Canyoneering Route Description

Mystery Canyon - 3B III
Zion National Park, Utah.

Quick Facts

10-01-09, 3 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 9 hours - Start from Weeping Rock trailhead) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 7 to 9 hours
Distance - 7.6 miles Total, 1.8 miles Technical (starting from Weeping Rock trailhead).
Rappels - 11 Rappels, Longest Rappel 135 feet.
Elevation Range - 4440 - 6820 Feet
Shuttle Required - No - if starting from Weeping Rock Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - Yes

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 135 feet and 50 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement.  Wet suits are only needed in the cooler months.

General Comments

Mystery Canyon has a lot of variety.  The entry to the head of Mystery Canyon starts out with a steep drop down loose terrain in to the canyon.  This drop will get and definitely deserves your attention.  It is easily descended but care must be taken not to slip and slide along the way.  After the steep descent, the canyon levels off a bit where you will encounter some unnecessary anchors.  Each of these can be bypassed by climbing around to the right (RDC).  About 1 mile from the head of the canyon is the first mandatory rappel and the start of the narrow section of the canyon and starts a series of 5 rappels in close succession to the sharp left turn in the canyon.  After the left turn the canyon opens a bit and a few more rappels will get you to a seasonal lake.  The seasonal lake, if dry is a nice walk or maybe a muddy mess.  If the canyon has high water levels the lake can be a very long swim.  The lake is created by a huge dirt / rock slide just down canyon.  The canyon is wide open with lots of views for a short distance after the lake dam before getting to the final section.  The last section of Mystery is like an oasis since the bottom of the 135 foot rap 10 is where a year round spring starts.  The last rap is less than 0.5 miles below the spring.  The spring fed section is very beautiful but very short so take time to enjoy it because it will be over so quick you may feel you got ripped off.  After the final rap of 120 feet to the Narrows the route is completed by enjoying about 0.5 miles of the narrows then the river walk sidewalk.   If the canyon had a longer spring fed section I would rate it higher on my revisit list, but it doesn’t.

Note on getting to the correct canyon head:
At times people drop into the wrong canyon while looking for Mystery Canyon.  While looking for Mystery Canyon, some have accidentally dropped into NotMystery Canyon (sometimes called MissMe Wash) which is west of Mystery or have accidentally dropped into Mis-Me Canyon which is east of Mystery.  To be sure you do not drop into the wrong canyon, refer to the notes in the route description.   

Not Mystery (the one west of Mystery) is the only one you definitely do not want to drop into by accident.  Not Mystery has a very large drop or rappel sequence at the end that drops down to the River Walk trail below.  Since it is a popular trail below the lower portion of NotMystery is closed.  Also if you drop into NotMystery by accident you will likely have insufficient rope to get down the last drop anyway.  Doing this has left some parties stranded and requiring rescue.  

When viewed from the head, some of the down canyon walls of NotMystery are higher than you are while looking into it.  This is not the case for both Mystery and Mis-Me Canyons where the down canyon walls are lower than you are while looking into it from the head.  

For more on locating the correct canyon refer to the route description.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

Park your vehicle at the Zion visitor center.  From there take the shuttle to the Weeping Rock stop to begin the route.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle is needed.  After exiting and returning to the Temple of Sinawava trailhead, ride the shuttle back to the visitor center.

Maps - - - - GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom of this route description.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map of the entire route.
Map of the technical section.

Details

The Approach:
From the Weeping Rock shuttle stop get to the trailhead sign for Weeping Rock and Observation Point (tObpntWpRk).  Follow the trail leading toward Observation Point.  The trail here is paved and starts up a series of steep switchbacks.   

About 0.7 miles from the start, you will pass the junction to Hidden Canyon (jHiddenCynBt), stay left and continue toward Observation Point.   About 0.5 miles after passing the junction to Hidden Canyon the trail will level off and turn into a big narrow section, echo canyon.  

After winding through this portion of Echo Canyon for a little over 0.25 miles the trail will start up the left side leaving the canyon floor.  This is where Upper Echo Canyon exits onto the trail (yEcho-MidBt).  About 0.3 miles later will be a trail junction for the East Rim or East Mesa trail (jEastMesaTrl), stay left and continue on the East Mesa trail toward Observation Point.  

Continuing up from the East Mesa Junction toward Observation Point the trail starts up another series of steep switch backs (still paved trail) as it continues toward Observation Point.  There are great views in this area so get a hold of yourself and stop staring at the ground.  After about 1.6 miles the trail will level off a bit at another trail junction (jObservatnPt).

From the trail junction to Observation Point (jObservatnPt), turn right (north east) and follow the East Mesa Trail (not toward Observation Point).  The trail from the junction starts out mostly level then soon starts to climb again.  Shortly after leaving the junction you will be able to see a large canyon on the left (north) which is NotMystery Canyon or sometimes referred to as Miss-Me Wash.  About 600 feet after the Observation Point junction you begin to have views down into NotMystery.  The trail will continue to climb while going around the head of NotMystery. 

