Riverside Walk Zion National Park trail river narrows hike

Riverside Walk accesses the notorious narrows north of Zion Canyon, making it one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. To the end of the trail (at the start of the narrows) and back is a 2.8-mile hike over a level walkway bordering the Virgin River. Those looking to escape the Utah summer heat can leave the trail at any of several river access points to take a refreshing swim.

Riverside Walk begins from the Temple of Sinawava, where 3,000-foot rock walls form an amphitheater at the north end of Zion Canyon. The wheelchair friendly paved trail gains just sixty vertical feet as it follows the east bank of the Virgin River. Enjoy views of the passing water (and reflected orange sandstone walls) on the way to a small pool on the right, approximately 3/4 of a mile from the start. Maidenhair ferns form a hanging garden on the rock face, resembling a miniature Emerald Pools.

Riverside Walk Zion National Park Hike Utah Trail
A pool along the trail

Beyond the pool, march up a short rise and continue up the narrowing canyon. The ingress squeezes between sheer rock walls and elegant bends in the river.

Most who hike Riverside Walk do not stop at the end of the trail, and press on through water than can be waist to chest deep. By trail’s end, the canyon is just a hundred feet wide. Those who venture further upstream can see that it become narrower still. The gap between the thousand foot tall canyon walls shrinks to just twenty feet.

If you are continuing another two miles to Orderville Canyon, or trekking deeper into the narrows, be prepared for river hiking in potentially dangerous conditions. Flash flooding does occur. Those serious about hiking the narrows may prefer the 17.5-mile one-way descent through the narrows from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava (at the start of the Riverside Walk), an epic backpacking excursion.

After exploring as much of the narrows as you wish, return down the Riverside Walk. This trail is easy, with nice scenery and crowds. A fee is required to enter Zion National Park, but the park shuttle to the trailhead is free. No permit is required to hike Riverside Walk, but a wilderness permit must be obtained to backpack through the narrows.

Riverside Walk Zion National Park Hike Utah Trail
The Virgin River along Riverside Walk

To get to the trailhead: Between May and October, access to Zion Canyon is restricted to shuttle traffic only. From the Zion National Park Visitor Center, take the park shuttle to the final stop at the northernmost end of Zion Canyon, Temple of Sinawava.

Trailhead address: Floor of the Valley Road (Zion Canyon Scenic Drive), Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767
Trailhead coordinates: 37.285048, -112.947008 (37° 17′ 06.17″N 112° 56′ 49.22″W)

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Photos

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These photos were taken in July of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Hike ZionWeeping Rock
This 0.4-mile hike visits an alcove in the sandstone wall of Zion Canyon where water seeps out of the rock, nourishing hanging gardens and plentiful vegetation.
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Hike ZionCourt of the Patriarchs
This 0.1-mile walk heads up a short rise in the center of Zion Canyon to offer a nice view of the surrounding sandstone peaks.
Hike ZionWatchman Trail
This 3.5-mile lollipop loop reaches a panoramic overlook on the side of Zion Canyon.
Canyon Overlook Trail Hike ZionCanyon Overlook Trail
This one-mile round trip hike visits a scenic viewpoint looking west over Zion Canyon.
Utah hikingMore trails in Utah
Explore other hikes in Utah outside of Zion National Park.
Camping
Camping ZionZion Campgrounds
There are two large campgrounds at the south end of Zion canyon and another near Kolob Canyon.

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