Hiking the Narrows with a Child – Zion National Park, Utah
Hiking The Narrows is the most sought after activity to do when visiting Zion National Park, and for good reason. It’s the hike that makes the list for the best 100 hikes in the world, and on some lists, the top 10 hikes in the world. It’s that good. We knew we wanted to hike The Narrows, but we weren’t sure how it would work with Jimmy, our two-year-old son. It isn’t an easy hike by any means but stated as “advanced” by most people, especially towards the end of the hike.
The week before we planned to hike The Narrows, we did a ton of googling and researching about the hike. We read that you could rent needed hiking supplies like water boots and walking sticks, among other things, to help make the hike safer and more doable. We planned on renting everything the morning of, before heading to the starting point of the hike.
The morning that we planned on going, none of the rental equipment that we wanted was available. My heart sank. Nate and I actually got into a giant argument about whether we should still go or not. i didn’t think it was a good idea to do with Jimmy when we weren’t even prepared with the adequate equipment. For me it was a no, especially after some of things that I had read. My mommy worries were at an all time high. Nate thought it would be fine, and that we shouldn’t miss it. He said we would just plan to take it slowly, turning around if it got too dangerous. After a long fight, I mean talk, and attracting way more attention than i would have liked, we decided that if we didn’t at least try to do it, that we would majorly regret it. You can’t visit Zion National Park and not hike The Narrows!
Long story short, everything turned out completely fine, and I was so glad that we didn’t chicken out and not go. Thank goodness for Nate not allowing me to be a wimp. It ended up being one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done in my life, something that I will always remember. And it wasn’t even a tad as dangerous as what I had envisioned in my mind, even with having Jimmy with us.
What Should You Expect From This Hike?
This hike is unlike any hike that I’ve ever done before. What makes it so different from other hikes is the fact that for the majority of it, you are walking through water. There isn’t a dry hiking trail that you can take to avoid the water. The hike is actually THROUGH the river. Throughout the whole hike you will be wet. For me, the water felt really nice because it was so hot outside. I was happy to be wet and cooled down. However, if you go early in the morning or on a cooler day, then you might get a tad chilly because of your damp clothes and constant water exposure. Plan accordingly.
As you’re hiking through this river you’ll be in awe of the views. You’re walking through a narrow tall canyon made from massive red rocks and it is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. The different colors and textures of the rocks are unreal. There really isn’t a single portion of the hike that isn’t picture worthy. This hike made me feel completely one with nature instead of feeling like just an observer quickly passing through. I felt so small amongst the enormous red rocks that towered over me. I’d never felt more connected to the earth and its beauty than I did while hiking The Narrows. For me, I had many “wow” moments during this hike that I will always cherish and remember.
Is it Safe to Take a Child With You to Hike The Narrows?
Yes! 100 times yes! I remember googling this same question before we went and reading what other people’s opinions were on this. It seemed like the majority of people were trying to discourage it and honestly, after reading and searching, I felt so uneasy about taking him, terrified even. Now that I’ve done it and had a positive experience, I think there are a lot of ultra safe parents out there that maybe need to loosen up a bit. Don’t believe everything that you read online! I wish there were more positive and encouraging blogs and articles out there about how great it is to take your toddler to hike The Narrows, and that you shouldn’t miss this experience for anything! Life is about having adventures and taking risks. Of course you should be smart about it, but don’t let fear hold you back from having amazing life experiences. Just because you have a child doesn’t mean you can’t still be adventurous and have fun!
With that being said, we hiked The Narrows in mid-September, when the water level was very low. For us, there weren’t any danger signs for flash floods, and the forecast called for no rain, thunder, or lightning. These are all things to seriously consider when hiking The Narrows, especially with a toddler or any aged children for that matter. Check here and here for the latest news and weather statistics for the day you plan to go, and then decide from there whether you think it is safe for you and your family. Also, make sure at least one of the adults is very comfortable with hiking and confident with their balance. Nate felt confident that he could carry Jimmy safely on his shoulders while walking though the water on often times slippery river rocks. He has great balance and is amazing at bouldering around on difficult hikes. Me on the other hand, I wouldn’t have trusted myself with carrying Jimmy. Without Nate with me, I don’t feel like I could have taken Jimmy alone safely through this hike.
Jimmy was 4 months shy of turning 3 when we took him to hike The Narrows. He was still light and semi-easy to carry in a shoulder ride position. If you have a two-year-old or a child younger than two, I think taking them is fairly easy. You can carry them on your shoulders or if they are young enough, in a baby carrier, without much strain, and it isn’t so bad. If you have a child that can’t be carried on a shoulder ride but isn’t old enough to hike and walk independently themselves, that’s where the struggle might occur. That mid-range age might be kind of tricky. I’d say 3 and under is fine, if you can carry them, and then 7 and older is fine as well because they are old enough to handle it independently. it’s that 4-6 year old age range that might be a little harder. But nothing is impossible. I’d say it depends on the kid’s comfort level in water, comfort level with hiking, how much they weigh, how tall they are, the ratio of adults to kids, and how determined you are to make it happen. If anything, you can always go for just a little ways and then turn around, at least to get a taste of it.
How Should You Best Prepare Yourself to Hike The Narrows?
Eat a good healthy breakfast before you start.
Hydrate yourself with water before beginning.
Get a good nights sleep the night before.
Apply sunscreen before you start.
Make sure to use the bathroom before you enter into the canyon. There are no bathrooms within the hike, so when you need to go, you’ll have to do it in the water, or somewhere hidden along the path.
Dress in comfortable hiking clothes that are fine for getting wet.
What Should You Bring With You to Hike The Narrows?
