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Detailed Top-Down Description

Overview: Few hikes on Earth surround you with such grandeur over the entire length of the hike. Starting from the top, this hike takes you on an eighteen million-year journey through geologic time. From open pasture lands on top of the plateau, the river slowly slices into the Earth, sinking deeper and deeper below the stone walls on either side. Gradually, the shorelines grow smaller and smaller, the walls grow taller and taller, and you find yourself in a grand, enormous hallway of beautifully carved stone. It is truly like being in an Indiana Jones movie. The drama continues for miles, as corner after corner reveals more surprises and wonders of this unique and magical place.

Permits: Both One-Day and Overnight Thru-Hikes require a permit from the Backcountry Desk at the Visitor’s Center. 40 individual permits are

available each day for the One-Day hike; 12 campsites are available for overnight hikers.  The Park Service allows a limited number of people to reserve permits on-line. Permits begin at $5 and vary with group size. Summer thru-hikers often show up at the Visitor’s Center at 5 a.m. to wait in line for permits the day before their hike. The Park only issues permits to party members; you can’t have someone else get your permit for your group.

Trailhead: Reserve a commercial shuttle or arrange your own shuttle to Chamberlain’s Ranch. Most feel a commercial shuttle is worth the money, saving them a 3-hour round-trip journey and some logistical headaches.

Mileage: 16 miles (25.7 km), one-way

Elevation Loss: 1,189 feet (361 meters)

Approximate Hike Time: 10 - 12 hours, one-way

Difficulty: Moderate. The hiking is not hard on your heart, but 16 miles of river hiking takes a toll on your ankles and your concentration. Prepare for this hike with good equipment, nutrition, and hydration. The One-Day Thru-Hike requires a sustained, all-day hiking effort, but does become easier as you learn the best techniques for negotiating the river’s hidden terrain.

Best Times of Day: One-Day hikers should arrange to leave Chamberlain’s Ranch by 8:00 a.m. This means leaving Springdale around 6:30 a.m. Overnight hikers should leave the Ranch by noon.

Best Times of Year: May through September is the best window for this hike. The road to Chamberlain’s Ranch is often inaccessible December - April. Daylight is generally too short for a One-Day thru-hike in October and November. See our detailed table for seasonal specifics.

Crowds: Thru-Hikers see few others until they reach the last two miles of the hike. When you start seeing crowds, you know you are close to the Temple of Sinawava.

Water Sources: The Virgin River flows through the Narrows year-round. For your own safety, purify all water before drinking.

Camping: Permits are required to camp in the Narrows. Please adhere to the camping designations assigned to your permit.

Don’t Miss:

• Check out Bulloch’s Cabin, an old homestead near the beginning of the hike. The roof defines the word “warped.”

• Shortly after Campsite #1, you come across a beautiful 12-foot waterfall. Hike AROUND the falls to enjoy the views from the cold pool below.

• Deep Creek meets the Narrows near Campsite #2, bringing 2/3rds of the water volume into the north Fork of the Virgin River.

• Big Springs provides a lush, scenic rest stop, complete with a perfect swimming hole. You know Big Springs when you see it - a gushing mound of dark rock, covered with greenery. Once you hike past Big Springs, you might begin seeing Bottom-Up Hikers.

• Orderville Canyon is a tremendous opportunity for a challenging adventure. Just two miles from Temple of Sinawava, Orderville splits off to the left (as you face downstream) and offers a narrow canyon full of obstacles to solve. Boulders, waterfalls, and pools block your progress upstream, but determined groups solve most of these problems to continue on. Eventually, you may reach “The Guillotine,” an ominous boulder chocked between the canyon walls 25’ above you. (Only the most aggressive One-Day Hikers have time to explore Orderville Canyon. To assure the opportunity, make your trip an overnight adventure.)

Special Notes: 

• If you have the time, consider hiking the Narrows as an overnight backpacking trip. The extra logistical effort pays huge dividends in available time and relaxation!

• It is NOT SAFE to jump off rocks into pools in the Narrows. Each year, the Park Service rescues people who break legs and ankles 8 miles into (and 8 miles out of) the Narrows. A broken leg can mean a 12 to 36-hour wait for help and an abrupt end to your vacation.

• Be prepared to carry out your poop, as there is no reasonable place for human waste to abide or decompose in the canyon! The Park requires, and we highly recommend, the use of human waste carry-out bags for all thru-hikers.

• Please bring a headlamp or flashlight in case darkness falls before you finish your hike.

• If you choose to self-shuttle, take care to remember your keys and put them in a safe place!