When I first visited Zion National Park a little over 2 years ago, I hiked the Angel’s Landing trail on the advice of some people I bumped into while driving from North Carolina to California. That was and still is one of the most awesome and most psychologically challenging hikes I’d ever attempted.
Which raised the obvious question: how to top that? One idea Stephanie had was a horseback ride through through Zion. Her knee was bothering her after our Bryce excursion, so anything that limited the ups and downs was a good thing. There were 1 and 3 hour long trips we could take, but we were having trouble deciding how long and what time to start.
We also had another constraint. As this was on Friday of our trip, we needed to be in Las Vegas by 6 at the latest to pick up the tickets for a Cirque du Soleil show we’d planned to see that night. Given the 2 and a half hour drive from Zion to Las Vegas and an advantageous time zone change, we had to leave the park no later than 3. And given that we were staying at a bed and breakfast, we had the obligatory breakfast at 8:30am—which in the very least ensured that we got up early.
So we decided to nix the horseback ride—it seemed too limiting, something to do next time. Instead Stephanie was inspired by an uncaptioned picture she kept seeing on postcards and in the Zion Park brochure of a slot canyon.
After some Googling, she discovered that Zion had some slot canyons just north of the developed section of the park, a mile from the last stop on the park’s shuttle system—an area called the Virgin River Narrows. We got more information that morning from the owners of the bed and breakfast and our fellow guests, that this hike essentially took you through the river with steep canyon walls on both sides, requiring water-suitable footwear, and a study hiking pole.
So we rented our gear from a place just down the road, waterproof hiking shoes with grippy soles, neoprene socks, sturdy wooden hiking poles, and a wet bag, and then drove into the park, thankfully getting there before the parking lot filled up. We hopped on the park shuttle and took it all the way to the end, which gave us both a quick overview of the park. We got off at the Temple of Sinawava around 10:30 and proceeded to speed hike up the mile-long Riverside Walk toward The Narrows.
Once we got to the end, we put on our neoprene socks, put our valuables in the wet bag, and started to hike up the river. At first I thought we’d mostly be hiking through puddles along the rocky banks of the canyon, but in The Narrows, often there were no banks, so you just trod through the knee to thigh deep waters, usually cutting back and forth across the river for shallower water. Not easy. Though we were told the water level and flow was at its lowest in recent memory, the water was still rushing by, and even shin or knee deep still-water provides resistance.
We continued upriver for about an hour and a half, past the Orderville Canyon (though we didn’t know it at the time) all the way to something one of the outfitter maps called “the floating rock,” where we stopped to eat some sandwiches we’d brought. I think we hiked about 2.5 miles up the river (or 3.5 miles including the paved walk). After the short break, we turned around and retraced our steps downriver another 2.5 miles. We walked back down the Riverside Walk in our water-logged neoprene socks (which seemed like it would never end), and finally caught a shuttle back to the visitor center. It was 3:30pm.
We got in our rental car and immediately started off towards Las Vegas. Got there around 5, checked into the Tropicana, and picked up our tickets for KÀ across the street at the MGM Grand. Went back to the hotel to shower and get cleaned/dressed up. And then went back to the MGM Grand for dinner at Fiamma before the show. I had an excellent short rib ravioli, and Stephanie had an incredible lamb ragu and marcona almond mint pesto pasta! It was totally weird sitting in this fancy restaurant sipping on a glass of wine, wearing a nice shirt, and thinking that earlier in the day I was slogging through the Virgin River Narrows in shorts. We finished dinner just before the show, walked over the to the theater, and let ourselves be blown away by what can only described as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as live-action theater.