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The Narrows at Zion National Park

Zion National Park - The Narrows
I have to say, out of all of the places I've been, this is always my favorite. This is because of not only the amazing beauty of the Narrows, but also because it's more than just a trail you're walking through...it's a canyon covered in water and at some parts even requires a bit of swimming. I have done this trek about five times now and it is like I am experiencing a new place every time. If you are a national park exploring type of person, this is a must!
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The Narrows
This hike is also one of my top contenders for "Best Day Hike in the World." Zion, tucked in Springdale, Utah, is already such a profoundly striking national park, and the chance to tackle the famed Narrows hike on the Virgin River completes an epic visit.

Be sure to check the weather reports for possible flash flooding and make sure that you have a lot of water, snacks for fuel, and layers for when you start to get cold in the slot canyon shadows.

I'd encourage you to make reservations for shoe and trekking pole rentals with the Zion Adventure Company. Once you're in their office you're greeted warmly with information, maps, instructional videos, and everything else you need to know before heading in.

You'll be hiking on the Colorado Plateau and almost entirely IN the river. The walls are vertical and sheer, and different shades of red and orange in color. Water levels change from season to season but be aware that you're always at least wading in knee- to waist-high water (if not swimming small sections). Due to the water level, Zion Adventure Company may outfit you with pants perfect for this type of experience.

For the single-day hike experience in the Narrows, you'll be tackling the up-and-back route from the Temple of Sinawava.
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Zion National Park - Big Bend Star Trails
With much of the drama that Yosemite has, this place is paradise for hiking, exploring, relaxing, walking up Angel's Landing, eating, camping, and so much more. If you love the outdoors, you'll love Zion. And if you don't love the outdoors...seriously, whatsamatterwithyou? :D

Oh, and I should mention that Zion National Park is open at night, and a lot of people choose to do night hiking or watch the stars drift past, as I did here with this photo, showing the celestial movements of the stars. Absolutely magical. It's a real privilege to be able to see the Milky Way or experience the quiet of night while watching the night sky. Really a fantastic stargazing opportunity!!!!!
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Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway
I spent two days at Zion NP and it was not enough time. It is an amazingly beautiful place and I could have easily spent many more days exploring.

I spent the first day driving the Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway making lots of stops along the route to either hike, take pictures or just sit and enjoy the beauty of the park.

There is a $25 entrance fee that is valid for 7 days.
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Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway
I spent two days at Zion NP and it was not enough time. It is an amazingly beautiful place and I could have easily spent many more days exploring.

I spent the first day driving the Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway making lots of stops along the route to either hike, take pictures or just sit and enjoy the beauty of the park.

There is a $25 entrance fee that is valid for 7 days.
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Hiking the canyon
On my second day at the park I did a lot of hiking. I started at the visitors center (you can fill up your water bottles here) and hopped on the park shuttle.

My favorite hike was the Narrows. I disembarked from the shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava and strolled along the easy and paved Riverside Walk. It ends at the Narrows entrance where tons of people gather in and around the water. I decided to venture up the canyon alone with nothing but sneakers, water, snacks and my camera. In the beginning there are tons of people with you but after about 1/2 an hour they thin out. I hiked for about 4.5 hours round trip and saw only a small portion of this amazing canyon.

This is not easy but not that difficult either. I would recommend a walking stick. I didn't have one and it's a bit difficult to traverse through water full of large rocks when you cannot see where to place your feet.

The route I took does not require a permit but the hike from the top down does. Permits are snatched up 3 months in advance so plan early or take your chances on the lottery system, both of which can be done here: http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/narrowspermits.htm

There is food/water stations/bathrooms at the Zion Lodge shuttle stop (there is also a great trail called Emerald Pools at this stop). There is a $25 park entrance fee which is valid for 7 days.
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Hiking the Narrows
On my second day at the park I did a lot of hiking. I started at the visitors center (you can fill up your water bottles here) and hopped on the park shuttle.

My favorite hike was the Narrows. I disembarked from the shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava and strolled along the easy and paved Riverside Walk. It ends at the Narrows entrance where tons of people gather in and around the water. I decided to venture up the canyon alone with nothing but sneakers, water, snacks and my camera. In the beginning there are tons of people with you but after about 1/2 an hour they thin out. I hiked for about 4.5 hours round trip and saw only a small portion of this amazing canyon.

