Zion National Park, UT: Hiking the Narrows with Kids
Updated: Mar 2
The Narrows hike in Zion National Park, Utah is world famous for its river scenery between tall red rock walls. This unique hike may seem intimidating but is an amazing adventure for families with kids that can be tailored to fit almost any skill level.
Fun: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 5)
Difficulty: Very Easy Easy MODERATE Hard Very Hard
(ranges from Easy to Hard depending on how far you travel on this hike)
Distance: 2 to 8 miles
Elevation Gain: Flat to 300 ft
Terrain: River walking, paved trail, rocks, shade
Time: 1 hour to all day
When to Go: Late spring, summer, early fall
$35 national park entrance fee
Free if you have a 4th grader with Every Kid Outdoors
Bathrooms and water available at trailhead
Restaurants at base of the park in Springdale, Utah
Camping within the park
Hotels and bed & breakfasts in Springdale, Utah
THINGS TO BRING
Sturdy shoes that can get wet
Clothes that can get wet
Snacks and/or lunch
Our hike in the Narrows at Zion National Park was an unplanned adventure. Earlier in the day we had checked out the visitor's center, hiked the Archeology Trail and gone to the museum.
We decided to take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava which is the trailhead of the Narrows just to see what it looked like. A portion of the narrows can be viewed along a one mile paved trail via the Riverside Walk or you can venture further in by getting a little (or a lot) wet in the Virgin River.
We were in immediate awe when we first arrived, so we decided to walk along the Riverside Walk to continue enjoying the scenery. The two mile round trip Riverside Walk is paved, ADA accessible and has educational signs alongside the trail. It provides beautiful views of the Virgin River and surrounding red rock walls.
We continued on the paved trail for a mile until it ended into the Virgin River. As we stopped there we considered our options--turn around and go back to our campsite or check out one of the most famous hikes in the world--we opted for the second choice.
So, yes with a 9, 8, 5 and 9 month old we trekked up the river in our hiking shoes and a few snacks. The kids loved walking in the clear river. It re-energized our tired legs.
I recommend hiking the narrows in sturdy water shoes or hiking shoes/tennis shoes that you can get wet. Some people rent gear like water proof socks/and or shoes but I do not think it is necessary to make this a good family hike. Those supplies might be more beneficial if making this a long all day hike. Like I said before this was a total unplanned hike for us and we did not have any difficulty.
Our 9 month old was in a baby hiking carrier and I held my 5 year old's hand. The older two kids did well hiking without assistance.The water wasn’t flowing fast so I wasn’t ever worried about anyone getting washed away in the river. Most of the time the water was just high enough for wading. There were some deeper pockets here and there but the water never got past my lower thigh.
The hike up the river takes a lot longer than the hike downward because you are going against the current. We hiked a lot along the rock walls because it provided a little stability for us. Some people were hiking with walking sticks due to all the uneven surfaces in the water.
Zion National Park will shut down the narrows if the river is too high or fast or if there is a flash flood warning. However, if you ever feel uncomfortable with the water level or speed of the river you can always turn around.There are areas along the way to get out of the river to rest and dry off a bit.
Around each bend of the river there would be a new beautiful scene. Each area was unique but equally incredible. The pictures you see online of the Narrows are really just as amazing in person.
We walked in the Virgin River for just over a mile before turning around making our round trip between 4 and 5 miles. You can hike up the Narrows starting from the Temple of Sinawava for up you nearly 5 miles (10 miles round-trip) until you hit Big Springs. To hike past Big Springs, you will need to obtain a permit months in advance.
I look forward to when we can venture further into the Narrows, but I am so glad we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get a taste of it.
PROS & CONS
World famous scenery
Cool in the summer months because of the shade and water
Can adjust to your family's wants - short or long
Rocks can get slippery
Easy to fall into the water and get more wet
Not recommended year round because of the cool water temperatures
You will get wet if you continue past the Riverwalk trail
Zion National Park is located in southeastern Utah. The Narrows hike begins 8 miles from the park entrance along Zion Canyon Scenic Dr. During the late spring, summer and fall you will need to take the park shuttle at the base of Zion National Park to access the Narrows.
During the winter months you can drive right to the trailhead in your own vehicle, however I do not recommend getting in the water at this time of year due to the temperature of the water. During winter-time stay on the paved Riverwalk Trail.
OTHER NEARBY ADVENTURES
Other hikes within Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park (1 hour 20 min)
Snow Canyon State Park (1 hour)
North Rim of the Grand Canyon (2 hour 20 min)
Zion National Park official site
Zion Outfitter for waterproof pants, shoes, socks and other gear
Hi, I'm Corrine! I'm an outdoor enthusiast, mother of four, wife, nurse and runner. I believe God gave us this beautiful earth to explore, enjoy and protect.
My goal is to inspire you to get outside and create your own amazing memories as a family. Life is precious and there are too many adventures to be had to spend life on the couch or in front of a screen.
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