5 Amazing Technical Canyons of Zion National Park

Canyoneering is by far one of my most favorite spring/summer/fall activities. It’s physically challenging, extremely beautiful, and actually a good teamwork activity. There have been times I’ve questioned whether my fiancé and I would make it out of a canyon as a couple still, but we always do and we always seem to understand each other’s strengths, and weaknesses, a bit better after. Here are my top 5 most favorite technical canyons to hike in Zion National Park.

1) Mystery Canyon

This photo was taken at the second to last rappel of Mystery.

Mystery Canyon will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first canyon, which was filled with laughter, tears, screams, and panic attacks. The variety of emotions that come to me when remembering this canyon are sometimes intense, but this was the canyon that introduced me to the sport of canyoneering. As far as canyons go, Mystery has a bit of everything. It has intense hiking in the sun, shaded hiking that is a bit easier, a variety of rappels, and water in sometimes avoidable areas, but usually not. Depending on your rappelling and hiking skills, this canyon can be relatively long. The most noticeable part of the canyon is the final rappel. This will drop you right into the Narrows which will make you feel like a total bad-ass. As you drop over the edge you’ll get to look down at all the people hiking the Narrows, who have now stopped to watch a person fall from the sky like an angel. You won’t be able to suppress that slight feeling of superiority when you get to the bottom and the other hikers start clapping because who knew that was even possible?!

2) Boundary Canyon

Photo take at the bottom of a rappel in Boundary Canyon.

Boundary Canyon is possibly the most beautiful canyon I’ve ever done in Zion. We went right in the middle of spring, so it wasn’t too hot in the canyon but everything was blooming. It was also a relatively dry year, which kept us from running into unavoidable water. The most significant memory I have of this canyon is the amount of life we found within. Full raspberry bushes; flowers, flowers, and more flowers; trees; fish; frogs; even a wild turkey. We hiked through narrow slots, then through wide areas that housed clear ponds of water. The rappels aren’t anything super significant, but the hiking is just gorgeous. This canyon is also right on the boundary of Zion Park territory, so we didn’t need permits when we went — which was the reason we chose that canyon to begin with (the permit lottery is terrible).

3) Spry Canyon.

Taken in Spry Canyon toward the end of the rappels.

The first time I did this canyon I actually thought I was going to die. The climb to the first rappel is miserable if the conditions are not right. You are hiking in the middle of Zion Park on shale rock with hardly any life in sight. Walking the desert is only fun for the first little while, but when you drink half your water supply before you’ve made it to the first rappel is when you know this canyon is seriously trying to kill all who attempt to approach. But I was stupid enough to try it again, and the second time was amazing! We started early enough that we beat the afternoon sun and made it into the actual canyon once the day got hot. Then we were able to actually enjoy the rappels instead of dreading the climb out. This canyon does have water, lots of stagnant, frog infested water, but it always adds to the adventure — just bring a wet-suit. The most enjoyable part of this canyon was the fresh water pool we found at the end. After a long day of hiking and rappelling, a good swim is almost a must.

4) Englestead

This photo is the first rappel of Englestead

This canyon has the most dramatic entrance I’ve ever seen. The initial drop into the canyon is a stunning 300 foot rappel. It took me a while to actually get my body over the edge, but once I did I was in awe. The rest of the canyon is more or less basic, some nice small repeals and plenty of down climbs. It’s a very deep canyon so there are a lot of cool narrows to pass through. The roughest part is carrying all the rope you need for the first rappel through the whole canyon. Wasn’t one I’d beg for permits to do, but the first rappel is one all canyoneering junkies should do at least once.

5) Birch Hollow

I’m not positive this photo was actually taken in Birch Hallow.

This is a great canyon for beginners or those who want to take it easy. My group is not the brightest of people, so we planned two canyons in one weekend. Though it was tough, we managed to do Birch Hollow the day after Englestead (I DO NOT recommend doing this). Birch Hollow is short enough, and the hiking is easy enough, that it makes for a good day trip without causing your legs to shake for the next week. We also ended this canyon early enough in the afternoon that I was able to make a full gourmet camping meal, which made this experience so much better. A cold hot-dog is enough if you’re too dead to even chew, but if there’s time enough, I’m roasting that chicken! Simple, beautiful, relaxing canyon.