. There is great stuff all year. However, I believe that the canyon is most photogenic in the Fall. The light in the Narrows lingers much longer than the summer, offering MANY great shooting locations. In addition to this, if you visit during the changing of the foliage, nothing can compare to those vibrant colors within the canyon walls. Foliage in the main canyon and in the Narrows is typically the best during the first week of November.
HOW DO I PROTECT MY GEAR
Zion Adventure Company will be your best source for renting dry bags to protect your gear. They rent regular dry bags, which you could put your camera in... roll it up and put it in your camera backpack and your set. The other option is an SLR specific dry bag made by Ortlieb. These are great, quick zip and sling over your shoulder. Very convenient, but not recommended for Top Down hikers. In addition to dry bags for your camera gear, you may want to consider renting an additional dry bag for food, extra layers, etc.
WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I BRING
- Camera body
- Neutral density filter (optional)
- Polarizing filter a must
- Wide angle lens (10mm-24mm)
- Telephoto recommended only for abstract images
- Extra batteries and memory cards
- Zion Adventure Company Narrows gear
- Food and water for the day (We recommend bringing lunch and snacks as well as two liters of water.. for bottom up hikers)
- Dry bag(s) for camera gear
WHAT IS THE TERRAIN LIKE IN THE NARROWS
The best way for me to explain this is to have people watch this short video that I created to give a visual explanation.
THE "BOTTOM UP" APPROACH
The bottom up approach to the narrows is the most popular method of experiencing the narrows for all visitors, photographers and non-photographers. This hike starts at the "Temple of Sinawava". During visitation months (March-Early November) you must take the Zion shuttle to the trailhead, no personal vehicles allowed. There are restrooms and a water bottle filling station (delicious spring water by the way). You start this hike by doing a 1-mile hike on "The Riverside Walk". This trail is easy and sees plenty of visitation and is beautiful and pleasant in it's own right. Please don't feed the squirrels. Seriously, they're borderline diabetic from over-consumption of Doritos and Cheez-its. At the end of the one mile of paved trail, if you would like to experience the Narrows, from this point you must enter into the river itself and walk upstream. Within 1/4 of a mile you will have some wonderful photo opportunities. As you continue up-canyon you will discover many scenes which you will want to photograph. After 1.5 miles of walking in the river you will hit "Orderville Junction" which is where a side drainage comes into the narrows. If you take the narrow canyon on your right you will enter into Orderville Canyon. If you stay to the left, you will enter "Wall Street". Orderville is a sweet, intimate narrow canyon with interesting terrain. It is however not as photogenic as Wall Street where the canyon is very narrow, and the walls are impressively tall. The light in Wall Street is much better than Orderville Canyon, and the scenes are more dramatic as well. If you decide to hike in either of these areas, be aware of the forecast and use caution as flash flooding poses great danger as there is no high ground to escape to.