An adventure sport pioneered in Southern Utah, canyoneering involves rappelling deep into desert canyons and then making your way through by means of scrambling, hiking, down-climbing, sliding, and still more rappelling. It’s no easy task, but it’s also one of the most incredible, adrenaline-inducing, mentally-demanding, insanely exciting outdoor adventures I’ve ever experienced!
Although there’s plenty of skill transfer for climbers and those familiar with scrambling through rocky terrain, canyoneering is still highly technical— every year, people fall hundreds of feet to the canyon floor thanks to poor anchors or misused equipment. As much as we were eager to add canyoneering to our outdoor activity repertoire, we also knew we’d need careful guidance and supervision in our early attempts.
This week, we set off with East Zion Experiences to explore Ladder Canyon, a beginner slot canyon near the east boundary of Zion National Park that would offer us a taste of canyoneering without the risk or responsibility of going it alone. It ended up being the highlight of our week and we can’t wait to explore more canyons in the future!
All the details: Canyoneering with East Zion Experiences
Cost | East Zion Experiences offers an amazing half-day (4hr) UTV/Rappelling Slot Canyoneering tour for $159USD. The price includes transport to the canyon, all technical canyoneering gear, cold water, and some seriously awesome guides!
Getting there | The East Zion Experiences office is located at 20 E Frost Ln, Orderville, UT (about 25min north of Kanab). You’ll need to check in here prior to your tour and then the EZE guides will transport you to the canyon trailhead in a UTV!
Where to stay | Rodeway Inn Kanab offers basic but comfortable rooms right in town starting at $45/night. There’re also SO many amazing free campsites in and around the area; check iOverlander for up-to-date info, but we particularly like Hog Canyon and various spots off the 89 near Mt Carmel Junction.
Top tips | I’d recommend wearing an athletic shirt, pants/tights, and athletic shoes or hiking boots with good grip. Also be sure to bring a small backpack with your camera, extra water, and any snacks you may want!
A big thank you to East Zion Experiences for hosting me on their awesome half-day canyoneering tour in exchange for an honest review of the experience. As always, all opinions in this post are entirely my own!
We arrived to the East Zion Experiences office in Orderville, UT on a particularly bright and sunny Tuesday morning, eagerly greeted by our guides Koby and Tanner and welcomed into the shop.
After grabbing harnesses, helmets, and gloves, we packed into a sleek UTV and set off into the desert. The journey to the canyon was half the fun, blazing through deep sand and over downed branches with astounding ease. I’d never even seen one of these vehicles prior to arriving in Utah, but now I totally understand the appeal— it’s a wild ride on otherwise impassable terrain!
The scenery was equally impressive— even though we were outside Zion National Park, the landscape is almost indistinguishable from what you find along the scenic Zion-Mt Carmel Highway through the east entrance.
The only difference was the lack of crowds, a little slice of Zion paradise all to ourselves!
After a short 15min hike to reach the top of the canyon, we dropped our bags and the guides got to work on the anchor, setting up our ropes and offering instruction on how to rappel safely into the canyon.
Most of the details were familiar from our experience rock climbing (and rappelling at the end of a route), but some of the gear, namely the “critters” we used to control our descent, were completely new.
After a quick demonstration, we felt ready to hop on the rope, volunteering to be the first to descend two-at-a-time into the upper section of Ladder Canyon. Soon, we were on the sandy floor staring back up at the rock wall we just descended, grinning at each other and poking our heads around the corner to see what further adventure awaited.
Over the next several hours, we descended through Ladder Canyon via a series of rappels and exciting down-climbs, each move forward revealing an even more jaw-dropping part of the canyon.
Aside from Antelope Canyon, we struggled to remember any slot canyon as spectacular as this, slowing regularly to take photos and climb random features just for the chance to spend an extra minute among the wildly eroded orange and red sandstone.
Our final rappel was the best yet, a 70ft drop into the sand below that gave us a glimpse into just how thrilling canyoneering can be.
After only a few hours, we were hooked, determined to learn more about canyoneering and begin working towards an adventure of our own.
As one of our guides described it to us, it’s as much the thrill of problem solving along a route, using judgement and experience to set anchors in unlikely places and move safely through a canyon, as it is the genuine adrenaline that makes canyoneering such an addictive hobby— we couldn’t agree more!
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