Historically the trail was called Gateway to the Narrows, but now the popular name and the name the NPS advertises is Riverside Walk. This 2-mile round-trip stroll begins at the farthest end of Zion Canyon, in a natural amphitheater called the Temple of Sinawava. The well-traveled path, host to approximately 3,000 people a day in the summer, ends where Navajo Sandstone walls close in and water is forced into the narrow walls of the world renowned Zion Narrows. If you are able, do not cheat yourself at this point. Step into the water and wade a bit up at the start, where its mostly shallow to see a bit of the magnificence of the Zion Narrows. Be warned that the water in the North Fork of the Virgin River is frigid in the winter and spring. Wear neoprene socks if you want to get your feet wet, but it's best to wait for the warmth of summer. Until the cement ends on the Riverside Walk, you can expect a casual ramble on a paved path with little change in elevation. The ease and beauty of this hike is the reason for its popularity and many young people do play and delight in the river at the end of the pavement on hot summer days. In the Narrows there are a few sections where log jams and boulders have formed deep pools, but most of the steam is shallower with large river rock mixed with sand making footing beneath the fast flowing stream unsure. Walking sticks are often used to steady hikers. The Riverside Walk's pavement is usually suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, but sand can accumulate on the path making it difficult to maneuver wheels on them at times. Begging squirrels, fat due to human feedings, are abundant along the path. Do not give into their attempts to garnish food from you. Besides the monetary fine for feeding them, know it is a danger to animals to be fed by humans and it makes them aggressive toward hikers, small children in particular.
Riverside Walk at a Glance
Riparian Habitat - Towering monoliths and North Fork of the Virgin River flowing enclose the walking path. The narrow space enhances the sound of flowing water and lush vegetation helps to create a thriving riparian habitat. Trailside signs indicate both micro and riparian habitats. The strip of land between the monstrous cliffs and the Virgin River give life to a variety of plants and animals. The hanging gardens and desert swamps are small zones where conditions allow certain animals and plants to thrive such as the Zion Snail, an endemic creature to Zion's hanging gardens. There is also a charming pond where canyon tree frogs are often seen and heard. They make a loud trilling song that rings through the canyon. Notice the desert swamps, the hanging gardens and seepage areas. These microhabitats provide homes for the tiger salamander and many other interesting creatures and plants.
Trail History - The one-mile trail was listed on the National Register of historic places in 1987. As with most of Zion, fences and other man made material were created using local objects so that they blend in with the parks surroundings. In 1968, I remember a huge rock slide occurring on the trail and it closed for a while as they created a new trail up over the slide rather than removing the fallen rock. .
Zion Narrows - If you plan to continue past the Riverside Walk and into the Zion Narrows, a route where the North Fork of the Virgin River is the trail then be sure to check weather and flood conditions. Call the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or check the weather report posted at the visitor center. Flash floods often occur in early summer as snow melts and at the end of summer following Zion's monsoon season.
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