The Riverside Walk to the Virgin River Narrows is the most popular hike in Zion National Park, especially on a hot summer day. The trail is a wide paved affair that allows parties to walk four abreast. It is easy walking. When you get to the narrows you need to be prepared to stomp off into the water.
The best walking gear for the canyon is an old pair of running shoes or sneakers that you are willing to get wet. You can walk several miles up into the river...but your shoes will be worse for the wear. Unfortunately, on this trip, I did not heed my own advice and went with a brand new pair of hiking shoes. Sandals and flip flops usually do not do well in the river--even the expensive sandals seem to have problems when walking for long distances in water. It is also best to wear a swim suit when hiking the canyon, because you are going to get wet.
The trail starts at the Temple of Sinawava. This is the last stop for the park buses the run up and down the canyon. The trail starts with a please stroll along the Riverside Walk. This is a paved trail that passes many hanging gardens and desert marshes. It is a fragile ecosystem, so you don't want to get off the trail.
The geology of the area is quite interesting. The Navajo Sandstone is a porous rock. It sits atop the Kayenta Shale which is not permeable. As a result water flows along the top of the Kayenta layer and drips out in the over hanging garden.
You will notice that the narrows start at the junction of the Kayenta Shale and Navajo Sandstone. Above this geological transition the Virgin River carves a narrow canyon that runs from wall to wall, below the transformation, the river carves a U shaped valley. Again, this happens as a result of the different structure of the rocks. The Navajo sandstone is a softer rock, that the river can cut straight through, the Kayenta layer is harder.
The area at the mouth of the narrows will gradually erode into a U shaped valley.Â In the future, the large sandstone walls near the transformation will shear off, crash to the ground and be washed away by the Virgin River.
You can walk several miles up the narrows. Unfortunately, I was wearing the wrong pair of shoes and had to walk in the water bare foot. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.