I was not sure if I should write a post about our family hiking The Narrows with our 3 and 5 year old. Simply because I do not recommend hiking the narrows with little kids. It is not a kid friendly hike. Even on low flow, at times the icy cold river water was up to our 3 year old’s neck and our 5 year old’s chest. The icy river water is cold and maneuvering the rocks below can be a challenge. Steps waver over the uneven rocks below. So why am I writing a post on hiking The Narrows with kids? Our family chose and had a blast hiking part of The Narrows with our 3 and 5 year old. This post is for the parents that are like us and choose to hike The Narrows with their kids.
Go Early in the Morning
Especially during high season leave early to avoid long wait times for the shuttle bus. Parking near the Zion National Park’s entrance is free but limited. Expect to pay and park along the road or various parking lots that are further away and in town. There is a shuttle from these parking spots to the main park entrance.
To get to the narrows you have to enter the main entrance of Zion National Park. Take the shuttle bus to the Temple of Sinawava. As mentioned above, the lines can be over an hour long so go early to avoid long wait times.
Before You Go
Check the River Flow
Check the river flow before hiking The Narrows. In the spring, river flow can be especially high or after rainfall. The hike is significantly more challenging and could be too high for little kids to even step foot in the water. When we hiked The Narrows the flow was low. This meant that the current was not that strong and it rarely went above our 5 year olds waist. The current even in low flow is strong for little feet and a couple of times our 3 year old lost her footing.
Flash Floods and Rain Fall
Do not hike The Narrows if there is a chance of rain or warnings of flash flood. It is very dangerous and people that choose to venture in slot canyons during flash floods have died.
What to Bring
If you are choosing to brave The Narrows with your kids then we should be able to skip the part where I remind you to bring lots of snacks, lunch, first aid kit etc. As if hiking with kids does not already require you to hike with lots of gear. This list is all the extra stuff that you need to bring.
Now you might be thinking “How the heck am I going to fit all this gear in my carry on”. Fear not. If you do not have the following gear to hike the narrows you can rent most of it at various rental and gear shops in the town Springdale which is located directly beside the entrance of Zion National Park. There is no need to reserve hiking poles, neoprene socks and Canyon shoes and can be picked up either the day before or on your way to hike. However, make sure to reserve any of the other gear listed below. Reserve your rentals here or pick the basics up at a gear shop on your way to the shuttle.
- Baby Carrier: We brought a carrier and I wish our 3 year old would have went in it. She was having too much fun walking through and jumping in the water. Our 5 year old was fine holding my husband’s hand while walking through the river but there were times I had to carry our 3 year old up through the deep water to keep her safe from the moving current. Baby carriers can also be rented.
- Big Backpack : To carry all your snacks, water, first aid kit, lunch, gear, change of clothes (if needed), etc.
- Dry Sack : To keep valuables, clothes and shoes/sandals dry
- Hiking Pole: We did not rent one and I wish we had. I used the side of the canyon wall a lot for balance.
- Neoprene Socks : Children
- Gore-Tex Dry Pants : Recommended for spring/fall weather.
- Canyon Shoes : They have shoes for adults and kids. Kids size only goes down to a size 11. We brought out own neoprene sock/shoes that we use for kayaking and surfing and the girls rain boots. The grip was not nearly as good as the canyon shoes that can be rented.
- Dry Suit: Recommended for the winter months or when the weather is cold. They have dry suits for adults and children as young as 6 years old. Some younger children may still be able to wear the pants. Our girls wore their Faire Child rain gear. It helped keep them warm for most of the hike but NOT dry.
- For Younger Children (under 5) that do NOT fit the rental gear: Pack Rain boots, a Rain Suit that fits tight against the ankles, Extra Change of Clothes. Optional gear but worth it would be a kid’s wet suit.
- Waterproof Phone Case: If you want to take pictures you better have a waterproof case, rent one or say good-bye to your working phone.
- Camera Dry Bag : For your camera gear and essentials. There are a few moments on the hike where you can step on dry land which would allow you to pull out the camera to take pictures safely.
- Low expectations : We suggest going as far as you can to soak up the experience. Any distance along the Narrows is such an incredible experience with kids.
The Narrows is a heavily trafficked and touristy trail that takes you through narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The first part of the hike is a flat, paved and easy trail. This is the portion of the trail that is accessible for people of all abilities including the use strollers and wheelchairs. This part of the trail takes you to the entrance of The Narrows.
The majority of the second part of The Narrows is a hike upstream through the Virgin River. There is the option of hiking The Narrows from the top down but this requires a permit. Many hikers try to make it upstream to Orderville Canyon where Wall Street begins. Going further up the Orderville Canyon or past big Spring is prohibited.