The Complete Guide to the Narrows

June 23rd, 2014

The Narrows: A 16 mile span of running water surrounded by steep cliffs up to 2,000 feet high. The winding Virgin River, shallow enough to wade through in most places, demands to be explored by visitors to Zion.

Perfect for keeping cool in the summer, this hike involves walking through water the whole time. You can expect to see waterfalls, hanging vegetation, and beautiful multicolored rock. There are two ways to hike the Narrows. You can either explore from the bottom up as a day hike, or from the top down which requires a permit and encompasses the whole 16 miles. Whatever you choose, this guide has got you covered with everything you need to know.

Zion-Narrows-4376- copy

When to visit

Because this hike is in the Virgin River, the water is likely to be cold, even in the summer. July and August will yield the warmest temperatures, making the hike refreshing instead of frigid. If you choose to come between the months of November and May, you will need a wetsuit or drysuit.

Make sure to pay attention to the weather when you’re planning your trip. Rain can cause the Narrows to flood, which can be life threatening for anyone caught inside. Zion National Park will close the hike if there are any flash flood warnings, but it’s wise to keep an eye on it yourself.

What to bring

Depending on the season and the hike you choose, your equipment might be a bit different. Here are some suggestions to take into consideration.

  • Food and water. If you’re hiking from the bottom, the amount of time you spend on the hike is up to you, so make sure you have enough fuel to last. If you’re doing the whole 16 miles over a two day span, plan accordingly.

  • Water shoes and neoprene socks. For the day hike, hiking boots will serve your purpose, but shoes and socks specifically made for water hiking can enhance your experience. Gear is available to rent or buy in Springdale.

  • Walking sticks. These can also be rented at shops outside Zion and will help you keep your footing on the slippery rocks.

  • Dry bag. You’ll want to be sure that any food, cameras, phones, or other items are kept in a waterproof bag to prevent damage or a soggy sandwich.

  • Wetsuit or drysuit. Keeping warm is essential in the winter, early spring, and late fall when the water will be especially chilly.

  • Clothes that can get wet. The river can get waist or even chest high at times, and there are portions where you may be swimming in it, so make sure you wear proper attire.

Where to go

During the late spring and summer months, the park shuttle takes visitors through Zion, and the rest of the year you are able to drive your own vehicle into the park. For the day hike, the Narrows is accessible from the last shuttle stop, called the Temple of Sinawava. This is the end of the road if you are driving in yourself.

When you get off the shuttle or park your car, make sure you use the restrooms, as there are none on the trail. From there, follow the Riverside Walk down to the river and the opening of the Narrows, where you will step into the water and trek up the river.

The top down hike requires that you start from Chamberlain’s Ranch, just northeast of the park itself. Since you will be starting from there and ending at the Temple of Sinawava, it is necessary to take a shuttle or park a car at the bottom and take a separate car to the top.

What to expect

Starting from the Temple of Sinawava, you will follow the Riverside Walk, a paved trail alongside the Virgin River leading you right to the Narrows opening. From there, you will enter the river and let yourself be surrounded by the soaring canyon walls. The algae covered rocks underfoot may be slippery, and the current could be strong depending on the season, so take your time.

As you walk, you’ll see waterfalls running down the side of the canyon and little streams of water trickling overhead. Trees and foliage grow in seemingly impossible places and the stone walls have many multicolored facets. The farther you go, the more beautiful the contrast between the turquoise water and red rock becomes.

About two and a half miles from the shuttle stop is Orderville Canyon, a stream that feeds into the main river. This is the turnaround point that many hikers aim to reach. Another 2.5 miles from this junction is Big Spring, making it 10 miles round trip from the shuttle stop and back. Travel past Big Spring is prohibited.

Zion-Narrows_4433-A copy

If you choose to do the 16 mile hike, it is possible to either do it in one day or to camp in the Narrows overnight. The one-day version takes up to twelve hours and can be grueling even in perfect conditions. For the overnight hike, there are twelve campsites around the eight mile mark and sites fill up quickly so make sure to reserve ahead.

Hiking from the top to bottom, you can expect to see several waterfalls and gorgeous gardens throughout your journey. You may have to scramble over some obstacles and potentially swim through chest deep water.

Whether you hike to Big Springs and back or start at the top and emerge at the Temple of Sinawava, you have conquered the Narrows! You won’t want to leave the red cliffs behind.

Learn more

For another option, check out the Complete Guide to Angels Landing. This strenuous hike takes you up a steep and thin path to a gorgeous 360 degree view of Zion Canyon.

If you want more ideas for the next time you’re in Zion or more information on the Narrows, download our free ebook, The Insider’s Guide to Zion National Park.

No matter how you customize your adventure, you will be blown away by the beauty and immensity of this part of Zion National Park. The Narrows is calling your name! Come explore!

The Complete Guide to Angels Landing

June 17th, 2014

Sure, you’ve heard of Angels Landing: the 1,488 foot tall rock formation in the heart of Zion National Park. But do you know what it’s like to actually climb it?

ZionAngelsLandingView3681 copy

Angels Landing is the most famous hike in Zion and features everything from strenuous switchbacks to breathtaking dropoffs. The summit offers a stunning 360 degree view of the park and according to its discoverer Frederick Fisher, “only an angel could land on it.” This guide will tell you everything you need to know to conquer the monolith safely and successfully.

