United States Parunuweap Canyon

5 images 1 contributors

Laurent Martres

About this spot
Parunuweap Canyon (East fork of the Virgin River) is an exciting and stunning destination, mostly off the radar for the great majority of visitors to Zion. It is quite similar to its world-famous sibling the (North Fork of the) Virgin Narrows (refer to that spot), but it takes considerable effort to get there and back. It is a 10-hour trip, not counting the drive to the trailhead. The reward is a very photogenic canyon that you may well have all to yourself. So what’s the point of going through all this effort just to visit a replica of the Narrows, you may ask? Major Powell and Mallory would answer in unison, "Because it’s there!"

Now it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the 10-hour day, plus driving time to and from the trailhead. Some prerequisites may help you sort it out: you should already have experienced the Virgin Narrows; you should be an experienced hiker, used to hiking cross-country; you should not be afraid of heights, nor of scrambling up and down an extremely steep trail (albeit with good grips).

Although Parunuweap Canyon is on BLM land (except past Labyrinth Falls), a fair portion of the hike is on Zion National Park land, so outfitters are not allowed to guide you into Parunuweap. You’ll be totally on your own, and you will feel the solitude all day. The trail is quite taxing, due to its ups and downs and the very exposed section as you approach the river. It would be preferable to have a partner for this hike.

The final descent is very steep and requires concentration. A fall on the sharp rocks could be catastrophic. It is by no means technical, however, and there are good grips, so just take your time. Once in the river, a pair of hiking poles is a must.

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