Canyoneering in Zion Canyon

Zion National Park is known as “the mecca of canyoneering” by many avid outdoorsmen. The name is appropriate because of the sheer number of canyon areas available to explore. There are so many ways to discover each canyon. By simply starting at a different location the canyon will offer a completely different experience.

If you don’t live in an area with canyons you may not know exactly what canyoneering in Zion will be like. While there is no real comparison to true canyoneering, it is somewhat like spelunking or cave exploration. Canyoneering involves a wide range of activities as including but not limited to rappelling, rafting, and hiking. There is no other activity that includes such a wide variety of challenges.

Whether you are a beginner or a professional, there’s something for everyone when canyoneering in Zion National Park. The difficulty of some canyon trips will depend on how you chose to traverse that canyon. By changing your entry point or route you can work the canyon to your experience level.
If you enjoy spelunking or more extreme caving, you will most likely enjoy canyoneering. This activity is truly a journey unlike any other with so much to see and explore.

Canyons to explore

One of the best features of Zion National Park is the vast number of canyons there are to explore. Rather than being stuck canyoneering in the same area for your whole visit, you can expand your discoveries and have more breathtaking experiences than you can imagine. While there are many popular canyons for canyoneering in Zion, there are a select few that you just can’t miss.

Mystery Canyon

Mystery canyon is a well-liked area that requires a large variety of skills to see the whole canyon.It is a favorite of many canyon enthusiasts. You will be tasked with rappelling, hiking, and wading through pools of water. You can hike certain sections or get the full experience by working this canyon from the top down.

Mystery Canyon is long enough to be and enjoyable trip but not so long that it becomes arduous. It is not so difficult that you must be an expert, but the more difficult parts are limited to more skilled canyon explorers.

Zion Narrows

‘The Narrows’ as this canyon is often called can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. You won’t have to feel obligated to make this trip a long and difficult one since you can turn back whenever you feel you’ve had enough. You will hike and wade through the very river responsible for creating this magnificent narrow canyon. Get as involved as you like with these three different methods of exploring. Make it a few hours or a few days, the choice is yours.

Bottom up

Tackling this canyon from the bottom up is one of the easiest canyoneering adventures in Zion National Park. You can choose to walk in from the bottom and keep hiking until you feel like turning back.
This is ideal for people who are new to canyoneering. You can get an idea of what the experiences like without putting yourself in a situation out can’t get out of. This is also a great option for those who only have a little bit of time to spend exploring.

Top down- one day

By starting off at Chamberlains Ranch you will embark on a full day’s journey through The Narrows. This hike quite strenuous and physically challenging. You will see the fantastic scenery and unmatched views through the canyon.
This one day hike should only be attempted by athletic people who are avid hikers. Because this journey can be dangerous a permit will be required before starting. Make a day out of this fantastic canyon if you are up for the challenge!

Top down- overnight

Pack up your overnight gear and start an incredible journey through The Narrows. You will have two days and one night to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. Each day you will hike for about 6 hours and spend one night in a designated camp site.
The overnight excursion is physically demanding and should be reserved for more experienced explorers. A permit is required for this hike.


The Subway is a much more strenuous endeavor than the Narrows and should only be attempted by more experienced canyon adventurists. The hike is about 10 miles which will take around 8 hours to complete. You will journey through open and enclosed areas and see incredible sights.
You will need a permit to hike this canyon and should be and experienced explorer. It is important to take care to remember your coordinates and shuttle pick up location to remain safe at all times.

When to go canyoneering

There is no right time to go canyoneering, but it is advised to avoid exploring water areas during flash flooding. It also may be a good idea to avoid canyoneering in snowy, cold winter months. There are different experiences to be had depending on the season you choose for canyoneering in Zion National Park.

Generally, fall is a fantastic time to explore the canyons because the weather is so temperate. However, spring and summer have so much to offer as well. The beauty surrounding you will differ greatly depending on when you choose to travel. Whenever you choose to go canyoneering in Zion you can guarantee that it will be an experience like no other.

What you will need

There is a long list of materials you will want to have for canyoneering in Zion National Park. While some materials are nice to have, there are a few that are absolutely necessary. The gear you will need depends on the kind of canyoneering you have planned. This list of materials is a broad idea of some of the equipment you will need for canyoneering. For a better idea of what you will need it is a good idea to contact a professional for guidance.

Necessary Canyoneering Gear

  • Proper Shoes
  • A pack to carry extra gear
  • Lots of water to keep hydrated
  • Navigation Equipment
  • Dry bag to keep essential items safe
  • Basic first aid kit and knowledge

Advanced Gear

  • Ropes and rope bag
  • Harness
  • Helmet and headlamp
  • Rappelling equipment
  • Moisture wicking clothes
  • Permit for many technical adventures

Again, consult an expert and use your gut to decide what you think will be the most useful to your during your trip. Always make sure to research where you will be exploring and tailor your needs for the area and weather conditions.

Getting started

You’ve got your gear and know where you’re going, so how do you get started canyoneering? The first thing you should always do is to make sure you are being realistic about your skill level. You never want to get yourself in a situation where you are in over your head. Canyoneering can be quite dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. Understand that canyoneering is something to be mastered and you can work your way up to the more exciting, difficult canyons. If your most daring hike was a trip through your back yard you’ll want a lot of guidance and expert advice through either instructional courses, guided trips, and individual guided tours.

Instructional courses

These courses are the building blocks to learning canyoneering skills. They are extremely important for any type of canyoneering journey. It is never wise to begin a canyon trip without the at least basic skills. These courses not only teach canyoneering skills but also basic safety and disaster management. Again, you should never tackle a canyon without expert advice and training!

Guided Trips

Once you are familiar with the technique you’re ready to take a trip through the canyons. By hiring someone familiar with the area you can get the most out if your exploration. With these trips, the guide leads a group through the canyon and has the best idea of how to effectively master the area. These guides can be an excellent learning experience whether you are a novice or an expert.

Individual guides

These guides are wonderful to hone in on specific skills and add experience to your canyoneering resume. They are also nice for working toward being an expert. The fact that these guided tours provide a one on one experience it is the best way to learn and be able to ask questions. If you prefer the opportunity to learn without distractions or anything holding you back these are a fantastic way to go!

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime

Canyoneering is a truly unique, once in a lifetime experience. As you challenge yourself physically you have the opportunity to see amazing geological wonders and be one with nature. By entering a canyon, you are literally putting yourself into the middle of the earth’s history. The rivers and pools you wade through have formed these massive canyons over time. Allow yourself to be carried away by imagining the generations of people who have walked the exact path that you are walking. There is no better way to be at one with nature and find yourself than to immerse yourself in the incredible sport of canyoneering.