Zion Canyoneering is one of the first adventures on our “must do” list.
Greater Zion is a land of canyons. Many people enjoy hiking the large canyons, but for some, there is a deeper prize to be found. As you venture into the smaller slot canyons, you enter a whole new world full of jaw-dropping experiences. Greater Zion is home to some of the most unique canyoneering routes with a high volume of routes too.
Prepare for a thrilling adventure as you rappel into narrow cracks in sandstone or plunge into pools of water and smear along rock formations. If you’ve got the skills and experience, grab your gear and come explore these amazing slot canyons on your own. If you are a first timer, this is the perfect place to hire a guide (see guides and outfitters below) and learn the ropes.
Recommended Places to Explore
Zion is home to one of the largest concentrations of technical canyoneering routes in the world with 19 permitted routes. They range from half-day experiences to overnight trips. And some have a couple short rappels, while others have over 300-foot rappels. Guide companies are not permitted to access the routes in Zion National Park, so you will only be able to attempt these routes on your own. Do your homework, be prepared for the canyon you choose, and don’t attempt something beyond your skill and experience level. Permits become available on a three-month timetable on the 5th of each month, so if you want a permit for March, you can reserve that permit online starting January 5. There is a $5 non-refundable fee for all reservations, along with an additional charge based on your group. Please see Zion National Park’s website for rules and regulations on canyoneering in the park.
Like Zion, Snow Canyon State Park requires permits for its two canyoneering routes, but unlike Zion, guides are welcome. The Island in the Sky route is open all year, while the Arch Canyon route is open seasonally, September 15 to March 14. Because it is a fall-winter route, often there are pools of water to traverse, so a dry/wet suit is highly recommended in Arch Canyon. Both canyons require an $8 permit, which admits up to six people.
Located just outside of Zion National Park’s Kolob Terrace is a beautiful red-rock formation full of little slot canyons. The region is usually dry, so if you want to avoid getting wet, this is a prime canyoneering option. No permit is required for these routes, and thanks to their higher elevation, you can expect the temperatures around 10 degrees cooler than lower regions like St. George. The parking lot is just off Kolob Terrace Road at the following GPS location: 37°18’39.4″N 113°06’31.9″W
Yankee Doodle is a local favorite, close to St. George, on the same road as the popular hiking destination Yant Flat. This canyoneering route won’t require a permit, but is highly popular. Expect a full day’s excursion and take your time. There are often pools of water to traverse, so be prepared with appropriate gear during cooler months of the year. The parking area is a dirt pullout on FR 031 in the Dixie National Forest, or use the GPS coordinates: 37°14’12.7″N 113°27’13.0″W
Located in the southwest corner of Utah, Greater Zion is a destination that offers more than 2,400 square miles of adventure and inspiration.
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- Bring a map
- Download GPS coordinates of the route you want to explore.
- Bring extra food and water in case you’re out longer than planned.
- Always let someone know where you’re going.
- Practice Leave No Trace and respect the wilderness areas.
- Obtain a permit if the canyon requires one.
- July through September is the monsoon season for Southern Utah and should be taken very seriously. Never enter a slot canyon when rain is forecasted, as the risk of flash flooding is not to be ignored.
Guides and Outfitters
Local guide companies offer guided trips, as well as skill courses, so you can choose to learn the ropes of canyoneering in a canyon or take a course that teaches you the skills for doing it on your own. It is highly recommended that you be experienced with canyoneering before attempting any canyon on your own. Do your research on the location, route and seasonality of the area you choose to explore. For guided adventures, the larger the group size, the cheaper the price per person, typically.