July 26, 2019

Photo Credit: Shannon Hall

It’s like another world. A place where the light and colors can shift at any given time of day. A place where mystical meets reality. And it’s right outside your door. Sculpted by millions of years of erosion and rushing water, the slot canyons of southern Utah are hidden wonderlands that have to be seen to be believed.

To make sure your slot canyon adventure is rewarding and memorable for years to come, here’s our comprehensive guide that will take you through the tips and tricks you need to know before you go.

Tips and Tricks

To hike or to canyoneer?

In order to begin your journey, you will need to decide first if you want to hike or canyoneer through the slot canyons of Bryce Canyon Country. Both have their advantages, but it all depends on your comfort level.

Hiking can be a wonderfully relaxing way to spend the day out with family. Slot canyons provide picture-perfect sights to see and trails to enjoy. Make sure that you’re prepared for the ease of the trail, distance, elevation changes and other environmental factors.

Canyoneering is a different type of canyon experience that features long descents, sheer drops requiring rappelling harnesses and features slots so deep they can store continual pools of water. For the adventurous, canyoneering is an extremely rewarding activity that will take you through slot canyons in style. To successfully canyoneer, you may want to look into enlisting the services of a local guide and outfitter.

Check the weather!

Because of the narrow space of slot canyons, the risks from bad weather are a little more than hiking in more traditional settings. To combat this, watch weather forecasts before embarking on your slot canyon trek.

During and after rainstorms, slot canyons can be funneled with pools of water. Make sure that the day you’re planning on either hiking or canyoneering is free of rain in its forecast. The best times to do extreme canyoneering are between April and June. Check with local park rangers and other authorities in the area to ensure that your time in the canyon will be safe.

Take a buddy

Even the most well-researched adventurers can find that canyons hold unexpected surprises. A sudden rockfall can become an obstacle for a hike. It’s always best to go with at least one friend or a group.

Unsure of the more technical canyons and looking for an expert guide? Excursions of Escalante is the perfect resource to help you journey through slot canyons. With course training meant to help even the newest hikers learn the ropes, they’re an excellent choice if you’re seeking a guide with a little more experience.

Bringing a group, especially through a slot canyon, is the best practice to follow if you want to ensure your safety on the trail. At the very least, let others know your plans before venturing into the canyon so that if something goes south, others will know and be able to provide assistance.

What to bring

Canyoneering requires a higher level of commitment and attention in order to traverse most effectively. Bringing the best gear can make all the difference in your journey.

Whether hiking or canyoneering, the key piece of gear to put at the top of your list is a pair of sturdy shoes. Make sure the shoes are closed-toe with reliable grips on the soles and can take a heavy beating. You might find yourself stepping through shallow water, so make sure that your shoes can handle whatever terrain comes your way.

Use dry bags to protect your gear in the event of a water crossing. This is a crucial piece of gear as it allows you to keep your belongings and food free from water damage.

To keep yourself safe, make sure to bring a helmet as well as knee pads in case of a fall. Sunscreen is a given, as the sun is inescapable in a slot canyon. Also, be sure to bring at least 20 to 30 feet of cordelette in order to raise and lower gear as well as assist you in the rare case of an accident.

Traverse the canyon

Some slot canyons in Utah have pools of water that stretch through the narrow passageway. If you want to avoid stepping through them, use the technique of bridging. With this, you’ll want to put your hands and feet along the edge of the tight canyon walls and steadily move forward above the water. Make sure that as you do this, you maintain at least three points of contact or else you could get a little more wet than anticipated.

If you need to lower yourself down a slim yet sudden drop in the canyon, make sure to stem along the walls. To do so, place both of your hands firmly on one wall while you press your feet against the other wall. Then gently work your way down the short drop while maintaining pressure. This can work for traveling back up the canyon’s drop as well.

Lastly, if you find yourself in too tight of a slot, you can use the chimneying technique by placing your back against one wall and your feet on the other. Make sure to keep your rear above your thighs to avoid sinking or getting stuck.

Too technical for you? No worries. If you find yourself with more than a few feet of a drop or a rise in the canyon, either turn back or use sturdier equipment to ensure safe passage. This is one of the most effective ways to avoid injury within slot canyons.

The journey begins

With this guide, you’re ready to embark on your adventure through the slot canyons of Bryce Canyon Country. Remember to do your research before you go, checking the weather and the trail difficulty before committing to the trip. While in the canyon, be conscious of potential hazards that may arise and use the techniques above to move through the terrain. Lastly, make sure you have a buddy with you to keep safe and to create slot canyon memories with.

Categories: Canyoneering Hiking Slot Canyons