This hike is one of the most popular in the Zion National Park backcountry. It leads 16 miles down the North Fork Virgin River from Chamberlain Ranch, north of the park boundary, to Temple of Sinawava. The biggest attraction of this hike is the Zion Canyon narrows, which reach depths of 2,000 feet and can be just 20 feet wide. A certain risk is assumed by entering the narrows as flash flooding can create life-threatening conditions. All thru-hikers must get a permit from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. A shuttle is needed for this hike and must be prearranged.
To hike completely through the Zion Narrows hikers must begin at Chamberlain Ranch north of the park boundary. An alternative to this is beginning a day hike through the lower portion of the Narrows from Temple of Sinawava. Day hikers do not need a permit as long as they do not pass Big Springs, which lies approximately five miles north of the southern terminus of the trail. This creates a long out and back day hike from Zion Canyon roads end.
Beginning the hike from Chamberlain Ranch the first three miles of the route are spent on a four-wheel drive road. At the end of the road hikers will enter the river following it westward. Approximately five miles into the hike the river enters the first narrows. The first campsite along this route lies at the end of this first section of narrows.
Between eight and nine miles from the trailhead the river descends an eleven-foot waterfall. A trail around this drop off takes hikers on to the southern bank of the river. A short distance below the falls you'll reach the Deep Creek/North Fork Virgin River confluence. Campsite numbers two and three lie north and south of this confluence respectively. Before Kolob Creek enters the drainage campsite four can be found on the western side of the river.
Less than a mile down stream from Deep Creek, Kolob Creek enters the North Fork. This waterway also has some considerable narrows. Ask at the visitor center about possible explorations. At the confluence of Kolob Creek and the North Fork Virgin River is campsite number 5.
Approximately one mile down stream of Kolob Creek, Goose Creek enters the river from the west. Campsites six and seven lie on the western bank of the North Fork between Kolob and Goose Creeks. Campsites eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve lie between Goose Creek and Big Springs. Below Big Springs the river enters one of the narrowest portions of the canyon. At this point Wynopits Mountain lies east of the canyon rising 6,890 feet. A small drainage enters the North Fork from the southern slopes of Wynopits Mountain. Immediately after this side canyon is Imlay Canyon, which enters the Virgin from the west.
The next large drainage to empty into this route is Orderville Canyon. Below this waterway is another long section of very narrow canyon. The final narrows continue for nearly one more mile with Mystery Canyon entering the drainage a quarter mile north of the Riverside Walk. Mystery Canyon empties into the North Fork Virgin River from the east with a small cascade at its mouth.
Hikers along this route can expect to wade through at least knee-deep water. Water depths along the North Fork Virgin Narrows can range from one and a half feet to 8 feet. Holes form around large rocks and the river changes constantly due to flooding. Park Service personnel recommend that hikers carry a walking stick to help with balance and depth perception.
Directions: From Mt. Carmel, To northern trailhead: Drive eastward out of the park along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. Two and a half miles east of the park boundary along Highway 9 is a paved road that leads northward toward Chamberlain Ranch. Turn left and follow this road 18 miles to a bridge over the North Fork Virgin River. On the northern side of the river turn left and head downstream to the trailhead.
Elevation: 5,695 feet
Ending Elevation: 4,410 feet
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