Zion was amazing. First of all, driving into the park itself was unreal. It almost felt like we were in Avatar with the floating mountains. And there were all these amazing terraced rocks everywhere. I made my dad pull off on the side of the road so I could climb it.
There's a lot we didn't get to do that I would like to do next time. For example, Angel's Landing was highly recommended but it was a 4 hour hike that we just didn't have time for. But you could easily spend 2-3 days here if you have that time!
But we spent most of our time hiking The Narrows. The pictures obviously aren't going to do this place justice. Because we were hiking through water, I just took my iPhone in a water-proof case, and not my nicer camera.
We hiked (and swam) for about 5 hours. It took less time to hike out than it did to hike in because we were going upstream, and we were also stopping a lot to take in our surroundings. Mostly the water was about ankle deep, getting up to your thighs every now and then. And once I hit the 2 hour mark, I did have to swim some parts of the river.
It was just absolutely stunning. The canyon walls are so high, and once you get in about an hour, you'll realize why it's called The Narrows as the walls come in closer and closer. It's an experience I wish I could take all my favorite people on, and definitely one I will return to one day.
Here you can see it starts to narrow significantly. It's really magical.
Here's some pictures of us hiking. Scroll right to get a good idea of what you'r up against. It's really not too difficult or treacherous. My dad, who is 69, had a harder time than me and he didn't go as far as I did into the canyons. But you can go in quite a ways before having to swim. And I saw lots of people with children hiking.
All we had with us was a backpack with snacks, so nothing could really get ruined if we got submerged.
The Practical Stuff
When to go:
GO IN THE MORNING. Seriously, as soon as the shuttle starts running, you should be on that first shuttle. I think we got into the canyon around 9 (which wasn't even as early as we could have) and we had a great experience, with minimal people. But on our way hiking back out, there were TONS of people, and the experience was not the same. And the paths had also become really muddy and slippery with so many people trekking through.
How to hike:
You'll definitely want to rent water socks, hiking boots, and a hiking stick...maybe even two sticks. Do NOT skip out on this. I thought I could wear my Chacos and my dad forced me to rent gear from a place in Springfield and he was so right. It's rocky almost the entire way, so you want to be able to put your foot down without fear of hurting your toes.
You'll likely want to take a light jacket as well, as very little sun gets in and it can be a little chilly in there.
What to expect:
The water is a bit cold, but you get used to it right away, and the water socks help. Depending on how deep the water is in certain areas, your difficulty walking through it will obviously increase. Expect to use those thigh muscles! If you start at the bottom of The Narrows, you'll be walking upstream so that makes it a bit more difficult as well.
Is it dangerous?
Generally speaking, the rocks are big and rounded off, not jagged. So falling might be annoying, but it's not dangerous. And the water is mostly shallow enough that you wouldn't get swept away. Basically, you'd fall, get wet, and then just get back up.
There's also a flash flood potential to be aware of. Because the canyon is so long and narrow, it can be clear skies above, but raining a long way away, and cause a flash flood which is obviously very dangerous. You'll want to be aware of weather in surrounding areas, and Zion also has some signs saying how likely flooding is that day.
How do I get there?
There's a free shuttle service in the Canyon that takes you to all the places you can hike. It's about a 40 minute ride from the visitor center all the way to the entrance of The Narrows, with several stops along the way. Take the shuttle to the very last stop, and then you'll hike about 30 minutes to the base of The Narrows where you can begin!
Alternatively, you can get an adventure company in Springfield to drive you to the top of the Narrows, and you can hike all the way down to the base that the shuttle takes you to. We met one couple who did this, and they said it was about an 8 hour hike. There's no turning back on this one.
Some random tips
Pack a lunch! This is such a cool experience. The last thing you want to do is turn back for hungers-sake. We packed peanut butter and bread from the hotel and stopped on a rock for lunch. Then we were reinvigorated for more hours of hiking.
The deeper you go into the canyon, the deeper areas of water you'll experience. I hiked in about 2.5 hours, and near that time mark, I had to swim to get where I was going. But up until then, I had only gotten wet up to my thighs.