Photography: Zion Narrows

I took this picture in 2008 in Southern Utah's Zion National Park. Please visit my store page to purchase prints of my photos. Thank you everyone who has ordered photos, your purchase helps support this blog!


“Some people ask me how such a tiny river can form this big canyon,” the shuttle driver said, displeased with anyone who might speak ill of his beloved river. He spoke in a sort of loud assertive whisper, like Clint Eastwood. 

“It looks small now, but when a storm strikes, flash floods will flow down river hurtling boulders and blasting out log jams. And sometimes the poor souls hiking in the Narrows at the time. It'll hit'cha before you even know it's coming. Trust me. The Virgin River is no pup.”

He stopped and opened the shuttle doors at the Temple of Sinawava. My friend Randy and I got out and walked down a short path that ended at the Virgin River where the walls of the canyon converge into the 16-mile long Zion Narrows. From this point forward, the trail is the river.

We stepped into the 57-degree water. For some of the hike we walked along the sandy shorelines next to the canyon walls, but mostly we sloshed through ankle to knee deep water. We zigzagged back and forth looking for the best place to take our next step, trying our best to avoid slick algae-covered boulders and deep pools that might turn the hike into a swim without warning. Swift currents occasionally made crossing difficult, but there didn't seem to be any threat of flash floods. The sky was as blue as it can be. At least the tiny sliver that we could see hundreds of feet above our heads between the canyon walls.

The narrows are unlike any place I’ve been. The two thousand foot high cliff walls loom over you, coming together as close as thirty feet apart. Water weeps out of red-hued sandstone giving life to hanging gardens of moss, ferns, grasses, and wild flowers. The deeper the water gets the deeper its shade emerald green. As it surges through the narrow spaces between fallen boulders, it turns to white caps that fill the canyon with the hiss and whoosh of flowing water. This is undoubtedly one of the most stunning places on earth.

At a log jam about five miles in I stopped to admire the view and snapped this picture. 

On our way back out, we passed a young family of four. “I wish we could keep going, but it’s getting late," the mother said. "Are we going to miss anything great if we turn around now?”  

“Well, more of this,” I said. 

“So… yes,” Randy added.

I have hiked thousands of miles since this day, but when people ask me which trails are my favorite, more often than not, Zion Narrows still pops in my head first.
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A Backpacker's Life List by Ryan Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.