The Virgin River Narrows


This hike takes you through some incredible scenery in the narrow slot canyons of the Virgin River. In the Narrows, the canyon walls tower above you some 400 feet straight up. The canyon walls themselves contain the rivers edge so much of the hike is really a wade in the river. In addition to the Virgin River, a side trip up Orderville Canyon is a must. There is less water in the stream but some deep wading and nice waterfalls. The whole experience has been described by some as one huge natural water park.

Some do this hike as a one-way 16-mile hike down stream starting from Chamberlain Ranch. This option requires a permit; it also requires some swimming I understand. I elected to do an "up and back" starting from the observation area at the end of the Riverside Walk north of the Temple of Sinawava. Water flow in the Virgin River was 20% of normal.

The day before, I talked with a gentleman who had done some of this hike about the cold water. He said, "You don't really need a dry suit. After your feet go numb, you don't really notice the cold water as much." So I rented a dry suit for the hike. I was planning to spend all day in the canyon and wanted to be comfortable. Others I saw along the hike who didn't have dry suits were looking mighty cold from all the wading in the cold water so the dry suit was a good idea. The deepest water I encountered was about chest deep. A hiking pole is a must for this hike. The river bottom is a jumble of rocks of all sizes, some slick and some not, and footing is tricky at times.

Be sure to click on these photos for larger versions.


1. The observation area at the north end of the Riverside Walk.  River flow was down to about 20% of normal so much of the river bottom is exposed here.

2. The Virgin River just past the observation area at the start of the hike.

3. Waterfall from Mystery Canyon.

4. Carved canyon walls.

5. Streaked canyon walls.

6. Streaked canyon walls.

7. Virgin River canyon.

8. Virgin River canyon.

9. The entrance to Orderville Canyon.

10. A little rock scrambling is required in a few places.  The water is fairly deep here.

11. Fall color in Orderville Canyon.

12. Waterfall in Orderville Canyon.

13. Closer to that waterfall now.  It looked a bit risky to climb this falls; everything is wet and slick, so I turned around here and headed back to the main canyon.

14. The exit from Orderville Canyon back into the Virgin River canyon.

15. The Virgin River Narrows.

16. The Virgin River Narrows.

17. The Virgin River Narrows.

18. The Virgin River Narrows.

19. A delicate waterfall from a seep on the canyon wall.

20. Me near Orderville on the way back down.

21. Other hikers in the narrows.

22. The Virgin River Narrows.