Note:
Differentiating Not Mystery Canyon from Mystery Canyon.

NotMystery Canyon can be seen from the trail when you are slightly west of its apex and some of the down canyon walls of NotMystery are notably higher than the trail.  By contrast Mystery is not seen from the trail (you need to walk about 60 to 80 feet north of the trail to see it) and the down canyon walls are all lower than the trail.

Also of note, while going around the head of NotMystery the trail will have some steps in it made from logs placed across the trail and filled in with dirt.  This is good to note to help prevent dropping into NotMystery when you are looking for Mystery.  Approaching from the Weeping Rock trailhead you will need to climb up the trail using these steps and continue along the trail to the next canyon.  If you are approaching from the east side of the park and you find these steps in the trail you will know you have gone too far and passed Mystery Canyon.

Note / Warning!!:
NotMystery Canyon (Miss-Me Wash) is closed since the final rappel sequence drops down over the Zion Narrows River Walk trail.  The lower section of the canyon is closed to keep people on the River Walk trail safe from falling debris.  Some people have mistakenly dropped into NotMystery Canon while thinking they were in Mystery Canyon, which has resulted in emergency rescues.  The final rap sequence in NotMystery is quite long and those prepared for Mystery Canyon do not have the rope length needed to complete final section.  They do not find this out until they have already pulled ropes from previous rappels on their descent.  This leaves them stuck between raps and requiring rescue.  NotMystery is west of Mystery Canyon and should not be confused with Mis-Me Canyon which is a relatively easy canyon and is to the east of Mystery.  Since NotMstery is sometimes referred to as MissMe Wash it is easy to confuse it with Mis-Me Canyon.

About 0.7 miles after the Observation Point junction the trail will top out and level off for a short distance then begin to lose elevation down the other side of the top out.  About 500 to 900 feet after the top out of the trail Mystery Canyon will be on the left (north).  From the trail Mystery Canyon is not readily seen.  Look for one of a few social trails leaving the main trail and going north over to the head of Mystery. 

The head of Mystery Canyon is about 0.9 miles from the Observation Point junction a well defined use trail leaves the main trail and goes north to the drop in for Mystery Canyon (yMysteryTp).  The drop in at the head of Mystery Canyon is about 80 feet off the main trail.

The Canyon / Technical Section:
From the head of Mystery Canyon the use trail starts down a VERY steep slope.  Travel here is very slow since it would be easy to slip.  If you slip here you may find yourself tumbling a little way before you get yourself stopped.  The steep slope continues for a little over 0.3 miles before beginning to level off a little.  This sloped area is sometimes referred to as Death Gully.  After the slope levels off, travel becomes easier allowing you to take in the sights rather than focus on your every step.   

Along the way will be a bolted anchor over a drop of about 20 feet.  This anchor is not needed as there is a very easy route to climb around the drop RDC (east).  A little further down canyon will be a cairn style anchor over another short drop.  This anchor is also not needed as there is an easy route to climb around the drop to the right (east).  A little further down canyon is another bolted anchor over a drop of about 40 feet.  This anchor is also not needed as there is an easy climb around route to the right (east).  A little further down canyon is a log jam at the top of a drop.  There is an anchor after the log jam to rap the drop.  This anchor is not needed either as there is a well worn climb around path that leads around the log jam and drop.  

A short distance after the 4 unnecessary anchors (about 1.0 mile from the head of the canyon where you left the main trail) will be another anchor consisting of two glue-in style anchors.  If you have not been counting the unnecessary anchors along the way you will still know this one is the first mandatory rappel.  The anchor is in a tall narrow section where it is obvious you will not be climbing around this one.  This drop is Rap 1 (dMysteryR1-3).  

Rap 1 drops about 50 feet and is anchored LDC by 2 glue in anchors about head high on the wall.  Rap 1 has a slight overhang near the top as the rappel drops over a boulder then continues the rest of the way down a smooth fluted wall.  

Rap 2 is about 50 feet down canyon of rap 1.  Rap 2 is anchored from two anchors, one a glue-in and one a bolted anchor.  The anchors are RDC about head high.  Rap 2 drops about 40 feet.  

Rap 3 is about 50 feet down canyon of rap 2.  Rap 3 is anchored from two glue-in style anchors about head high on the wall LDC and drops about 40 feet.  Rap 3 drops along another smooth slightly fluted wall.  

About 50 feet down canyon of rap 3 is a very old (looks homemade) anchor LDC just above a down climb of about 8 or 9 feet.  This is a pretty easy down climb so the anchor is not really needed but it is interesting to see that some have rappelled off of what looks like nothing more than a bolted metal strap.  About 50 feet down canyon of this down climb is a short down climb to the top of rap 4 (dMysteryR4-5).  

