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Best American Adventures: Hike the Zion Narrows

We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.

By Kate Siber; Photograph by Kirk Mastin, Aurora Photos

If any
place has the power to inspire awe, it’s the Zion Narrows, southern
Utah’s premier hike in Zion National Park. For 16 miles (26 kilometers), the canyon winds voluptuously through the crimson
sandstone, in some spots stretching 2,000 feet (610 meters) high and narrowing
to 20 feet (6 meters). Lush hanging gardens spring from the walls, stately
ponderosa pines grow in nooks, and the water can turn a shade of turquoise that
perfectly contrasts with the cliffs’ deep terra-cotta hues. The hike isn’t
necessarily a cakewalk, however: For more than half the time, hikers walk in the
Virgin River, which can be waist-high, and negotiate cobbles as large and
slippery as bowling balls.

the appeal of the area is certainly no secret, and the Zion Narrows attract
plenty of keen hikers. Though it’s possible to hike top-to-bottom in one long
day or do a shorter out-and-back from the bottom of the canyon, the ideal
approach is to take two days, camping overnight at one of 12 designated
campsites deep in the canyon. The stillness of evening and the otherworldly
glow of moonlight make the perfect atmosphere in which to absorb the beauty of
those towering canyon walls, sculpted by elements unfathomably more powerful
than ourselves.

to Know:

Zion Rock & Mountain Guides (
offers shuttles to the top of the canyon for $30, rents dry bags and trekking
poles, and offers advice on flash-flood conditions. Contact Zion National Park
( to reserve a permit
for the full 16-mile hike or overnight camping.