When hiking The Narrows, you should pack light, making sure you only bring the things that you’ll really need. Remember, everything that you bring with you, you have to carry for a long period of time, and it will get heavy. Essentials only!
Here is a List of Essentials That I Would Recommend to Bring With You When Hiking The Narrows:
Camera- Carry your camera in a waterproof bag or at least double or triple Ziplocked to make sure it is protected. Bring your best camera as the pictures will be worth it. Take extra caution in keeping your camera dry and out of the water.
Phone- I left my phone in the motorhome because i didn’t want to risk dropping it and ruining it. Nate decided to take his along mostly for emergencies. We used our camera primarily for picture taking.
Tri-Pod- We were so glad that we brought our trip-pod so that we could get some great family pictures of the three of us during our hike. Worth it!
Closed Toe Water Shoes- I wore Keens which worked out really well for me. Nate didn’t have his with him so he wore tennis shoes. It was fine for him but he did get some blisters in the end, where I came out blister free. I’d recommend a pair of shoes with a good thick sole on them that are waterproof and comfortable.
Drinking Water- You will get thirsty when you’re hiking and will need water to drink. Depending on how long you are planning on hiking will depend on how much water you need to bring. Plan accordingly, especially with the temperatures. The hotter it is outside, the more water you will need. Bring a little more than you think you might need just to be safe.
Food and Snacks- We packed a picnic lunch to bring with us and enjoy. It was fun to take a break and eat together after hiking for a while. We also got hungry later on in the day as well. it was nice to have some additional snacks available.
Tissues- Might be good to bring some for an emergency bathroom break if going number #2 might be a possibility.
Bandaids- Might be smart to pack a few of things. You never know!
Hand Sanitizer- You’ll want this for your hands before you eat.
Sunglasses- You will need these!
Diapers and Wipes- For those of you with young kids in tow, make sure to be prepared with child essentials.
Small Backpack- You’ll need a small backpack to keep everything in. Make sure it is secure and comfortable to carry.
Do You Need a Walking Stick When Hiking The Narrows?
I would say, definitely yes! You need a walking stick. Having a walking stick with you when you hike The Narrows makes the journey so much easier and safer to do. You can choose to rent walking sticks for a cost, but there is no need to spend money on that in my opinion. When you arrive at the entrance of the canyon where the hike begins, there will be many abandoned walking sticks for you to take with you on your journey. People find these sticks, use them on their hike, and then leave them resting against a rock for other hikers to use later on. It’s a great system that continues to happen for future hikers. Nate found his giant regal looking walking stick abandoned on this rock and it worked well for him during the whole hike. I on the other hand, used a red broomstick handle for my walking stick. I looked like a complete dork, but it worked. That morning in the motorhome, I unscrewed the bottom of the broom from the broom handle and brought it with me. I wanted to edge on the side of caution just in case there were no walking sticks available to use. I was a bit over cautious, as there were plenty of walking sticks for people to choose from. However, it worked great for me, and it kept me balanced while hiking.
The majority of the hike is through the river and it can get very slippery. You are walking across large river rocks while water is rushing through your legs, often with the current going against you. It is hard to keep your balance sometimes. Nate didn’t fall once (thanks goodness!) which I was so relieved about because he was carrying Jimmy! I on the other hand, fell twice in total, even while using my broomstick handle. Nate’s balancing skills have always trumped mine hands down. You’d think he was the dancer in the family, not me. Little do people know that he can’t dance to save his life. However, he grew up bouldering around on rocks with his dad and two brothers on camping trips and such. His hiking skills really shined through that day.
How Many Miles Long is The Narrows Hike?
The total length of The Narrows is just over 16 miles long. That’s a long hike! The majority of people don’t hike the whole thing. The people that hike the whole 16 miles have a permit and bring camping gear with them, usually spending the night inside of the canyon and hiking back out the next morning. It all depends on what you’re interested in doing. I’d love to hike the whole thing one day!
The great part about this hike is that you can turn around whenever you’d like. Hiking The Narrows isn’t about reaching a certain ending landmark and then turning around, but more about enjoying the hike as you go for as long as you are comfortable. I’d recommend hiking for a while, stopping for lunch, maybe hiking for a bit more, and then turning around and making your way out. There aren’t separate exits along the way. The only way to get out is by going the same way that you came in. Remember, hiking The Narrows in the dark would be rather unsafe, so make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to exit properly in the daylight hours. Also, turn around before you are totally dead tired. Even when you turn around, you still have to hike out which takes just as long as hiking in. Save some drinking water and energy to make it out safely.
Nate, Jimmy, and I walked at a leisurely pace and made several stops along the way. With a toddler in tow, taking breaks was mandatory for us. We also took breaks for pictures, lunch, snacks, etc. Hiking The Narrows was pretty much an all day event for us. When we arrived home, we were tired and ready to just relax by the fire. I wouldn’t plan anything else really physical on the day that you hike The Narrows because this hike will be enough exercise for one day. At least for us it was.
Final Thoughts About Hiking The Narrows
Hiking The Narrows was one of my favorite hikes that I have ever done in my life. I would highly recommend doing it and making it happen. If you have a child with you, don’t be afraid! just be smart and go prepared and all will be well. There is something unique and beautiful about Zion National Park that is so different than other areas of the country. The landscape, red rock, and water river trail are all things that I had never seen together before, let alone experienced for a whole day. I’m so glad that we did it and were able to take Jimmy, showing him another beautiful part of the earth that we live in. Put “Hiking The Narrows” on your summer bucket list and make it happen. You’ll be so glad that you did!
I hope this post has helped you plan your hike through The Narrows with your child! Go prepared and you’ll have a fabulous time. I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below and tell me about your experiences at Zion National Park. Happy hiking!