Ready to get your hike on? Zion National Park is an idyllic destination for all levels of hikers, from beginners up to serious outdoor enthusiasts. You could spend weeks hiking through all the trails and still not see everything.
But if you’re looking for the definitive hike in Zion National Park, the Wall Street Narrows is a must! At 2.5 miles long, it’s a challenging hike along and in the picturesque Virgin River, requiring wading or swimming through ankle-to-waist-deep (and sometimes chest-deep) water.
You’ll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views in Zion National Park, the climax of which is the infamous Wall Street!
- What Is The Narrows and Why Should I Hike It?
- Hiking the Narrows Bottom-Up vs Top-Down
- Bottom-Up: Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs (9 miles round trip total; at least 6 hours)
- 1.) Arrive at The Temple of Sinawava
- 2.) Riverside Walk Trail to Gateway to the Narrows (1 mile)
- 3.) Mystery Falls
- 4.) Narrows Alcove and Grotto Alcove
- 5.) Orderville Canyon Junction (3 miles from the Temple)
- 6.) Wall Street Corridor
- 7.) Big Springs Turnaround (4.5 miles from the Temple)
- 8.) The Return Trip
- 9.) Temple of Sinawava (9 miles from the beginning)
- Top-Down: Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead to the Temple of Sinawava (16 miles; 10-18 hours)
- Bottom-Up: Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs (9 miles round trip total; at least 6 hours)
- When is the Best Time to Hike the Narrows and see Wall Street?
- What Should I Consider Before Hiking The Narrows?
- What Gear is Required for Hiking the Narrows?
- What Supplies Should I Take Into The Narrows?
- Now, Hit the Trail
What Is The Narrows and Why Should I Hike It?
The Narrows is one of the most iconic, definitive hiking experiences in Zion National Park (or any U.S. National Park), and for good reason. This hike takes you through a canyon that is, at times, only 20 feet wide but with towering sandstone walls of cream, pink, and red that are thousands of feet high, and the Virgin River runs through the entire length of the hike.
The hike can be done as an out-and-back, and it can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, the Narrows is a great introduction to canyoneering.
In addition, the world of the Narrows is uniquely incredible – you’ll feel like you’re walking through a painting as you admire the towering cliffs and rushing water.
From the beautiful Riverside Walk on approach to the Gateway to the wide, gentle slope of Mystery Falls and so much more beyond, it’s impossible to overstate the grandeur of this gem of the natural world.
So why not add the Narrows to your Zion National Park bucket list? You won’t regret it!
What Is So Special About Wall Street?
Wall Street is a section of the Narrows slot canyon in Zion National Park that begins at the confluence of Orderville Canyon and the Virgin River, 2 miles from the starting point at the Temple of Sinawava (if you’re hiking bottom-up).
Here, The Narrows reaches its narrowest.
It gets its name from the towering 1,500-foot cliffs on either side of the canyon, which close in on either side to 20 feet across in places.
This section of the Narrows emits a dark and mysterious beauty that only nature can conjure. Here, the sunlight barely reaches the canyon floor, and the cliffs seem to close in around you, leaving the sky nothing more than a crack of light high above you.
It’s an incredible experience that is not to be missed!
Hiking the Narrows Bottom-Up vs Top-Down
There are two ways to approach this popular hike in Zion National Park: from the bottom-up or the top-down.
Bottom-Up: Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs (9 miles round trip total; at least 6 hours)
Bottom-up is the most popular and scenic way to hike the Narrows. It’s also the easier of the two options and the focus of this post.
Aside from the unparalleled natural beauty of the Narrows, this hike’s popularity is due in part to the fact that there’s only one way in and one way out; so, you can’t get lost. Secondly, hikers enjoy the freedom of only progressing as far as their skill level, fitness level, and desire will allow them.
At any point along the 4.5 miles into the canyon, hikers can opt to about-face back to the Temple.
This characteristic is particularly favorable for those hiking with younger children. Still, parents must be judicious about taking their children on this hike, having a solid pulse not only on their skill and fitness level but also their size and weight.
Hiking against the Virgin River’s current requires bottom-up hikers to be tall and heavy enough to push forward when hiking upstream and to hold their footing when coming back.
The minimum recommended hiker size for the Narrows is 4 feet tall and 60 lbs., and that’s only when the flow rate is at its lowest (between 0 and 60 cubic feet per second).
Always check the river conditions on the NPS website when planning your trip.
Here’s a basic itinerary for this hike:
1.) Arrive at The Temple of Sinawava
Get there via the park shuttle or your own ride. If you use your own vehicle, arrive early as the parking lots fill quickly in peak season.
