Alternatives to Hiking the Zion Narrows During Spring Flood

Extraordinary precipitation this winter/spring has resulted in high water levels in The Narrows this spring, closing the world-famous hike for the last two months. Since the snow pack remains significant in the watershed’s higher reaches, we expect The Narrows will remain closed another 2 to 4 weeks. So many Zion visitors plan to hike The Narrows, and we have the ugly job of telling all these folks, day after day, they can’t explore this place they’ve heard so much about and have travelled so far to see. Visitor reactions fall across the board: mad, sad, frustrated, crestfallen… a few hesitant hikers are even glad to have an convenient excuse to miss The Narrows. But the upside of this whole situation, the thing we try to help everyone see, is there are TONS of world-class activities in Zion that can be just as rewarding as The Narrows hike. If you are bummed to miss The Narrow on your current or upcoming trip, please peruse the following ideas for ways to turn that frown upside down and make the most of your visit.

Fabulous Day Hikes
2- to 4-hour hikes like Angels Landing, Observation Point, Emerald Pools, and Hidden Canyon offer breathtaking views, great exercise, and easy access from the Park Shuttle. Those looking for less company might try the Northgate Peaks, Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, or Coal Pits Wash hikes for more solitude and wilderness appeal. More ambitious and adventuresome hikers might seek out the Eagle Crags, Kanarra Creek, Lady Mountain, or Canaan Mountain routes, routes you won’t find in a guide book that deliver great dividends on your efforts.

Overnight Backpacking Trips
I don’t think there is a better way to see Zion then via an overnight or multi-night backpacking trip. While a night in The Narrows IS magnificent, so is camping high on the West Rim Trail, along the LaVerkin Creek near the Kolob Arch, or in the quiet recesses of Coal Pits Wash. The East Rim is another great option, with free range camping zones and side-trip opportunities out to Deertrap Mountain and Cable Mountain. For a great 3 – 5 day trip, tie everything together with the Trans-Zion Trek.

Zion Park is arguably the best place on Earth to introduce yourself to canyoneering. Hosting over 30 beginning to advanced-level canyons, canyoneers across the experience spectrum come here to explore Zion’s deep, thin slots. We offer guided canyoneering trips for those interested in experiencing canyoneering with help, and canyoneering courses for those who wish to learn how to go on their own. Beginner canyons like Subway or Keyhole are great places to earn your first canyoneering stripes with family or friends.

Zion Canyon Field Institute
Interested in an educational, experiential day or two with a professional naturalist or historian? ZCFI schedules a rich variety of courses and workshops throughout the year for those wishing to gain a deeper understanding of Zion and its surroundings. Check the course schedule for 1/2-day to weekend courses.

Rock Climbing
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be strong, nimble, or incredibly brave to enjoy rock climbing, which is great because the Zion area features LOTS of exciting routes. Instead of spending an afternoon hiking, consider spending those hours climbing two or three routes of vertical rock, exploring the balance, sensitivity, and ability you may not know you already have. If you don’t have a friend who can take you, we offer climbing trips and courses to show you the ropes.

Horseback Riding
To experience Zion as our forebears did 150 years ago, consider signing up for a horseback ride along the Sand Bench Trail. Choose between a 60 minute or 2 1/2 hour ride, depending on your penchant for cowboy stories and equine comfort, then enjoy crossing the Virgin River and undulating along the base of Zion’s towering cliffs with your steed. Count on the cowboys running the show to tell some good jokes and stories, as well as answering any questions you might have. Check the trail riding schedule for dates, trips, and departure times.

Zion National Park Ranger and Junior Ranger Activities
Each year, the Zion National Park ranger staff assembles a collection of engaging, fun, and educational activities and evening programs to help visitors connect with Zions Park. Check the ZNP program schedule to find out what hikes, patio talks, shuttle rides, and evening lectures are queued up for your time here. You can also stop by the Nature Center with your kids to sign up for the Junior Ranger program and find out what other youth-oriented activities are happening.

Mountain Biking
Because Zion falls beneath the shadow of Moab’s overwhelming reputation, relatively few mountain bikers have discovered the fantastic slickrock, singletrack, and doubletrack riding opportunities here. Within 30 miles of Springdale, you can find desert slickrock, alpine singletrack, and everything in between. Rent a bike and get a map from Fred at Zion Cycles, then hit the trails on your own OR join one of our guides for instruction and encouragement on a guided mountain bike trip.

Road Biking
Even if you’re not an avid cyclist, seeing Zion by bicycle is an unparalleled way to see the Park. Since the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive only allows Park shuttles (no cars, except for Lodge guests), you have the smooth, red road almost to yourself. Spend the day biking from trail to trail, stopping for lunch at Zion Lodge. For a more exciting, high-octane ride through Zion’s desert alpine regions, try the Kolob Downhill ride, beginning at Kolob Reservoir (8,000 feet) and cruising down to the Town of Virgin (3,800 feet).


About Nick

Nick Wilkes found ZAC in 1996, working first as an outfitter, then a guide, then as webmaster. An ardent adventure enthusiast, Nick's recent exploits involve laying down roots in Wisconsin, chasing his kids around the house, working as a Madison, WI photographer and growing his Wisconsin climbing business. Connect with Nick on Facebook, Google+, or directly via email.
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