Canyoneering Near Zion Park


Much of southern Utah’s brightly colored landscape is wild and challenging to explore. Many of its most wonderful sights are sheltered from easy view beneath sharp cliffs, in deep and narrow canyons. These slot canyons are tough to reach and can be hazardous to your health if you don’t, quite literally, know what you’re getting into. It’s wise to go with knowledgeable guides and take their advice every step of the way. If you do venture out on your own, check with the National Park Service, take all necessary

precautions and be keenly alert to the weather at all times. Conditions can change out here in swift and dangerous ways. When the clouds burst with rain, the canyon walls can turn quickly into fierce waterfalls and the slot canyons into raging rivers. I’ve hiked many times in and around Zion National Park and have been amazed to watch the walls weep and the water rise within minutes during times of drenching rains. It’s a riveting sight and a vivid reminder of nature’s force out this way. The back story of our canyoneering video is a case in point. We’d arrived in Zion in early October to shoot our slot canyon adventure before moving on across southern Utah and northern Arizona to Moab (see our related stories). Our timing was bad. A huge and highly unusual fall storm battered the Park with many inches of rain and with snow in the higher elevations. The whole place surged with cold and fast-moving water that gouged the soft rocks and flooded the narrow canyons with silt and debris. We postponed our canyoneering expedition, drove on to Moab and returned a week later in hopes of sunnier skies. We got lucky, and you can watch our canyoneering journey on video. The canyon we saw was quite different from the one we would have seen had we entered before the rain hit. We rappelled off one cliff onto a mud bank below. The recent rain had washed all that mud from rocks high above and displaced what had been a pool of water, fifteen-feet deep. One week and one storm had profoundly reconfigured ours and many other canyons in the vicinity. In the monumental terrain around Zion, nature can seem unchanging and eternal. But she isn’t, of course. Nature can swiftly reshape her handiwork whenever she chooses. It’s an awesome process to behold from comfortable vantage points secured by smart planning and discretion.

The canyons of the Zion region remain strikingly beautiful and ever-changing. Nick Wilkes, who still works for Zion Adventure Company, says that our trip was the only one in memory where most of the pools in Water Canyon were filled with sand instead of water. We were able to walk effortlessly in places where we would normally be treading water. Since our fine day of canyoneering with Nick and Tamara Faust, she’s traveled to India and is now living in the Midwest, a land of few canyons.


Rappel into narrow and beautifully sculpted slot canyons near Zion National Park, and discover extraordinary hidden worlds.
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