When to visit

The trail is open year-round, but peak season is from March to October. If you’re brave enough to trek in the winter months, be aware of ice and snow on the trail that could make hiking unsafe. The winter, early spring, and late autumn will guarantee smaller crowds, but the summer promises sunshine and warmth.

As far as the best time of day goes, it again depends on the season. In the summer, it may be better to hike in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. The trip takes about five hours total, so make sure you have enough time to finish before dark if you come in the late afternoon or evening.

What to bring

Some essential supplies for hiking Angels Landing:

  • Sunscreen: No matter the season, sunscreen is a must. Most of the hike is void of shade and you can even get burned when it’s cloudy.

  • Lots of water: Angels Landing takes on average five hours round trip, and it is a strenuous hike, so make sure you stay hydrated.

  • Hiking shoes: Take care to wear shoes with good traction and support. Parts of the trail can be treacherous and slippery, even in fair weather.

  • Snacks and a lunch: Refuel yourself along the way. Take a break to eat lunch at the top and enjoy the view.

  • Layered clothing: If you’re hiking in the cooler winter months, you’ll want to dress warm, but make sure you layer so you can shed as the hike becomes more physically demanding.

Other items could include a camera, a map of the park, sunglasses, and of course a backpack to hold all your materials.

Where to go

The Angels Landing trail begins at the area known as the Grotto. If you’re riding the shuttle, get off at the Grotto shuttle stop. If you’re driving yourself into the park during the shuttle’s offseason, drive into the canyon and park when you reach the Grotto picnic area. From there, cross the road and the footbridge that spans the Virgin River and head up the West Rim trail. You’re on your way to Angels Landing!

What to expect

The trail leading to Angels Landing itself has five main sections, each offering their own unique experience and challenge.

You will begin your journey on the West Rim trail. A paved, well-maintained walkway begins to wind you among the trees and then up the side of the mountain in a series of long switchbacks. The higher you climb, the more you can see of the basin below, featuring the glittering Virgin River and a blend of multicolored stone.

After about a mile, the trail turns into a shady canyon to give you a break from the steep switchbacks. Greener vegetation grows beside the path, no longer dried up by the beating sun like the trees you just passed through. Carved out between Angels Landing and Cathedral Mountain, a breeze often blows through this passageway, giving it the name Refrigerator Canyon.

A sharp turn toward the end of the canyon takes you up another series of even steeper and more strenuous switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. Each corner offers you a view down into Refrigerator Canyon and a chance to catch your breath.


When you reach the top of the Wiggles, you’ll be at Scout’s Lookout, a wide space featuring remarkable views of Zion Canyon. At this juncture, the West Rim trail continues through Cabin Spring and on to Lava Point, but the Angels Landing trail turns to lead up to the summit. Scout’s Lookout is the end of the road for many less experienced or less adventurous hikers and a good place to stop and snack.

The final stretch of the expedition is the Angels Landing trail itself. From Scout’s Lookout, it’s about half a mile to the summit, but it’s not an easy walk. The trail becomes narrow and rocky, and most parts have sheer cliffs on one or both sides. Hang on to the chains bolted into the rock for your security. Watch your step, be courteous of other hikers, and take it slow, and you’ll make it to the summit.

Once you’re at the top, take the time to relax for a few minutes and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery and panoramic view of Zion Canyon. The summit is wide and flat, giving you the freedom to sit down and eat or walk around and take pictures before beginning your long descent. You did it!

Learn more

Find out more about Angels Landing and everything else there is to do in Zion by downloading our free eBook, Insider’s Guide to Zion National Park.

And now that you have all the information you need to successfully climb Angels Landing, it’s time to plan your next trip to Zion!

Family Forward Recap

June 11th, 2014

Our Family Forward Retreat in May brought a group of expert bloggers to our property.  The weekend was filled with adventure, interesting classes, and even a helicopter ride over Zion National Park. As we’ve followed these participants on social media, we’ve gained better insight into their impressions and experiences here at the Zion Ponderosa. Here are a few their comments (as seen on their blogs).

“I’d recommend the Zion Ponderosa to anyone – it was the perfect weekend of relaxing, nature, adventure, and good times. Sound like this if for you? Who wouldn’t want an awesome and AFFORDABLE family adventure retreat that includes your whole family (Yes! For kids of all ages!)? Then check out Family Forward: Mountain Adventure.”

-Kaylynn, Among the Young


“We had a wonderful time being taught all weekend long…, taking tons of pictures and videos, and of course, the epic excursions that we did every day. Mine included going horseback riding, flying in a helicopter, taking a tour in a jeep unimog, and skeet shooting.”

-Valeri, Keeping Up With Us Jones’


 ”There are so many awesome adventures you can take but I have to say my favorite was the canyoneering. I can’t describe how amazing it felt to accomplish something I had never done before. The support of our fabulous guides and the rest of the group made it an experience I will never forget. Sometimes the only way you can see the beauty of these areas of the park is to rappel off the edge of a cliff. Hanging from a rope in such a beautiful place is an amazing experience.”

-Leanne, Organize & Decorate Everything


Family Forward brought together a group of very different individuals who are all united in their desire to record life, their insights, and their experiences through blogging. They enjoyed the wide range of activities offered here, and we look forward to hosting this group again.