Hiking & Backpacking The Narrows, Top Down, Zion National Park

Guide to Hiking The Narrows, Top Down, Zion National Park

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Hiking The Narrows top-down in Zion National Park is even better than hiking The Narrows bottom-up for three reasons:

  1. You can explore the entire 16-mile trail in all its magnificence.  
  2. You’ll avoid the crowds that concentrate at the bottom of The Narrows.
  3. You can spend the night camping in The Narrows — an experience like no other.

While it’s possible to hike The Narrows top-down in a single, exhausting day, I don’t recommend it. You’ll be rushing. Overnight camping lets you slow down, relax, and spend two full days exploring and enjoying The Narrows.

There’s just one catch to hiking The Narrows top-down … permits, which are limited and hard to obtain in peak season.

Narrows Hiking Permits

Permits are required for all Narrows top-down hikers, including both backpackers and one-day hikers. The park issues 40 permits per day­; 24 are available three months in advance, 16 are reserved for last-minute lotteries.

Note: Even if you reserve a permit in advance, the park does not issue top-down permits when the Virgin River’s flow is 120 cfs or higher.

Visit the park’s website to learn more about Zion National Park Permits.

The Narrows, Top Down, Zion

The Narrows Top-Down Trail Facts

Rating: Strenuous
Hiking Time: 1–2 days
Distance: 16 miles
Elevation Change: 1,200 feet


The Narrows top-down starts at Chamberlain Ranch, located on the eastern edge of Zion National Park. It’s a 1.5-hour drive from the Temple of Sinawava, where The Narrows ends. To get there drive 2.4 miles east of Zion’s East Entrance Station, then turn left onto North Fork County Road. Drive 18 miles, cross a bridge, turn left, and drive one mile to the trailhead.

Unless you have access to two cars, it’s best to hire a private shuttle to drop you off at the trailhead. I recommend the best shuttle companies in my guidebook Zion National Park: The Complete Guide.

The Narrows Hiking Gear

The Narrows presents unique challenges above and beyond normal hiking trails. You’ll be hiking in the Virgin River, which means proper footwear and clothing are essential.

A walking staff, canyoneering shoes, and neoprene socks are highly recommended. Wear quick-drying synthetic shorts, never long pants, and bring a waterproof bag to keep food or electronics dry.

I discuss additional Narrows hiking gear — and list reputable outfitters near the park that rent and sell gear — in my guidebook Zion National Park: The Complete Guide.

Trail Description

Chamberlain Ranch, Southern Utah

Trailhead, Chamberlain Ranch 

The hike starts on dry ground, passing through a wide meadow before nearing the river.

Chamberlain Ranch, Southern Utah

Bulloch’s Cabin (2 Miles)

The trail drops towards the river near this old pioneer cabin. Although it’s possible to hike alongside the river on dry ground, hiking in the river is fun and you’ll have to do it eventually. Strap on your river shoes and start splashing. As you hike, keep your eyes out for a 50-foot natural rock arch above the right bank of the river.

Zion National Park: The Complete Guide

Discover the best of Zion National Park

The #1 Zion guidebook.

The Narrows Top-Down, Zion National Park

First Narrows (6.1 Miles) 

The rock walls on either side of the river have been rising higher and higher, but this is where the true Narrows begins. From here to the end, you’re surrounded by towering cliffs.

Waterfall (8.3 Miles)

A gorgeous 12-foot waterfall tumbles over a pile of rocks and logs at this narrow constriction in the canyon. Don’t jump or scramble down the waterfall. There’s an easy route to the left (south) through a cleft in the rocks.

The Narrows Top Down, Utah

As you continue downstream, the steep walls of The Narrows rise higher and higher.

Deep Creek Confluence (8.9 Miles)

Deep Creek flows into the Virgin River at this wide junction, where the volume of water in The Narrows more than doubles. From this point on, swift currents and slippery rocks make hiking more challenging.

The Narrows, Campsite 12, Zion National Park

A dozen campsites are scattered along both sides of the river between Deep Creek and Big Spring.

Big Spring, The Narrows, Zion National Park

Big Spring (11.5 Miles)

This lush spring, which tumbles into the Virgin River in a series of beautiful waterfalls, marks the farthest point bottom-up day hikers can travel in The Narrows. Take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet. You’ll encounter progressively more day hikers the farther downstream you go. 

Orderville Canyon, Zion National Park

Orderville Canyon (13.5 Miles)

This gorgeous side canyon is worth exploring if you’ve got the energy and there’s still plenty of daylight. 

Mystery Falls, Zion National Park

Mystery Falls (14.7 miles)

This thin ribbon of water tumbles down the side of a sloping cliff. Look for canyoneers rappelling down from Mystery Canyon.

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah

Riverside Walk (15.1 miles)

You know you’re near the end of the trail when big crowds dressed in inadequate hiking gear stumble all around you. Eventually, you’ll round a corner and spot Riverside Walk, which heads to the Temple of Sinawava.

Zion National Park: The Complete Guide

Discover the best of Zion National Park

The #1 Zion guidebook.