Then, first thing’s first: make sure everyone visits the restroom. Opportunities to privately relieve oneself, especially of the “Number 2” variety, may be difficult to come by during busier seasons. Going now is a good idea.
Second, carefully note the signage indicating the river’s flow rate and any other NPS warnings to ensure that is safe to proceed with the hike.
2.) Riverside Walk Trail to Gateway to the Narrows (1 mile)
This 100-year-old path provides a beautiful, short hike to the Gateway of the Narrows. The trail runs along the Virgin River, providing stunning views of canyon walls and cottonwoods.
The Riverside Walk is paved for its entire length, making it accessible to strollers and wheelchairs (up to the point where the trail enters the water at a stone veranda).
Here, you’ll reach the end of the Riverside Walk and enter the river at Gateway to the Narrows. Be sure any water-sensitive items are stowed and protected and gingerly make your way into the river as you become accustomed to walking on the cobbled river stones.
3.) Mystery Falls
About 15 minutes into the canyon, the 120-foot slab of Mystery Falls will rise on your right. The canyon walls at this point will begin to stretch to a height of 800 feet giving the impression you are entering another world.
Respect the environment at all times: stay in the river or on marked trails. Please, do not do what others have done and make your own destructive trail up the sides, trampling the ecology.
A little further and the river will follow a sharp slithering course left and then right again in goose-neck fashion. Not far past this will bring you to a little slice of Heaven on Earth.
4.) Narrows Alcove and Grotto Alcove
The alcoves are two areas of the Zion Narrows where the canyon walls open up and provide a respite from the river. They are about .25 miles apart.
Alcoves offer a great place to explore, have a snack, and enjoy the moment. They also provide an opportunity to see unique plant life that only grows in these protected areas.
Arriving at Grotto Alcove builds anticipation because (Good News!) it means you’re approaching the climax of this amazing hike!
5.) Orderville Canyon Junction (3 miles from the Temple)
You’ll know you’re getting close to Orderville Canyon when the canyon walls begin to narrow and the Virgin River makes a sharp left turn.
Orderville is a beautiful tributary canyon that meets up with the Narrows about 3 miles upstream from the Temple of Sinawava.
You have three choices here:
- Turn around and head back to the Temple, resulting in a total 6-mile hike.
- Continue through the Wall Street corridor to Big Springs (an additional 2 miles round trip)
- Explore Orderville Canyon and Veiled Falls (maximum 1/2 mile into Orderville and back to the Narrows)
For this post, we assume you’ll continue to Wall Street.
6.) Wall Street Corridor
If you’ve never been high on nature, here’s your chance.
Welcome to Zion National Park’s Wall Street!
The next 1.5 miles will take you through the canyon at its narrowest with 1,500-foot tall, water-smoothed cliffs of red and pink sandstone. The height and proximity of the canyon walls obstruct the sunlight in such a way that a dark and mysterious other-worldly sensation settles around you.
At one point, you’ll encounter Floating Rock: one of the Narrows immensely large boulders (45 feet across!) that has settled itself for eternity in the middle of the Virgin River.
Take your time and take pictures with your mind, because a camera just can’t capture this. Still, you should try.
You’ll know when you’ve reached the end of Wall Street when the canyon begins to widen significantly.
7.) Big Springs Turnaround (4.5 miles from the Temple)
Without a Wilderness Permit, this is our last stop. You’ll know you arrived at Big Springs when the canyon opens up and you see a small pool of water on your right fed by three small waterfalls.
This is an excellent place to take a break, have a snack, enjoy the moment, and reflect on how amazing Mother Nature is.
When you’re ready, turn around and begin your journey back to the Temple of Sinawava.
8.) The Return Trip
Consider this a fair warning: if you choose to hike this far, then the 4.5 miles back, although following the current, is exhausting, physically and mentally. Be sure to begin the hike early to leave plenty of time.
Keep a pulse on your younger, weaker hiking companions, rest when necessary, and pay careful attention to your footing.
Falling on the rocks can really ruin a good time.
Take your time, enjoy the scenery, and give yourself a mental high-five for making it this far. You’ve accomplished something amazing!
9.) Temple of Sinawava (9 miles from the beginning)
You did it!
As you walk out of the canyon and back into the sunlight, you’ll feel an immense sense of accomplishment with memories that will last a lifetime!
Top-Down: Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead to the Temple of Sinawava (16 miles; 10-18 hours)
For those who seek more of a challenge and a way to escape the crowds of the popular bottom-up route, the top-down hike is the way to go. This strenuous, all-day hike (or overnight backpack) starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead and ends 16 miles downstream at the Temple of Sinawava.
