Zion Narrows

Hiking the Zion Narrows is not only one of the highlights of a visit to Zion NP, it's one of the best hikes in any National Park.  It might be better called a wade as the hike is wading/hiking up the Virgin River as the walls of the narrow canyon rise well over a thousand feet above you.

I knew I wanted to spend a day in the Narrows and I knew I was going to truly have time to do it on my trip.  In the past I always visited the Narrows with only limited time and I was never able to really go as far and photograph as much of it as I wanted.  This trip was going to be different as I set aside an entire day for just the Narrows.

I knew from past experience that it would be cold in the Narrows, especially at the end of October.  I had been in the Narrows in the fist week of November a few years ago and I went in shorts with a pair of Keen sandals.  It was really cold in the water.  As in numbingly cold.  Every other person in the canyon had the dry pants and booties.  Several asked if I was cold.  I was pretty excited just to be in the canyon so it did not bother me.  However, as it got dark and I made my way out it was chilly.  I was glad to be able to change into socks and shoes and warm up walking back to the bus, where I was the last one out of the canyon.

This time I knew I wanted to be up the canyon all day and be warm.  I visited Zion Outfitters in Springdale on Sunday with a plan on going to the Narrows on Monday.  I got sized for my gear, watched the video and would be all ready for Monday.  Now I would have on 5.10 Canyoneer shoes, neoprene socks, and dry pants.  They also give you a hiking stick, but I had a pair of hiking poles I was going to take.  Now I was better geared up for a full day in the canyon.  My legs would stay dry and with a base layer they were warm.  My feet would be wet, but the neoprene keeps them warm.

I had chosen Monday as my day since it was going to be clear (which is important for photography), there was zero chance of rain (never go in a canyon like this with any chance of rain), and the shuttle stopped on Sunday, meaning I could drive into the canyon!.

I got my rental gear from Zion Adventures and was ready early.  I was the first person at the parking lot at the Temple of Sinewava which is the start of the Narrows Trail.  I did some light painting and a few night images.  After sunrise, I had a quick snack and then suited up for the wading/hike the Narrows is.

Orderville Canyon as it meets the Narrows
A few others had shown up and were getting ready for the water.  I waded in and moved up canyon.  I knew the good light would not happen until around 10am and my plan was to go all the way to the Wall Street area and wait for it.  I made my way up the river.  The light in the canyon was still cool so I only made one stop for an image before Orderville Canyon. 

After that you really enter the Wall Street area and I began to look for a good composition with a spot I hoped would get some good glow.  I found a spot of dry ground and a rock for my pack, set up the tripod, and put on my down jacket to keep warm.

I still had to wait almost an hour but I did get a shot.

After that I packed back up and moved farther up the canyon.  Now the light was good and I would wade until another good composition presented itself.  Then it was set up the image, make a few shots, pack up and move again.

This process went on for a good 2-3 hours.  Finally about 130pm, I turned around and now worked my way back down canyon.  

Waiting for the Light
Again, it was move, photograph and move.

As the day wore on I saw more people wading upstream.  Mostly they were just day hikers.  Occasionally, I met a few other photographer.

As I passed Orderville Canyon on my way back down the amount of people increased and if I made any images usually required waiting for people to pass by the scene.

Finally as I got closer and closer to the end of the trail, I gave up trying to get images and just finished the hike out.  By the time I got to the car I was tired but elated I had made it a good day.  I hoped I had a few images in the bag and it was a huge success of a day.

I will certainly plan any future Zion trips to make a full day of the Narrows again as it is a place well worth that effort.


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