16-Mile, Through-Hike, Virgin River Narrows

Hiking The Narrows

  • Trailhead Locations: Route begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. (Zion Canyon Shuttle Stop #9)
    *All Wilderness permit holders must arrange their own transportation to Chamberlain's Ranch.
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Distance: 16 mi / 26 km one way
  • Elevation Change: 1,300 ft / 400 m
  • Estimated Hiking Time: 10 to 14 hours (Can be split into two days with an overnight backpacking permit.)
  • Wilderness Permits: Permits are always required for this hike. Visit our Virgin River Narrows Permits page for more detailed information.

Virgin River Narrows Conditions

The Narrows is a hike through a river. Water levels in the Virgin River Narrows, even when the CFS of the river is low, range from ankle deep to full swims. Most of the time the river is ankle to knee deep, but all top-down hikers should be prepared for deep sections where swimming is required. Even the most experienced hikers occasionally fall in the Virgin River.

The river often closes to hiking during the spring snowmelt (April, May, and can continue into the summer months). The river is closed to hiking during and immediately following Flash Flood Warnings, which are common during the desert monsoon (July-September). Links to the current river flow rate and flash flood potential can be found on our Current Conditions page.

All top-down trips into the Virgin River Narrows are closed when the flow rate of the Virgin River exceeds 120 CFS.
Wilderness permits are not issued during that time. Always have a back-up plan prepared.

Route Description

The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 1,000 feet deep, and at times only 30 feet wide. Walking in the shadow of soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens can be an unforgettable wilderness experience. It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated. When hiking through the Virgin River Narrows, at least 80% of the route is spent wading, walking, and swimming sections of the river. There is no maintained trail; the river is the route. The river current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers. Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgment are essential for a safe and successful trip.

Hikers can complete the Virgin River Narrows as a single-day through-hike or as an overnight backpacking trip. Both trips require a Wildness Permit. Visit our Virgin River Narrows Permits page for detailed information.

Through Hiking Timetable in Hours

This timetable is approximate. The trip may be done in less time, but allowances have been made for rest stops, picture taking, and slow hikers. Track your progress by recognizing side canyons and landmarks. Deep Creek, Kolob Creek, and Big Springs are all obvious, but watch closely for the mouth of Goose Creek, it can be easy to miss.

Landmark Time to Reach
Chamberlain's Ranch 0:00
Bulloch's Cabin 1:00
First Narrows 3:30
Waterfall 4:15
Deep Creek 5:00
Kolob Creek 5:45
Goose Creek 6:35
Big Springs 7:20
Orderville Canyon 10:00
North End of Riverside Walk 11:50
Temple of Sinawava 12:20

Overnight Backpacking Trips

  • If you plan to complete all 16 miles of the Virgin River Narrows as an overnight backpacking trip, then you will only need to obtain one Wilderness permit for your campsite in the Narrows for the night of your trip.
  • This Wilderness permit will allow your group to start at the Chamberlain's Ranch Trailhead, spend one night in a designated Narrows campsite, and then exit at the Temple of Sinawava the next day.
  • Overnight backpacking is only permitted in designated campsites. There are 12 campsites in the canyon, all are roughly halfway between Chamberlain’s Ranch and the Temple of Sinawava.
  • All overnight backpackers must begin their trip at Chamberlain’s Ranch and end at Temple of Sinawava.
  • Upstream travel to campsites is not permitted. Narrows Campsite Photos

Please Note: Cyanobacteria of the genus Microcoleus, Tychonema, and Nostoc have been found in the North Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek, and La Verkin Creek. It produces the cyanotoxin called anatoxin-a, which impacts the nervous system. When present, standard recreational water filtration and disinfection techniques will not remove the toxins. Always check the Current Conditions page for critical safety alerts.
Hiking The Narrows
Plan Your Bottom-Up Trip into the Narrows
A Wilderness Permit is not required for trips starting at the Temple of Sinawava.
Ride the free Zion Shuttle from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to reach this traillhead.
icon of a shuttle bus

Wilderness Transportation
Wilderness permit holders for the Virgin River Narrows must arrange their own transportation to the Chamberlain's Ranch trailhead.


Last updated: August 21, 2023

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


If you have questions, please email zion_park_information@nps.gov. Listen to recorded information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers answer phone calls from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already speaking with someone else.

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