Ever peer into the depths of a narrow canyon and think: I would like to hike, scramble, swim, rappel, grope, shimmy and slurp my way through THAT. Well, my friend, you should try canyoneering! It’s the art of getting from point A to point B using whatever it takes — ropes, harnesses, stepping on the faces of friends — often in a sensual full-body wetsuit.
Here’s our list of Utah’s best canyoneering adventures that range from non-technical scrambling to advanced climbing and rappelling.
Canyoneering is inherently dangerous, and we don’t want to send you into the beautiful unknown unawares. Follow these tips so that you can return with honor, and all your limbs intact.
What to expect: Easy scrambling requiring the occasional use of your hands for balance and support. Bring the kids!
Equipment needed: A map or GPS and hiking shoes. And the backcountry basics: water, snacks, warm clothes, first-aid kit, cell phone or satellite phone, etc.
New to canyoneering? Don’t sweat it. Utah has plenty of slot canyons to go around. Non-technical routes are more akin to hiking than canyoneering, but hey, you gotta start somewhere! Beginners should stick to canyons that stay dry as standing water makes everything more complicated. These canyons are a good place to get your feet wet … err… dry.
What to expect: Scrambling with some easy climbing/downclimbing. Wading/swimming in cold water may be required. Bring the older kids!
Equipment needed: The backcountry basics, a map, GPS, short rope for lowering and raising packs and sticky shoes.
So you’ve done the easy stuff and you’re ready for more. Basic routes involve scrambling, using your hands to hoist yourself up or to shimmy down, and possibly getting wet. The risk factor for injury goes up significantly, but you probably won’t die. No need for harnesses and ropes, although a short rope is nice for lowering your backpack so it doesn't throw you off balance on the trickier stuff.
What to expect: Rappels or technical climbing/downclimbing. Wading/swimming in cold water is highly likely.
Equipment needed: The backcountry basics, ropes, helmet, harness, sticky shoes, rappel device, locking carabiner, safety tether and rappelling gloves, a map, GPS, and an experienced leader.
We see you risk taker, and we understand. You want to be thrilled and challenged. Luckily, most of Utah’s canyons fall under the intermediate rating so the world is your pothole. As long as you have experience with sandstone climbing techniques and equipment and can withstand cold water for long periods of time, you’re good to go.
What to expect: Multi-stage rappels and/or complex rope work, difficult pothole escapes, serious squeezing, extensive high-risk downclimbing, and difficult-to-establish natural anchors. Wading/swimming in cold water is pretty much a given.
Equipment needed: The backcountry basics, ropes, helmet, harness, sticky shoes, rappel device, locking carabiner, safety tether and rappelling gloves, an experienced leader and team, a map, GPS, extra warm clothes, and an extra rope or pull cord.
Well, it was really nice knowing you. You are the ultimate risk taker, the one who has worried your mom to death. But you are also competent. Obviously you are very experienced in all of the above, you are in great physical shape and you want to peer into the depths of the earth's soul. So double check your climbing gear, your maps, your cold water stamina and the competency of your canyoneering partner. Let us know when you make it back.
Well that should whet your appetite for wet-suit shenanigans! But if not, check out these other wet and wild adventures, like river rafting, kayaking and paddle-boarding. And if you just want to take the damn thing off, read up on dry-ish slot canyons in Utah.