Our little weekend getaway to Utah/Arizona started just the right way on our flight when our jolly flight attendant, while demonstrating safety procedures, advised us that if oxygen masks came down they must “remain on for 7-10 days” and if we have any concerns, “You should keep them to yourselves as we’ve had a long day already.” She then laughed and asked, “Is anyone even listening?”.
It got even better at the car rental agency where Shane, who has now learned to sweet talk the Eastern European ladies, joked with our service agent (who just got yelled at by a mom for the lack of minivans available for rent). He seemed to make her day and suddenly we were leaving with a brand new Yaris for over 50% off!
After picking up Andy in St. George to complete our usual travel trio, we got on the road and cruised through what was now 4 states in one day (California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada) to start our trip in the beautiful Zion National Park in Utah. I was sold the moment I noticed the roads were red, matching the wondrous red rock formations surrounding us!
Deep within the canyons of the park is the Virgin River, which carves out unique landscapes like “The Narrows”. This trail follows the river (ie. the trail IS the river) between the canyon walls as they get closer and closer together, and the walking trail gets increasingly narrow and dark.
As per our usual fashion, we arrived in our sneakers while everyone around us had (at a minimum) waterproof hiking shoes, hiking poles and waterproof pantaloons. This got increasingly extreme as the more advanced travellers showed up in full wet suits… almost in scuba wear! “Gotta get the gear!”
Either way, we did hesitate as to whether or not to wet our shoes, as we still had to hike in them the rest of the day. We tested the “no shoe” thing, and were quick to discover that your feet go through a brain freeze feeling in water 6 degrees warm. We all cringed as the water sent shooting pains up the soles of our feet.
In the end the boys went in without shoes (and received plenty of commentary as a result) and I wore Shane’s to stay warm. We waded through water anywhere from our ankles up to our thighs as wandered the narrowing canyon. Eventually we were almost completely in the darkness enveloped within the canyon walls. It was a beautiful site and so worth the entire hike.
Hike: The Narrows Bottom-Up
Length: 2.5 miles / 3-6 hours
Elevation: Very gradual ascent up river
Hiking the Narrows can be as leisurely or strenuous as you want it. The total hike is 16h and requires a permit, but there is a more leisurely 2.5 mile bottom-up hike from the Temple of Sinawava to Orderville Canyon where the river forks and there is some amazing scenery. The latter hike does not require a permit, and can be fairly leisurely as there is little elevation gain. The main challenge is that the majority of the hike requires wading through water, which at times can be deep and with a strong current. Consider waterproofing your gear and wear some breathable shoes to maintain balance on the slippery rocks.