Northeast of St. George and Springdale in the Zion National Park, the Virgin River Narrows trail is a 16 mile trek through a magnificent slot canyon narrowing to 20 feet with up to 2,000 foot walls cut by the Virgin River through the Markagunt Plateau. The river bed is the trail so be prepared to get wet! Actually, you will be wet the entire time, and for most of the year, gators and water shoes are required. This water is very cold. Watch out for flash floods which can raise the water to 30+ feet deep in minutes.
The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. This is a 16 mile route up to 2,000 feet deep. At times, the route is only 20-30 feet wide. Be prepared to walk in the shadow of soaring walls, sandstone grottos and hanging gardens. However, do not underestimate this trip. At least 60% of the hike is spent wading or swimming in the river. The route is the river -- there is no maintained trail. The current is swift, the water is very cold and the rocks are slippery. Flash floods and hypothermia are a constant danger. Wetsuits or drysuits are required from November through May. Note: A permit is required and permits will be revoked when the river flow rate is greater than 120 cfs.
The upstream end of the route is at Chamberlains Ranch.
The downstream end of the route is at the Temple of Sinawava at the northern end of the main park road, which is the last stop on the Zion Park Shuttle.
If you plan to backpack the entire length, it is best to start upstream and hike downstream. Plan to camp half way down at one of the 12 high water sites (all human waste must be packed out via Restop 2 bags). A must see along the way is the fern covered Big Springs.
The best day hiking is an out-and-back hike from the downstream end at the Temple of Sinawava -- immediately the views are breathtaking. While some people choose to day hike the entire distance, it is a very grueling 16 miles requiring over 12 hours.
The Chamberlain Ranch trailhead is about a 1.5 hour drive from Zion Canyon along paved and dirt roads. The dirt roads may be closed due to snow, and are impassible for 4WD vehicles when wet. To reach the trailhead from the East Entrance station, head east on SR9 for 2.5 miles. Turn left on paved road for 18 miles. Just across the bridge over the North Fork of The Virgin River, turn left and continue for 0.25 miles to the gate. Continue through the gate (make sure it is closed afterwards) for another 0.5 miles and park before the river crossing. Continue hiking on the road for 3 miles and enter the river where the road ends.