The Narrows: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Texas

Rafael "Horsecake" Mujica

There's a few hikes across the United States called “The Narrows.” The most sought after and highly photographed Narrows in Zion National Park sees thousands of people per year, even with a strict permit system in place. However the Narrows deep in the Heart of Texas is one of the seldom seen wonders of the Lone Star State. One that tests the limits of your skills, comfort, and resolve. 


The first few miles of my hike actually involved packrafting.  Depending on the season, you could possibly swim the first section, or just ford it on an especially low water year.  The seven mile hike (14 miles round trip) to the gorge is not for the faint of heart.  I had nice cloud cover for the first few hours. A welcomed sight, as the hike is exposed all the way to the Narrows. 


One of the reasons it's as exposed as it is, is that you are only allowed to hike along the creek bed of the Blanco River. It's a technicality that's the result of an uneasy and contentious relationship between Texas law, aspiring hikers to the Narrows, and local private landowners. I had two run-ins with local landowners in the early morning. One shone his light right into my eyes from the side of his truck as I exited my car and asked what I was doing. “Headed to the Narrows, you?” “ your back out there,” he said, as he drove off. Southern Hospitality at its best... 


There are a handful of fences built across the river itself. The legality of these fences is another point of argument between the aforementioned parties. FYI: this article is not a legal review of Texan property law, and should not be read as such. I saw my second local landowner right before this fence, and they just watched me walk by in silence, their dog barking loudly at their side. As if to dare me to walk onto the river bank. Not at all intimidating…!


Even the local fauna can be an impedance on this hike. These cattle were on one side of the riverbed, and I was on the other. The lead longhorn (the closest one in the picture with big long horns) didn't take kindly to my being there either. As I hiked as far away as I could across the riverbed, he walked closer and closer until he made a bluff charge at me. At this point, I was getting hot, thirsty, and tired, so my patience was running thin. By some sort of instinct, I raised my trekking pole above my head and cleverly shouted. “...HEY!” Surprisingly he stopped and stared me down, just a few dozen feet from me. We both stood motionless for a few seconds before I gingerly continued forward and shifted by, never turning my back to the longhorn until I rounded the next corner.


In between fences, cattle, small boulders, and other obstacles, I would come across quiet secluded shaded pools. Some parts of the river even flowed above the bedrock! I made sure to take short rests and drink water in these oases. The best time to hike to the Narrows is in the Spring, as the morning temps are cool and the afternoons are mild. Still, the temperatures were reaching 80 as I got closer to the gorge. 


I encountered pools of water that grew in size, as I got closer to my objective. You have the option of going through them or skirting around the edges of their limestone walls. I chose the latter, as I knew these were just the appetizers to what was the main dish. Also, the water is deceitfully deep. The water was clear enough for me to drop stones into, and watch them slowly travel and settle down at the bottom.


Finally, I got to a half mile long stretch of pure overgrown bush. With every smack to my face by tall stocks of unknown possibly tick infested grass, I wondered if all the harassment and work was going to be worth it. It was the only portion of the trip I hadn’t planned for. 


Every inch of this small canyon was covered in green. Every step I took cut my legs and arms. My best guess is that this stretch of the hike would not be an issue during the Summer and Fall.  I won’t lie to you though, I hated it. 


After losing what felt like a liter of blood to the bushes, the river began to open up. Moss began to cling to the shaded overhang of the limestone. The pools were nearly unavoidable. I stuck to the top of the walls until the whole area became desolate. I could hear water running from a small hole in the rock. So, was it worth it? 

It was...



Rafael is a freelance writer and adventurer based in the Mountain West. You can find him trail running, backpacking, or sampling the best tacos during his free time. Follow all his adventures over on Instagram, or read more of his work over on his website.

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