Rap 4 is anchored RDC by a single (looks a bit old) bolted anchor.  Rap 4 drops over large boulder choke stone with some overhang under it.  The total drop is about 15 feet.  

Rap 5 is close to the bottom of rap 4.  Rap 5 is anchored RDC about head high from two anchors, one bolted and the other glue-in.  Rap 5 is a 2 stage rap with a few rocks to step over to get to the next stage.  The drops for Rap 5 are 10 feet for stage one and about 15 feet for stage 2.  

At the bottom of rap 5 the canyon is finishing up its hard left turn to the west.  The canyon also starts to open a bit and loose the tight dark slot feel.  A couple hundred feet and a few fun down climbs after rap 5 and the canyon turning westward, is the top of rap 6 (dMysteryR6).  

Rap 6 is anchored RDC by two bolted anchors about chest high.  Rap 6 drops about 20 feet.  From the top of Rap 6 you can see the canyon is about to open up a lot.  

A short distance down canyon of rap 6 is a down climb down a log.  Near the bottom of the log are the anchors for Rap 7 (dMysteryR7-8).  

Rap 7 is anchored from two bolted anchor RDC.  Rap 7 drops about 50 feet by starting over a boulder then continuing down a smooth rock slope.  

Rap 8 is about 60 feet down canyon of rap 7.  Rap 8 is anchored from a single bolted anchor RDC.  Some will find this a pretty easy down climb, while others will not want to down climb it, so for this route description it will be counted as a rappel.  Rap 8 drops about 25 feet and as stated can be down climbed if desired.  

Travel down canyon of rap 8 is easy with a couple quick simple down climbs.  About 0.25 miles from rap 8 is a seasonal lake created from a huge rock slide.  When there is not water in the lake it is an easy walk along a wide wash to a tall rock / sand slope (which is what dammed up the canyon to form the seasonal lake).  If there is a lot of water in the canyon you will be greeted with a LONG swim of around 800 feet.  If exceptionally full of water part of the swim will be through a section of trees.  

After getting to the end of the seasonal lake (rather you swam or walked) climb up a trail RDC (north) to get to the top of the dirt and rock dam.  From the top of the dam (sMysteryLakDam) there are great views of the now wide open Mystery Canyon.  From the top of the dam, make your way down the steep loose slope back to the canyon floor.  There will be a couple down climbs of about 10 feet just before getting back down to the canyon floor.

Rap 9 (dMysteryR9) is a few hundred feet after getting down the slope of the dam.  Rap 9 is anchored RDC by two glue-in anchors on the ground.  Rap 9 drops about 50 feet down a sloped rock face.  

After rap 9 the canyon has sections of sandy wash with lots of vegetation and a few simple down climbs.  A short distance down canyon from rap 9 is a drop of about 20 feet with a large log forming a bridge down the drop.  At the bottom of the log the canyon is narrow sandstone slot.  About 150 feet down canyon of the log bridge the canyon turns left to reveal a large sand filled (if in dry conditions) pothole on the right with a large sloped slab on the left.  On the other side of the pothole is a big drop in the canyon which is Rap 10.  

Rap 10 (dMysteryR10) is about 0.2 miles down canyon from rap 9.  Rap 10 is LDC and just a little down canyon of the big drop from the pothole.  To get to Rap 10, traverse the large sandstone slab on the left (LDC).  There are two sets of bolted anchors at the end of the slab.  A hand line has been placed over to the anchors for safety.  If you are careful this can easily be done without the safety line but it is still a good idea to clip in.  

Rap 10 is anchored from one of two sets of bolted anchors and drops about 100 feet to a huge choke stone then off the huge choke stone another 35 feet to a pool below (total drop is about 135 feet.  

There is a year round spring at the bottom of rap 10 so there will always be water in this pool which is a swimmer but for only a few feet.  With a little skill you can swing over to the RDC side of the pool and drop yourself onto a rock ledge that is about 2 feet under water.  From there it is a bit of a trick but you can manage to get across the pool and only get wet a little over wait high.  Warning you may fall in while trying this.  :)  

With the year round spring feeding this section of the canyon there are hanging gardens and water running down canyon.  This section feels like an oasis in the canyon.  Travel down canyon from rap 10 is along sections of flowing water and a couple down climbs of about 10 feet that some may want a belay for.  

Rap 11 (dMysteryR11) is about 0.1 miles down canyon of rap 10.  The canyon from rap 10 to Rap 11 feels like a paradise with all the water and greenery between the high narrow walls.  After reaching Rap 11 it feels like you got ripped off because the paradise was so short and is now over.  

