Adventure Travel


by John Hart  








 An Echo Canyon Pothole. 

Climbing out of Lower Echo.







Colors of Zion, Echo Canyon.








Starting down Kolob.





Dropping into Kolob Pothole.







Mystery Slot.













Down-climbing in Pine Creek.

















The Telephone Canyon Gully


Dropping in
















The Big Drop


The Omni-Sling Retrievable Anchor






Zion the Hard Way.   Our family drove through this park first in 1970.  Didn't have much of a clue as to the hidden treasures in the park - its canyons.  Sure, we hiked up The Narrows a ways and went to Emerald Lakes.  But I was into wildlife photography then, and the odd deer didn't much compare with being amongst (and on a few occasions being chased by) the big boys of Botswana and Alaska.  So it was great to return here in 2001 with a new perspective based on my newly developed rabid enthusiasm for canyon exploration:  searching out and spending time in some the most colorful and seductively eroded structures on the planet.  Rich Carlson of the American Canyoneering Association organized a canyoneering rendezvous here in August of 2001, where we descended several of the better-known technical canyons of Zion.  These were rigorous descents - ascents,  that served to hone my fledgling skills (and point out areas for improvement!).  I have since returned to Zion several times to do other technical hikes, and these forays into the canyons will always be remembered.


Zion sits on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, and through the years water has cut myriad slots into the sandstone.  By some estimates there are well over 50 major canyons in the relatively small area of Zion NP.  Most, maybe even all, have been descended, though published information exists on only a dozen or so.  The climate is monsoonal, with major rain falling in big thunderstorms that intermittently hit the area from July - September.  These can cause flash floods of awesome power that through the pummeling action of stones carried in the torrent manage to sculpt the canyons.  Snow in the winter can also cause runoff in the early spring.  Indeed, it is not uncommon to find snow and ice jams in some of the canyons as late as April or May.  Sandstone fractures vertically so is prone to slot formation by water erosion.  Though water flows intermittently, there are usually pools (potholes) in the canyons that are filled to varying degrees, depending on timing.  The interplay of water and light is marvelous and motivates our exploration.  



Kolob is one of Zion's gems.  A dam up on the rim releases water periodically, and, along with seeps lower down, this means there is usually a weak current through the canyon.  Unlike most all others in Zion National Park, which feature stagnant water (except in times of flooding, of course), Kolob is a wet canyon.  The water is COLD and a thick wetsuit or a drysuit is usually required.  As a one day adventure, a group of us went down about seven of the first waterfalls in Kolob, then hooked up ascenders and climbed them all back out.  An experience for sure!



Mystery Canyon is a Zion favorite.  Going from the East Rim down to the Virgin River involves about a dozen technical drops, culminating in a large wall rappel above the Mystery Spring, followed in short order by a big rap down a wet-wall into the Virgin River. 




Pine Creek is one of those little hikes that surprises and stimulates.  As the entrance is just off the Mt. Carmel road east of the big tunnel you can get right into it.  The slot may or may not have a couple of cold pools deep in bowels of darkness to swim through, depending on how long its been since a flash flood.  A neat geological feature, The Cathedral,  and a free-rap into a crystal clear seep-fed pool, illustrated below, make it a really nice half-day adventure to try.    


Free At Last.




Telephone canyon is a steep gully-slot that starts high up on the top of the West Rim of Zion Canyon.  To get there you must hike up past Angels Landing and continue on up West Rim Trail.  Telephone drops quickly in a series of raps.  There are a total of about 12 drops, of up to 160 feet, in less than a quarter mile.  There are sculpted walls and a few pools.  Considering the long uphill access and tired, not entirely downhill climb out, this is an all day escapade.  This canyon is named for an old telephone line that ran from the valley floor up to the West Rim.  Evidence for the line remains near the 1000' pour-off Lower Telephone.

Adventuring in Upper Telephone


Hiking Out of Telephone Canyon




Engelstead Hollow ranks along with Kolob, Imlay, and Heaps, as one of the classic big canyons of Zion.  It drops from near the top of the East Rim, all the way to the floor of the Zion Valley (via Orderville Canyon and a short section of the Narrows).  It features a monster rap to get in, sculptured slots, open spaces, a little water, an arch, and much more.


Ropework in Engelstead




Zion at its best.  Great Canyons, Great Friends.