This route is only recommended for those who are experienced hikers in excellent physical condition. Not only is this route much longer, but it also requires permits (which are often hard to come by).
But if you’re up for the challenge, the top-down hike is an incredible way to see the subtler side of the Narrows. For an insightful guide on this route, visit Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park.
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When is the Best Time to Hike the Narrows and see Wall Street?
While Spring and Fall are typically considered the best times to visit Zion National Park (to avoid extreme temperatures), other factors should be considered when determining the best time for your family to visit the Narrows.
In late fall and winter, the icy cold water of the Virgin River coupled with frigid temperatures require hikers to outfit themselves with the proper gear, including a wetsuit or dry suit and neoprene socks.
Still, wintertime brings its own unique beauty and an opportunity for relative solitude. The cliffs are dusted with snow and the icicles that form in the shaded slots are simply breathtaking.
Early Spring brings snowmelt which can quickly increase the flow rate of the river to unsafe levels. As a general rule of thumb, the Narrows is closed to hikers when the flow rate is above 120 cubic feet per second.
That said, as soon as the river conditions are safe (usually in early May), hiking the Narrows is an incredibly rewarding experience. The temperatures are mild and the Virgin River is lined with deep green hanging gardens and cascading waterfalls that adorn the red canyon walls in vivid contrast.
The water of the Virgin River is warmest during the summer months; but, so are the temperatures in Zion National Park (often reaching 100°F).
Summer also brings the lowest water levels making the hike along the Virgin River less strenuous; however, a single rain storm can turn this placid slot canyon into a potentially fatal torrent. Flash floods can produce a rushing wall of water that cannot be outrun.
Always check the weather and river conditions before setting out.
The Zion Narrows is particularly enjoyable in Autumn. The changing colors of fall leaves paint a unique hue on the canyon while the low water and relatively consistent weather make for ideal hiking conditions.
At this time, the water temperature will begin to drop, likely requiring hikers to rent or bring along a warm gear package.
What Should I Consider Before Hiking The Narrows?
Planning and preparation are critical before undertaking any hike, but especially one as strenuous and potentially dangerous as the Narrows. While we don’t want to put you off from experiencing the Narrows yourself, Mother Nature should always be respected and never underestimated.
Keeping this in mind will ensure everyone in your family has a memorable and safe hiking experience.
For those undertaking the longer, more challenging top-down route through the Narrows, a Wilderness Permit is required.
However, no permit is required for the bottom-up approach.
Fitness Level and Hiking Experience
The Narrows is not a hike for everyone. The terrain is rugged, the conditions can be extreme, and hiking in ankle-to-chest-deep water is challenging. As such, it’s important to realistically assess your fitness level and hiking experience before setting out.
Not only will you be hiking against the current, but the rocks you’ll be walking on have been described as greased bowling balls.
And falling on rocks HURTS, especially with the weight of a pack on your back.
That being said, one of the beautiful qualities of the Narrows hike allows hikers to turn back whenever they feel they have reached their limit. It’s important to be honest with yourself and your hiking partners to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.
Pushing any individual in the group too far can result in serious injury and rescue in the Narrows is not always feasible.
Hiking with Children and Pets
First, if you have a furry hiking companion, they’re only allowed on one trail in Zion National Park (Pa’rus Trail), but nowhere else.
Regarding having your children accompany you into the Zion Narrows: while we don’t want to discourage anyone from experiencing the majesty of this slot canyon, we must caution that the Narrows can be a very difficult hike, even for experienced, fit adults depending on the season and weather.
That being said, it is not recommended to take children under 4 feet tall and less than 60 pounds into the Narrows, even when the flow rate is at its lowest (0-30 CFS).
Warning: The presence of toxic cyanobacteria in the Virgin River means that any child that accompanies you must be big and strong enough to keep their head from submerging in the water. Educate yourself more about cyanotoxins in Zion National Park water sources.
Weather and River Conditions
The Zion Narrows is only open to hikers when the Virgin River flow rate is below 150 cubic feet per second (CFS).
The Park Service will post the current conditions at the Visitor Center, Temple of Sinawava, and on their website.
Check the NPS website for any rain in the forecast. If the National Weather Service issues a Flash Flood Warning the authorities will close the Narrows and it will remain so 2 hours after the warning is lifted.
TURN AROUND IMMEDIATELY if you happen to be in the Narrows when it begins to rain.
What Gear is Required for Hiking the Narrows?
