Zion National Park, Utah | AirSprint

Zion National Park

The adventure begins at the end of the trail.

by Jennifer Hubbert

Despite the mantra “seeing is believing,” Zion National Park visitor, Jennifer Hubbert, still struggles to appreciate the park’s grandiosity. On her third visit, can she commit it to memory?

I can’t see my feet.

In fact, I can’t even see my knees.

It’s a peculiar feature of hiking “The Narrows” trail in Utah’s Zion National Park.

When Frederick S. Dellenbaugh’s paintings of Zion National Park were exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, spectators refused to believe such a beautiful landscape could exist. Surely, the painter had taken some artistic liberties. Dellenbaugh, an early topographer of the American West, assured them it was real.

Disbelief is a feeling I commonly share with those turn-of-the-century fair-goers. I feel it every time I visit Zion, especially when appreciating the dizzying views from atop Angel’s Landing, the park’s most strenuous, precipitous and deadly hike. Perhaps it’s the reason I keep coming back – to prove its ethereal beauty is as real as the Navajo sandstone underfoot.

It would be more than enough for a park like Zion to boast a trail as spectacular as Angel’s Landing, but it’s not the one I’m here for – today.

Travel as far into Zion Valley as you can on the park-operated shuttle to arrive at stop nine: Temple of Sinawava. Here, the rust-coloured valley walls have enclosed, narrowing to just a few hundred feet apart, hugging the banks of the Virgin River and soaring thousands of feet overhead to form a natural amphitheatre.

From the Temple of Sinawava, my husband and I set off along the 1.5-kilometre Riverside Walk, gateway to The Narrows trailhead.

“Trail” is something of a misnomer.

The hike follows the snaking Virgin River’s banks, but it’s early spring and higher-than-average water levels mean that the river is the trail.

As such, we are outfitted in water repelling Gore-Tex suits with feet pressed snug into two pairs of neoprene socks which have been laced into canyoneering boots. We shuffle up Riverside Walk, overdressed and awkwardly maneuvering six-foot-long wooden hiking poles.

At the end of the path, a short set of steps deposits us on the riverbank where a crowd gathers, forming a sort of ceremonial send-off. For onlookers, it’s the end of their jaunt. For Narrows hikers, it’s merely the beginning of an unforgettable journey.

the fast-flowing Virgin River, bracing for the icy water to flood my boots. It’s not as cold as I fear. We wade out into the knee-deep water, gauging and steadying ourselves against the current. The water is the colour of sand with the opacity of milk. We round the first corner, and the onlookers fall from sight. 

What’s around the river bend? Who knows? The urge to find out compels us forward. The landscape, the intrigue, the Indiana Jones vibe – it all blends into an intoxicating and sublime adventure. An hour-and-a-half elapses.

Since I can’t see my feet, every step of the journey is taken with care, aided by my hiking pole. Concentrating on every move may sound tedious, but the setting is surreal.

I crane my head way back to glimpse just a crescent of silver-grey sky. The rest of my peripheral view is consumed by ochre-tinted canyon walls that stand thirty feet apart and stretch two thousand feet toward the heavens.

I feel small; humbled by a setting that is somehow spiritual.

When my husband and I determine it’s time to turn back, I press a palm onto one wall of the stone cathedral. It’s a small act of communion with nature but also an attempt to bookmark the moment, should this memory of Zion’s grandeur ever lapse into disbelief. 


  • The Narrows Bottom-Up is an out-and-back trail. Hike as deep into the gorge, to a max. of 7.5 km one-way/15.1 km round-trip.
  • Elevation change is nominal: 102 metres.
  • The Narrows closes when river flow exceeds 150 cubic feet per second or when an official flash flood warning has been issued. Always check ahead.
  • Waterproof gear can be rented from outfitters in nearby Springdale.
  • With the exception of a few winter months, access to the Park is via the park-operated shuttle bus. (complimentary, with park fees.)
  • Arrive early in the morning to secure parking. Otherwise, you’ll have to double-back to Springdale which may easily add 30-60 min.
  • It is possible to hike The Narrows Top-Down, a 26-kilometre thru-hike but a trail permit is required.
  • The only accommodation inside the park is the historic Zion Lodge. Guests are able to drive and park their vehicle at the lodge. Vacancy is often low. Where possible, book months or a year in advance.
  • Nearby Springdale has many franchise hotels. There are glamping and ranch-style accommodations for those willing to lodge 20-30 min. driving distance from Zion Valley.

Thinking private jet travel? Explore your options now.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Hubbert.

Back To Articles
Get Pricing