Top-down route: 16 miles
Bottom Up to Big Springs: 9 miles
Generally, most hikes do bottom up and length depends on how far you want to walk that day. The majority of people make it to Orderville Canyon (2.5 miles up) and turn around.
Trail: the first mile of the trail is the paved river walk trail. The official beginning of the Narrows is at the end of the paved route. Here the river hiking begins.
When people think Zion they think of Angels Landing and The Narrows. The Narrows is the most famous slot canyon in the world because it is easy to access, it's very pretty and makes for a fun adventure for nearly every age. It also comes with the added benefit that you can turn around at any point when you are going up and you will still have an adventure on your hand.
As mentioned above, the trail technically begins at the Temple of Sinawava bus stop and follows the River Walk paved path up Zion Canyon. At the end of the path is a set of stairs that lead you down to the river. From here simply walk up.
Tip 1- Wear shoes. I see lots of teenagers try to hike the narrows barefoot. All of them give up really quickly.
The trail itself is fairly simple, go upstream until you either want to stop or when you arrive at Big Springs (title image).
Major points along the way include Mystery Canyon inflow, which is the colorful wall on river left that has a small stream flowing out of it that trickles its way down the canyon wall. It's like 1000 feet up the canyon from where the river meets the trail.
The next major point is a huge boulder that's called House Rock that sits on river right of the canyon. The boulder forces the river to the river left and at this point the river is only 10 feet wide or so. A human can easily walk around House Rock. If you want to you can swim through the pool of water here.
Next are some nice trees on river right, then it's a haul to Orderville Canyon. Orderville Canyon is a large deep slot canyon that comes in on river left (your right when walking up canyon). If you take Oderville, be aware that the stopping point is a small waterfall called Veiled Falls.
Tip 2- When hiking Orderville be cautious of some of the pools of water. you walk through. I stepped into one and dropped into a pothole five feet deep. I almost killed my camera.
Where orderville flows into the Narrows to a ways up past Imlay Canyon inflow is titled Wall Street. It is a deep narrow section of the canyon with no banks. It is generally the best views of the Narrows when you are looking for deep walled canyon look. Many photographers make it to this point but do not go up much further than this.
As you work your way through Wall Street you will eventually arrive at a large boulder that kind of looks like a head sitting in the middle of the canyon. Above this boulder is where Imlay Canyon inflows into the river. You can't see it because the inflow is 50 feet above your head. During winter there is usually a huge icicle structure hanging off of it that is quite impressive. From this point on the canyon becomes harder to continue. If you are tired here, turn back now, it will become a lot more challenging.
First Major Pool
Soon after Imlay Canyon boulder you will see a large structure coming in on river left. It is a build-up from a spring system that is coming into the river. Right here the water gets deep. I am six feet tall, and the pool came up to my neck. If you are 5' 10" or less you will probably be swimming.
After this, the river is generally nice for a ways until you reach what I call the boulder complex. For about a mile (probably less) the trail requires navigating massive boulders and huge pools. To navigate them you have to climb through and over log jams, possibly swim and squeze and shimmy and jump up and down structures. I'll be honest it was brutal.
Big Springs is your reward for doing the bottom-up route to the stopping point. This water is safe to filter and makes for a great stopping point to rest. The springs themselves are a series of large cascades that pop out on river right. They are very large and very obvious once you see them. This is the top if you are coming up from the bottom. Turn back now.
Go the the Zion Main Canyon and take the shuttle to the very final stop. Hike up the River Walk Trail until you reach the end of the paved area, and continue upstream from here.
Generally speaking, if you want "safety in numbers" go in the summer months. I prefer to hike this trail when there are less people so I usually do the edge seasons like winter and fall. In general, I do not overthink the Narrows, but here are my general tips. I wear trail runner shoes. The Narrows is not a sandy section of the Virgin so you won't really need to worry about sand in your shoes. Bring food and a bit more water than you might think, at least 2 liters. As temperatures drop wear waiters.
To avoid flash floods watch the weather before you enter the canyon. Flash floods happen any time of the year, but generally speaking, they occur most often in the summer. Monsoons don't usually start until July and when they do, they most often start around 3PM each day. If you want to go when storms are brewing be out the canyon by 3. I only go when the weather is predicted to be sunny all day.
Check out my Zion Photography Guide if you want more information on photographing the Narrows.