Hiking the Narrows is substantially different than your typical wooded path. It is a unique environment requiring hikers to be properly equipped and prepared.
Walking Poles vs Trekking Poles
Walking against the current while at the same time finding your footing on round, slick river stones of various sizes becomes physically and mentally taxing.
To help with both stability and fatigue, most day hikers opt to use walking sticks or poles.
Two types of poles can be used for the Narrows – walking sticks (one pole) or trekking poles (two poles).
A solid wood walking stick or pole is our recommendation. These can tolerate the inevitable beating they’re sure to take on the rocks of the Narrows and don’t have a “basket” at the tip that can get wedged in cracks or between rocks.
Trekking poles, however, will give you the most support while hiking, but they can be more difficult to manage in tighter sections of the canyon and the “basket” at the tip can get lodged between rocks, potentially pulling you off balance.
If you go with trekking poles, select poles with removable baskets.
Will you slip and fall with everything splashing into the Virgin River? It’s a fair bet.
If you don’t enjoy soggy snacks or want your expensive camera or phone to become a dripping paper weight, put them in dry sacks or a waterproof floating hiking pack.
Clothing and Footwear
Wearing the proper clothing and footwear is critical while hiking the Narrows.
If you’re hiking in the colder seasons, you’ll want to purchase or rent a dry gear package from a local outfitter
Hiking in the summer, however, can be enjoyed in your typical hiking apparel: quick-dry pants, shorts, or a swimsuit with a synthetic shirt to help wick away sweat. A light jacket is recommended for those starting in the cool of the morning hours.
Everyone will want to wear closed-toe shoes with good tread – hiking boots or water shoes are both fine. Wearing shoes with good ankle support should also be considered as you’ll be constantly stepping on and off round river stones of various sizes.
Do I Need a Map and Compass?
For the most part, the answer is no.
If you’re hiking the Narrows bottom-up from the Temple of Sinawava, the route is straightforward.
As long as you stay in the river, you’ll be fine.
However, if you plan to explore the side canyon at the confluence of the Orderville Canyon and the Virgin River, be aware that venturing more than 1/4 mile is prohibited. Also, exploring beyond Big Springs requires a Wilderness Permit.
What Supplies Should I Take Into The Narrows?
The basic rule of thumb is to take into the Narrows only what you need and can carry out.
With that in mind, here’s a list of essential and recommended items to take on your hike:
Food and Water
You should plan on bringing plenty of food and water.
A good rule of thumb is to bring 1 gallon (4 liters) of water per person, per day. This may seem like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you go through water – especially if it’s hot.
And, since there are no services in the canyon, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Warning: Do NOT attempt to drink water from the Virgin River, even through a filter! The presence of toxic cyanobacteria in the river has made it unsafe for human consumption, even when filtered.
As for food, you’ll want to bring high-energy snacks that are easy to eat on the go. Nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, and sandwiches are all good options. Again, since there are no services in the canyon, it’s best to pack more food than you think you’ll need.
First Aid Kit
Even if you’re the world’s most experienced hiker, accidents can happen.
At a minimum, your first aid kit should include:
- Waterproof Band-Aids and gauze pads of various sizes
- Ibuprofen or similar pain reliever
- Waterproof blister cushions
- Antihistamine (for bee stings, etc.)
- Tweezers (for splinters, etc.)
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Bug spray
- A splint
- A small flashlight or headlamp
A “Number 2 Kit”
True, no one enjoys this facet of hiking; however, especially if the whole family is going, someone’s going to have to go at some point.
Straight up: if you have to pee, feel free to relieve yourself in one of the waist-deep sections of the river; but, if you find yourself needing to drop the Brown’s off at the Super Bowl, you’ll want to have a “Number 2 kit” – AKA a poop kit – to deal with the aftermath.
This should include:
- Toilet paper
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Ziploc baggies (for packing out waste, paper, and wipes)
Note: Do NOT bury your waste in the canyon! The river is a critical water source for many plants and animals, and human waste can contaminate the water. Furthermore, be respectful of others who will follow you and their experience of the canyon. Pack out your poo!
Now, Hit the Trail
The hike through Wall Street is a popular one, and for good reason. With its towering walls of Navajo sandstone, waterfalls, and mysterious atmosphere, the Narrows offers an otherworldly experience that will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped into another world.
If you’re looking for a challenging, rewarding hike that will leave you marveling at nature’s beauty and majesty, the Narrows is definitely worth your time.
So lace up your boots and get ready to hit the trail – we promise you won’t be disappointed!
Now, get out there!
Joshua DavisBeing outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!
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