Riverside Walk Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

A view of the Virgin river from the Riverside Walk Trail

The best hike to do in Zion National Park to find relief from the summer heat is the Riverside Walk trail and Zion Narrows. The Riverside Walk itself provides you with some gorgeous scenery, but at the end of the trail you can actually go down into the water and wade upstream into the Zion Narrows canyon for as long as you feel comfortable – which means you can enjoy even more beautiful scenery, with hanging gardens amidst the carved sandstone and limestone rock faces and stalwart trees who’ve braved past flash floods, gracing each side of the canyon. And of course, one of the best parts of enjoying such awesome beauty is that you can do so while wading in the cool water and being provided with the shade of the canyon most of the day, especially if you go later in the afternoon/evening.

I have done the Riverside Walk trail a couple of times and each time I hiked quite a ways farther up the Narrows canyon at the end, just because I was enjoying wading in the water and taking in the stunning scenery. Each time I’ve done the hike, there have been several other people doing the same hike and wading quite a good deal upriver as well – it’s definitely a popular thing to do. For those who might not like the idea of wading the whole time while going upriver, there usually are some spots where you can walk on dry land for awhile, the amount of dry land just varies based on the water level. If you’re going in late spring, the water level will probably be higher than if you go in the height of the summer. Most of the river is pretty shallow, but there are some deeper pools you have to wade through here and there. Of course, if you’re going to be hiking up the Narrows canyon, you should check the weather forecast and make sure that it doesn’t look like it will rain. Rainstorms can be sudden and can cause flash floods, and you don’t want to get caught in a flash flood anywhere, let alone in a narrow canyon. I’ve also heard that it doesn’t have to be raining exactly where you’re at to cause a flash flood, it can be several miles upriver. So, just be aware for safety’s sake. If you’re doing a hike in the summer you should be pretty safe, but summer rains are always possible.

Riverside Walk Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

Some scenery along the Narrows

Also, if you’re planning on hiking up the Narrows, make sure you’re wearing good sturdy shoes/sandals that you don’t mind getting wet, or you can wear neoprene socks if you have them. Neoprene socks are a good idea for colder seasons. A walking stick is always a good idea as well because it helps you keep your balance as you’re walking over the rocks and can also help you to gauge how deep the water is. This last Saturday when I went, I took a nice walking stick because I was hiking by myself and knew I wouldn’t have a good friend’s arm to lean on when needed. On the shuttle ride, they also recommended taking a jacket, though I really don’t think that’s needed in a summer as hot as this one has been, unless you think you’ll be out after dark, and it doesn’t get dark till late. One more important thing to note – I was told the last shuttle picks up at 9:15pm to take you back to the Zion canyon entrance.

Once you’ve checked the forecast and are properly equipped in the right attire, you can set out on the trail, which starts at the last shuttle stop in Zion Canyon, the Temple of Sinawava. The Riverside Walk portion is just 2 miles roundtrip and is easy to moderate at best. Once you’re in the Zion Narrows canyon, you can go as far as at least 18 miles in, potentially, but the farther you go in the more the difficulty will increase – so if you have small children, you probably won’t want to go any farther than a mile or so. I think this last time that I went I was able to go in a little farther than before, because when I went previously with my sister flash floods had placed large boulders and a log in the way and we couldn’t have got past without a lot of trouble. Of course, we had hiked quite a distance in at that point. But, you really don’t have to go much farther than a mile into the Narrows to see some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see in Zion National Park.

Along the Riverside Walk trail there are a lot of great views of the river and the towering red rock cliffs, and there many pretty hanging gardens on the cliffside as well. In the hanging gardens I saw some really unique, gorgeous flowers that kind of looked like little pink and yellow stars. You’ll probably spot several squirrels while hiking the trail too, many of them quite fat. On my hike I saw one fat squirrel chomping away while a smaller squirrel tried to make friends and get him to share – but, surprise, surprise – he didn’t want to share. So, as you’re not supposed to feed the wildlife in Zion National Park anyway, it’s probably best that you adhere to that rule so that the number of obese squirrels bullying other squirrels doesn’t increase. On a more serious note, they do say that feeding wild animals makes them more aggressive, which means they will be more aggressive towards humans as well.

Riverside Walk Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

The “star-like” flowers in the hanging gardens.

If you decide to hike into the Narrows at the end of the trail, you’ll experience a whole new set of delights in the form of natural beauty. The force of the water going through the canyons has carved smooth alcoves and interesting rock patterns into the cliffs and you might even spot a waterfall or two as you’re hiking. This last time that I hiked the Narrows, there was only the one waterfall, coming down the rock face on one side, but I believe that the time I went before there were two waterfalls at least. There must have been more spring rain or snow melt that year. However, the one waterfall I saw this last time was enough for me. It wasn’t a huge waterfall by any means, but it was very pretty. Also, I went up to it and let it run over my hands and splashed some of it’s cool water on my face and neck. It was very refreshing. Besides the interesting rock faces and the waterfall(s), it is kind of cool to see the huge boulders that have found their way into the canyon. Also there are beautiful trees scattered along the way, some single and right down by the cliff’s base and the water, and some in small groves often a little higher up, sometimes on a cliff ledge. I’m not sure of the different types of trees, but some looked like small cottonwoods and others looked like juniper or pine. The water of the river itself was also very pretty when I went, with a turquoise/green looking hue in the calmer spots. I took tons of pictures as I was hiking because everything was just so gorgeous in the canyon.

Riverside Walk Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

Some trees in the Narrows canyon.

To sum it up, if you want to experience some unique and incredible beauty, hike the Riverside Walk trail and Zion Narrows on your next trip to Zion National Park. You will be glad you did.

For more details and information on hiking the Riverside Walk trail and Zion Narrows, click the following link:

http://www.zionnational-park.com/zion-gateway-to-the-narrows.htm

 

 

 

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