A short, level, two mile path along the east bank of the Virgin River. This trail is a nice introduction to the importance of the Virgin River to Zion National Park, and signs along the way provide information on the region’s geology and history. The canyon walls are unbelievably majestic here, and hiking in the late afternoon or early morning will give you some beautiful shadows, too. This hike is also the route to the Narrows trailhead.
At the north end of the developed area of Zion Canyon is the Temple of Sinawava, an amphitheater just before the area where the canyon narrows around the river (called, helpfully, The Narrows). This area is named for the Paiute Coyote God and is a launching-off point for all kinds of National Park tourists – families in flip flops, rugged backpackers gearing up for (or coming out of) the Narrows trek, bikers starting their trek through the canyon, or just people wading into the river to cool down in the water.
The trail begins at the north end of the parking area, just beyond the shuttle stop.
Initially, the canyon walls are fairly wide – although narrower than they are in the rest of the park. As you hike north on the trail, the canyon walls will close in tighter and tighter.
The meanders and rock flows in the river can cause some seemingly unlikely features – in many places along the trail, water drips from the otherwise dry canyon walls, snaking its way down from the canyon rim through deep, labyrinthian aquifers. In other spots, you may look down at your feet and notice the trail looks like it’s going through wetlands. It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a very parched high desert ecosystem.
If you hike this trail in late afternoon or mid morning, you may get a glimpse of the canyon’s “golden hour” – a time when the sun is reflected off one canyon wall and onto the other, causing a red-tinged glow. The effect can be stunning, even if you hike in the winter when the trees don’t have any of their leaves yet.
Continue along the trail until you reach its end. If you’re headed into the Narrows, continue on (or just wade in the water a bit to get a feel for the canyon), then return back the way you came.
He has also been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press, as well as in documentaries for Columbia Sportswear and the OTIS College of Art and Design.
Casey is currently writing a book on day hikes in Los Angeles for Mountaineers Books.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on May 7, 2013