The Narrows At Zion National Park
Considered to be one of the best American adventure trips by National Geographic, The Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah is a 16 mile long slot canyon with over 2,000 foot tall slick walls that progressively narrow in on you, periodic water falls, diminished sunlight and an unpredictable river flowing right through the middle of the canyon.
There are basically two ways to hike the Narrows, from the Bottom Up (which I chose) or the Top Down (which requires a permit and a more experienced hiker). If you're interested in a day hike ranging in easy to moderate difficulty, definitely go with the Bottom Up. This hike still requires preparation and you need to do your homework. I highly suggest checking out Zion Adventure Company which can help you with hiking sticks, shoes, neoprene socks and up to date hiking conditions.
I took the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava stop and hiked the 1 mile walk along the Riverside Walk. There I saw a large amount of people and was a bit discouraged by the crowd. Most were wading in the river at the entrance of the canyon or enjoying the view. As I headed up the river into the cold water of the canyon, I realized there was no real trail since most of the hike is in the water. Where the water was low, it wasn't a problem, but as I moved further into the canyon, and most of the crowd turned around, it became more of a challenge deciding how to maneuver my way up river. At times, I had to scramble over wet boulders, hike through deeper water, almost over my head and push through rapids. I stopped several times on small sandy beaches enjoying the solitude and almost eerie beauty. I knew I needed to keep an eye on the time, since you lose sunlight early on account of the high canyon walls. It was time to turn around and head out. After about an hour hiking out, I realized that I was losing light quicker than I anticipated and it would now become a sprint in order not to get trapped inside. Once again, It became a challenge on deciding where to cross and how best to maneuver back through the canyon. FYI: things never look the same on the return trip. I had brought enough food and water, along with a head lamp and emergency blanket, so I knew I would be safe if things didn't go as planned. Pushing so hard, I was started to get banged up. Knees and elbows were getting scrapped scrambling up and sliding down the backside of boulders. My ankles were shot from getting wedged between rocks, but I finally emerged, cold and tired, to the last bit of sunlight in the canyon.
*Temperature (usually 50-60 degrees), depth (generally 3-4 feet with deeper pockets) and flow of the river are the major factors to consider when hiking in. Keep in mind that you will be in the river over 60% of the time. Zion Park will close the trail if water flow is dangerously high or risk of flash flood. Always, always check the weather. Even a small amount of rain can cause flash floods, which has caused fatalities in the past.
*The best months are May and June and August and September.
Don't wear flip flops (yes, I had to say that). Water shoes are a must and remember the rocks below your feet in and out of the water are slick.
*Neoprene socks can make for a more enjoyable hike.
*You're going to be wet, no way around it. Wear clothes that dry quickly when out of the water. I also like to put a long sleeve shirt and light weight pair of hiking pants rolled up in my back pack. Remember to put them in a water proof bag.
*Waterproofing is essential. Put cameras, phones...in water tight bags.
*Carry your own water. Although the river is beautiful, it's not safe to drink.
*Bring enough food, water along with an emergency blanket and head lamp in case have to spend the night inside or hike your way out after sunset.
*Hike out what you hike in. That includes human waste, toilet paper and trash. Don't forget to bring extra zip lock baggies.