Rap 11 is anchored from a set of glue-in anchors LDC.  Rap 11 drops about 120 feet to the Virgin River Narrows.  Rap 11 drops along a sloped wall with constant water flowing down it with lots of slippery algae on it.  It can be pretty slick so be careful not to slip.  If there are a lot of tourists in the area you might even get some applause while dropping to the river below.

The Exit:
After getting to the river (yMysteryBt) at the bottom of rap 11, follow it down stream less than 0.5 miles to where the River Walk trail (paved) meets the river.  Go up the stairs to the sidewalk and walk another mile to the lower trailhead for the Narrows (tNarrowsBot) which is the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.  

Ride the shuttle back to the visitor center to get your vehicle.

GPS Waypoint Information

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Mystery (1) - Approach from Weeping Rock
  1. wBusStpWeepRock          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.27098   W -112.93942        Elev: 7,327 Feet
    Weepeing Rock and East Rim trail bus stop.
  2. tObpntWpRk          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.27053   W -112.93855        Elev: 4,371 Feet
    Trail head for Weeping Rock and Observation Point.
  3. jHidnCynTrlBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.26949   W -112.93615        Elev: 4,760 Feet
    Junction off the Observation trail where the Hidden Canyon trail starts.
  4. yEcho-LowerTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.27049   W -112.93247        Elev: 5,250 Feet
    Of note there is a USDI - NPS elevation marker here that says the elevation is 5194.
  5. yEcho-MidBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.27237   W -112.93107        Elev: 5,320 Feet
    Bottom Exit of Echo Canyon.
  6. jEastMesaTrl          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.27427   W -112.92827        Elev: 5,620 Feet
    Junction where the East Mesa trail starts off the East Rim trail and heads toward Observation point.
  7. jObservatnPt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28105   W -112.93656        Elev: 6,510 Feet
    Junction off of the East Mesa trail to Observation Point.
  8. jNotMystery          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28246   W -112.93565        Elev: 6,474 Feet
    This is where you would leave the trail to get to teh head of NotMystery Canyon. The apex of the NotMystery Canyon meets the trail about 800 feet east of this point.
  9. yNot-MysteryTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28304   W -112.93533        Elev: NaN Feet
    Top of Not Mystery got it's name from people getting in mistakenly and needing rescue. Final rap is about 500 feet down to the river walk with bad rock fall problems. Canyon has been closed.
  10. yMysteryTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28903   W -112.93019        Elev: 6,775 Feet
    Top entry to Mystery Canyon.
Mystery (3) - The Canyon and Exit
  1. yMysteryTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28903   W -112.93019        Elev: 6,775 Feet
    Top entry to Mystery Canyon.
  2. dMysteryR1-3          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30263   W -112.93209        Elev: NaN Feet
    Raps 1 - 3 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 1 anchored from 2 glue-in anchors LDC and drops about 50 feet. Rap 2 anchored from 2 anchors RDC and drops about 50 feet. Rap 3 anchored from 2 glue-in anchors LDC and drops about 40 feet.
  3. dMysteryR4-5          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30324   W -112.93278        Elev: NaN Feet
    Raps 4 - 5 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 4 anchored from singe bolted anchor RDC and drops about 15 feet. Rap 5 anchored from 2 anchors RDC and drops about 25 feet over 2 stages.
  4. dMysteryR6          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30304   W -112.93324        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 6 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 6 anchored from 2 bolted anchors RDC and drops about 20 feet.
  5. dMysteryR7-8          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30290   W -112.93350        Elev: NaN Feet
    Raps 7 - 8 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 7 anchored from 2 bolted anchors and drops about 50 feet. Rap 8 anchored from a single bolted anchor RDC and drops about 25 feet but should be down climbable by most.
  6. sMysteryLakDam          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.30094   W -112.93754        Elev: NaN Feet
    Top of the natural dam that forms a seasonal lake in Mystery Canyon. Great views down canyon from here.
  7. dMysteryR10          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.29930   W -112.94246        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 10 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 10 anchored from one of two sets of bolted anchors at the end of a sandstone ledge LDC and drops about 135 feet to a pool below with a huge choke stone near the bottom.
  8. dMysteryR11          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.29932   W -112.94435        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 11 in Mystery Canyon. Rap 11 is anchored from 2 glu-in anchors LDC and drops about 120 feet to the Virgin River Narrows.
  9. yMysteryBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.29928   W -112.94447        Elev: 4,560 Feet
    Bottom exit of Mystery Canyon where it meets the Virgin River Narrows after the 120 foot Rap 11.
  10. jRiverWalkEnd          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.29672   W -112.94818        Elev: 4,560 Feet
    This is where the river walk side walk meets the river in The Narrows.
  11. tNarrowsBot          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.28535   W -112.94785        Elev: 4,440 Feet
    Bottom trailhead for the Virgin River Narrows at the Temple of Sinawava.