Ranger Dan told us that Zion National Park was going to be as crowded or more crowded than The Grand Canyon. Since The Grand Canyon didn’t seem very crowded, how bad could Zion be?
Dan was right! Zion felt like Walt Disney World.
Let’s rewind the day…
I got up at 5:30 a.m. (everyone else got up at 6) so we could be out of the hotel with lunches, snacks, Gatorades, and waters packed by 7:30 a.m. We got to the park a little later than I wanted – 8:45 a.m. This is where it felt like Disney – cars lined up waiting to get in.
As we waited in line, I looked to my right and saw Zion Outfitters. I had a memory flash in my mind of the research I did on Zion.
In order to hike the famous Narrows trail at Zion National Park, you need to rent the proper equipment. Zion Outfitters is the place to go.
“Jimmy, we have to turn around.”
“What?!? Get out of line?”
Turning around was messy but Jimmy made it happen.
Our goal for Zion (and one of my goals for the whole trip) was to hike the Narrows – a trail through the Virgin River up into the narrow canyons. It’s a trail that’s a bucket list item for many avid hikers. The problem is that the Narrows hike is only possible in dry weather. Rain could cause flash floods. We’re not being washed out of the canyon today.
We went directly to the Zion Outfitters rental desk to the right of the store. A very nice lady answered all of our park and trail questions and told us to get on the Narrows trail as soon as possible. That was her favorite. She recommended their “Warm Weather Package” ($24 per person) which includes canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a hiking stick. I was already prepared for this splurge so the cost wasn’t too much of a shock. Also, Paul – a kind employee at the visitor stand- gave us a 10% discount coupon when he saw us fitting all the kids for boots. We were told that the water would come up to mid-thigh at most. I can’t imagine hiking the Narrows without this equipment. You’ll see why soon.
Then came the next Disney World similarity – waiting in a long line for the shuttle. We waited about 10 minutes before we saw a sign that gave us the average wait time from that point – 30 minutes. We already knew that that the shuttle bus ride would take 40 minutes to the final stop – Temple of Sinawava, where we’d find the Narrows Trail. I love that many of the mountain formations in Zion are called temples. Very fitting – since each structure is a temple of the glory of God.
There’s even the Court of the Patriarchs – three peaks names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Oh no, they’re here too!?
At that point, what else could we do but make the best of waiting in line?
We began playing another game with our hiking sticks – we had to draw on the ground and see if everyone else could guess what we were drawing. I’m always amazed at how competitive my kids can get at every game we come up with. I shouldn’t be.
The first part of the Narrows trail is the Riverside trail. The Riverside trail is a very easy, paved trail that follows the Virgin River. About ¾ of a mile in, there is a stone wall that ends the Riverside trail and the only way up the trail is through the river.
This is where the Narrows trail begins. Our goal was to make it to mile marker 3 – Wall Street. We were told that the canyon narrows dramatically at Wall Street and the views are remarkable.
We started the trail at 10:30 a.m. Once we hit the Narrows trail, the boys wanted to walk through the water, especially the deepest parts, the whole time. I was trying to conserve my energy by walking on some of the rocky paths that would follow the river. My husband reminded me to let the boys enjoy it. Little did he know how long the day would be.
Pretty early on, some thighs came out that hadn’t seen the light of day in a long time. Oh boy!
We were told that the ripples meant shallow water and the flat water meant deep water. The boys wanted the deep water. I wanted the shallow water. No surprise there.
The trail was pretty crowded for the first mile after the Riverside Walk but by the last mile before Wall Street, many people had turned back. Hiking through rushing water upstream is no easy task. The boots, socks, and hiking stick were God-sends. The boots had great traction on the slippery rocks. The socks acted like a wet suit on my feet. Even though I could feel the water sloshing in my boots, the 55 degree water never made my feet cold. And the hiking stick – there is no way I would have hit my mini goal without it.
As an athlete, you should always have mini goals. For example in basketball, 10 points and 5 rebounds for a game. If you don’t have mini goals, how will you track your progress?
My mini goal for the day – don’t get my underwear wet. Good goal, huh? Who likes wet underwear?
I kept my mini goal in the forefront of my mind for the entire hike. I made decisions based on my goal. I chose paths based on my goal. I chose rocks to step on in the river based on my goal. That’s what athletes do!
As we made our way farther up the river, the rapids became more intense because the river bed became more rocky. The water is clean but the depth of it makes the rocks hard to see, especially the closer you get to Wall Street. We saw no mile markers along the way so we kept asking people how far Wall Street was. Everyone had a different answer.
One young guide leading her pack told us 30 minutes.
A dad we asked right after her told us 10 minutes. I liked that answer better.
It seemed like it took forever. But it was well worth the wait.
Remember, this is a strenuous hike. As you propel your legs through the calf to knee high water (that’s the average), your quadriceps and hip flexor muscles are working overtime. I’m sure that as I hiked, I tensed many other muscles in an attempt to keep my balance. The Narrows hike is a good workout. The good news is that it was cool in the Narrows – about 75 degrees – making the workout bearable.
Seth perfected the double handed walking stick hold to maintain maximum balance.
With this picture, I inadvertently photographed a fall by another member of the family. See the red boots at the top of the picture?
It took us 3 hours and 45 minutes to hike to Wall Street. By that point, we had already taken one break for snacks and water and one lunch break. Somehow sandwiches seem like a delicacy on a hiking trip – I think because fatigue makes you delirious.
By 2:45 p.m., we headed back down the river. Other hikers told us that the walk back down the river would go much faster.
It would have gone faster if the kids and my husband had not found a lot of opportunities to swim in deep water.
They also found some rocks that they would aid in cannonball jumping. Even big sis got involved. Their underwear was wet.
What about my mini goal? I had a few mis-steps on slippery rocks but my trusty walking stick saved the day. My family offered me large sums of money to jump into a deep section. I; however, remained focused on my goal for the day. That focus brought me victory. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
We made it back to the shuttles by 4:45 p.m. It only took us two hours to get back. At that point, we all were exhausted. Our legs (and our water-logged boots) felt like we were dragging concrete. My two younger boys were asleep on the shuttle almost as soon as it left.
At the beginning of the day, my daughter had her heart set on hiking to the Emerald Pools after our Narrows hike. On the shuttle, she conceded that she was too tired to do another hike. Thank you Lord!
We ordered Domino’s Pizza on the way back to our hotel and ate in exhausted silence on a picnic table.
Hiking the Narrows was one of my main desires for our trip. We accomplished it. But boy were we going to be sore tomorrow!