Water Canyon - Slot Canyon

Independence day two thousand fifteen!  Linda and I decided to enjoy our independence day free from the crowds and noise of parades,  parks and picnics.  Now don't get me wrong, the 4th of July, as observed in Cedar City, Utah is as great a small down tradition as any small town in America.  A parade down Main Street, with floats and bands, clowns and candy which terminates at the large city park on the corner of Main and 200 North.  Memories from my youth and my children's youth prove just how timeless this tradition is and I'm sure (and hopeful) that there will be many more memories created of Main Street parades and parks to come.  But today Linda and I are headed to the Canaan Wilderness Area for a parade of a different nature.


Due south of Zion National Park and a continuation of stunning, rugged sandstone peaks is the Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area.  Rarely visited, this wilderness back country holds a stunning assortment of hikes, canyons, hoodoos and slickrock slabs.  Our trek begins by traveling south on UT-59 to Hildale, UT.   Using Google maps enter 37.0362, -112.9534; which will provide directions through Hildale on Utah Ave, to Canyon Street and Water Canyon Rd.  The road is well traveled and often deeply grooved after heavy rains.  However, water canyon is a very popular canyon with water running year around.  A car might have some difficulty, but a 2-wheel drive vehicle with clearance should be okay.  Drive to the end of Water Canyon Rd and park in the small dirt parking lot.  There is no sign or trailhead designation.

A wide and well used trail makes it's way along the creek.  Breaking from the direct line of the creek bed, the trail begins a long traverse up the hillside among pinion pine and wild blackberry bushes.  Be sure to look high on the canyon wall (hikers right) as the stunning Water Canyon Arch (aka: Eye of Heaven Arch) can be seen near the top.  Soon the trail drops into a large rock alcove and into the stream once again.  This is water canyon.  

Hike up the (very slick) water way of cracks and sand to the second layer of the alcove.  This is the location of the final rappel for the technical canyon section of Water Canyon.  The trail to continue up canyon is behind you and to the right.  Hike the small shelf system up past two additional layers.  Some route finding skills are required, but the trail is well worn and should be easy to locate.  On the return, you will notice that many of the rappel stations are right next to the trail which makes this canyon unique in the sense that shortcuts and walk around's abound. The entire canyon consists of 9 rappels from top to bottom.  I won't bore you with the canyoneering detail's in this trip report, as there are many sites written by experts, like BluuGnome , who take great pride in accounting for every aspect and detail of the route. 

Our experience was awesome, we reached TopRock just under 2 hours (1h:49m) and had a nice long snack break.  Continuing on the trail, we broke toward the canyon and dropped in near a large stunning hoodoo of yellow and red.  This is a stunning section of the Canaan Mountains.  The first rappel is 80 feet and we set up our rope to the existing anchors.  Three out of our group of 6 are reasonably experienced canyoneers, 3 are new, not necessarily first time rappelling, but new to the sport of canyoneering.  We take our time and make assignments for the technical section of the canyon.  

The first drop is into water.  The water can be avoided by a hike around, or can be minimized with ankle deep water on ledges.  We all make it down and pull the rope.  The next two drops are a little more complicated and end up in chest deep water or a long wall to wall stem.  This section really chews up the time as we play around with not getting wet.  We were expecting a hot sunny day, but shadows and shade has kept things cooler than we expected and the pot hole water is especially cold. 

We finally move on, but soon we don't have a choice about getting wet or not.  Just after a tight squeeze the water rises to my chest and I slip in and hold my pack above my head.  I'm glad I don't have to swim, but I emerge on the other side completely soaked and getting hit in the face with droplets of rain. 

Stopping for lunch, the group is in shivers as the slight breeze and rain has kept us cool.  Thankfully the rain doesn't last long and isn't very heavy. Excessive rain and slot canyons do not mix with visitors very well.  We eat and visit while setting up the next rappel.  The canyon is really open at this point and I marvel at the colorful hoodoos cross canyon.  Some slot canyons never let you see anything but the inside of the canyon and I'm grateful that the slope here is more gentle.  

Noticing that Linda is still carrying her pack I offer to add it to my pack to allow for freedom of hands during any potential swimming yet to come. The pack is considerably heaver that I expected until I realize it is full of rocks.  True to form, Linda has picked up several beautiful samples and small handfuls of moqui marbles.  The rich iron in the sandstone creates stunning rock forms and unlike many other areas in the vicinity this BLM - controlled area is not under  the same restrictions as the neighboring Zion National Park. 

The next rappel contain's a walk around that allows us to skip a short but awkward rappel which I remembered from my previous trip and this is okay by me.  We are in a rhythm now as everyone knows their jobs and confidence has grown.  We set up, hook up and enjoy the rappel.  The views are stunning and every twist and turn creates a new challenge which is rewarded by new discoveries.  Almost without notice we are setting up at the next rappel station when we see a father/daughter couple walking up the trail who stop to watch.  We are almost done.  The couple asks if they can take pictures which we readily agree is okay.   It is one of my favorite rappels. A step across a large crack makes our beginners a bit nervous and a large overhang allows for a 30 foot free drop to a sandy bottom.  Impressive. 

The final two rappels end without incident and we are exhausted after our nine hour adventure.  Soon the pop and bangs of fireworks in the canyon mark the sounds of independence day once again as we walk the short distance back to our cars.  Dinner out with friends mark the conclusion of a stunning day of independence.