The indians call the canyon through which it runs "Mu-koon'-tu-weap" or Straight Canyon. Entering this, we have to wade upstream; often the water fills the entire channel, and although we travel many miles, we find no flood plain, talus, or broken piles of rock at the foot of the cliff. The walls have smooth, plain faces and are everywhere very regular and vertical for a thousand feet or more, where they seem to break back in shelving slopes to higher altitudes; and everywhere as we go along we find springs bursting out at the foot of the walls, and, passing these, the river above becomes steadily smaller; the great body of water, which runs below, bursts out from beneath this great bed of red sandstone; as we go up the canyon, it comes to be but a creek, and then a brook.
- John Wesley Powell, describing the Zion Narrows hike, 1872.
The Zion Narrows hike was first undertaken in 1872, but not by John Wesley Powell. Grove Karl Gilbert had that honor, on his way to becoming the most important geologist of the era. Gilbert descended The Narrows on horseback as part of the Wheeler Survey of 1872, and reportedly dubbed it "The Narrows." The Park allowed horses in the Narrows for many years, so pack trips were common up through the early 1960's.
The Narrows, or more formally, the narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River, has become one of the most famous hikes in the world, and for good reason. It is Zion's hallmark hike. For beginner and intermediate hikers, it can be quite a challenging adventure. Fit, experienced hikers will be wowed by the soaring sandstone walls and the novelty of walking IN the river for miles at a time. Whether done as an overnight through-hike, from the top down as a dayhike, or from the bottom up, the Zion Narrows hike is a classic not to be missed. Photo credit: Nick Wilkes