This is not easy but not that difficult either. I would recommend a walking stick. I didn't have one and it's a bit difficult to traverse through water full of large rocks when you cannot see where to place your feet.

The route I took does not require a permit but the hike from the top down does. Permits are snatched up 3 months in advance so plan early or take your chances on the lottery system, both of which can be done here: http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/narrowspermits.htm

There is food/water stations/bathrooms at the Zion Lodge shuttle stop (there is also a great trail called Emerald Pools at this stop). There is a $25 park entrance fee which is valid for 7 days.
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Serenity on the Virgin River: The Narrows in Autumn
The Virgin River, the centerpiece of Zion National Park, presents different personalities throughout the year. In early summer, she runs swift and high with abandon. In autumn she has calmed down and become reflective ... and this is one of the loveliest times of year to wade up the river in the area known as The Narrows. In the indirect light that filters into the narrow canyon, the golden leaves and the red rocks are saturated with warm color (even when your feet are freezing cold in the water). With the water level much lower at this time of year, it's a fairly easy hike, though you still need the crucial piece of equipment: a walking stick ... available for rent in Springdale.
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Rappelling, Canyoneering, and Gorgeous Desert Views Await You
There are numerous canyoneering and rappelling opportunities in Zion National Park, but many visitors enjoy the easy hikes and desert views. Not into the outdoors? There are a few cute bed and breakfasts in the area as well. Get lost in the colorful landscape complete with alizarin crimsons, viridian greens, and cadmium yellow flowers all complemented by an azure blue sky. Visit in the spring or fall to avoid the heat. If canyoneering is what drives you, try June-July to avoid the heavy thunderstorms of August-October.
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The Narrows: Hiking in Slot Canyons
Located in Zion National Park is a popular hike known as The Narrows, a section of canyon where you hike literally in the Virgin River. This is often referred to as one of the best day hikes, not just on the Colorado Plateau, but in all of North America. This reputation comes at no surprise because I can absolutely agree with the well-deserved accolades.

The Narrows can be hiked either as an up-and-back from the Temple of Sinawava or from the top down, the latter being a 16-mile journey. I decided to take the former, more popular route. As soon as you arrive at the river's edge, you spend the rest of your hike in the wading in the water. Crowds are common in the beginning, but the further you journey the less people you encounter.

Food, water, river shoes, and a trekking pole are essentials for The Narrows. Depending on the time of year you go, be prepared! I went during the summer months and I wore shorts and a tank. As I traveled deeper into the canyons, it got really cold. Even if it is 100º F when you begin your hike, temperatures will drop significantly as The Narrows narrow (no pun intended).

Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Flash flooding is common in The Narrows and that is the last place you will want to be in the event of a flash flood! Don't be alarmed if you hear a little bit of thunder and get a light drizzle. You only need to be a worried if it starts to downpour. Then, it's definitely time to turn around and head back.
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The Temple Tree
Want to experience nature, and have it all to yourself? Go to Zion National Park. Go during the day. Sure, it's crowded. But it's amazing. Take in Angels Landing. It's one of the most beautiful hikes anywhere, not just for the narrorw passageway, but for the sheer drama of it all. Zion has that sense of drama.

But don't stop there.

Explore at night. Stay still, and watch the stars move. This photo, a very long exposure, shows the celestial movements of the heavens above (sure, it's the earth rotating and moving that creates the bulk of the movement, but shhhhhh.....we're being poetic here!).

This is a long exposure night sky photo with light painting. All color work was done during the exposure, and is not a Photoshop creation. And this photo was one of several that was featured on the National Geographic website, chosen as the Daily Dozen, and has been also won one of the best travel photos of the year in LA Times.

Zion National Park is one of those "must-sees" along with Arches, although you could probably say that about a lot of South Utah, which has got to be one of the greatest concentrations of beauty anywhere in the United States. And yes...it's great for stargazing!!!!!
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The Narrows at Zion National Park
If a long hike doesn’t sound appealing to you, Zion offers various stops on its shuttle, allowing guests to take in all the memorable sites within the park without miles of walking. One of the park’s most visited attractions in the Narrows, which is a gorge with walls that officials say are 1,000 feet tall. Guests walk through the 20 to 30 feet wide river to experience the narrowest section of Zion Canyon.
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