In years past, we’ve always saved our valuable vacation days for off peak season travel in order to avoid the crowds and high costs of everything. Visiting popular National Parks like Zion and Grand Canyon, where you go seek solitude, during the busy summer months did not appeal to us.
Now fast forward to today. Retired with nothing but time on our hands, we decided to brave the crowds. Actually, this trip was initially planned for the North Rim of Grand Canyon (which sees 10% of the park’s crowds as everyone is at the South Rim) but tacked on one day in Zion since it is on the way.
Given the 90-100F June temps, hiking in the canyon in 50F water seemed like the only logical choice. It doesn’t hurt that the Narrows is by far my favorite hike in the park. Joe’s partial to hiking Angels Landing, but not in 90+ degree weather.
In order to beat the crowd, we woke up at 4AM to make the hour drive to the park to catch the first few shuttles. Back in November 2014, we were able to drive our own car to the trailhead, but during peak summer season private vehicles are not allowed inside the park past the visitors center, so the only way to the trailhead (8 miles from the visitors center) is via shuttle.
I surmised that the key to avoiding the crowds is to start the hike before everyone else is even awake.
Luckily, not everyone was hiking the Narrows. Half of the people got off at the Angels Landing trailhead, so I still managed to hike in relative peace. Joe and I split up after the easy River walk trail because he had tweaked his ankle just 2 days ago, so I took off while he took his time.
The first mile is relatively wide open, but the canyon walls start closing in the further you go. At around mile 3, you hit the Wall Street and Orderville Canyon bifurcation.
I would say, hiking this during the summer is most comfortable, however, the crowds can lessen the experience. I would definitely recommend hiking this in November when the cold water keeps people away. As far as gear is concerned, dry pants and neoprene sock are necessary in November. As for summer, you just need throwaway sneakers, no need to waste money renting neoprene socks and shoes. As for hiking poles and sticks, two light weight aluminum hiking poles are better than one heavy wooden hiking stick.