Canyoneering Route Description

Water Canyon - 3B III
Hildale / Short Creek, Utah
Near Zion National Park

Quick Facts

07-04-10, 6 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 10 hours) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 8 to 11 hours
Distance - 4.3 miles Total, 0.7 miles Technical
Rappels - 9 Rappels, Longest Rappel 170 feet.
Longest rappel may be only 105 feet, IF you decide to drop into the canyon at the
early drop in option rather than go up and over Top Rock to enjoy the upper canyon.
Elevation Range - 5230 - 6520 Feet
Shuttle Required -No Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - No

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 170 feet and60 feet of 1" webbing for sling placement.  Wet suits may be needed in colder months but generally not needed.  The sections of water are short so you can hurry through them without need for wet suits if the day is warm enough for you to warm up out of the water.

General Comments

Water Canyon is definitely a worthwhile visit.  The scenery at the falls and from Top Rock are great.  This combined with a fun straight forward canyon makes for a good day out.  

Water Canyon is not actually in the Zion National Park.  It is frequently guided by guide services in and around Zion and is very well known as one of the Zion Canyons.  I have listed it with the Zion Canyons for that reason.  

Water Canyon is different in that the trail to access the top is in and along the side of the canyon on the way up.  This means there are multiple points to drop in and multiple points to opt out of various rappels.  Keep this in mind when noting differences in beta from various sources.  

High on the right (east) canyon wall a huge arch can be seen.  From the trailhead the arch looks more like a huge alcove high on the side of the canyon wall about 0.25 miles up canyon.  As you hike up the trail, the angle of view changes and you are able to see sky through the arch and it is more recognizable as an arch.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From the junction of highways 9 and 59 in Hurricane Utah, drive about 21.8 miles to the turn of for Utah Avenue in the city of Hildale Utah (extUtahAve).   

Hildale is on the border of Utah and Arizona.  On the Utah side of the border the city is Hildale and the highway number is 59.  On the Arizona side of the border the city is Colorado City and the highway number is 389.  

Turn left (east) onto Utah Avenue.  Follow Utah Avenue 2.1 miles to where the street sweeps left (north) and becomes Canyon Street (extCanyonSt).   

Continue north on Canyon Street 0.8 miles to Water Canyon Road (ExtWaterCynRd).   

Turn right on Water Canyon Road which is dirt.  Follow Water Canyon Road 0.8 miles to a fork in the road (wWaterCynDP-01) and stay right at the fork.  Another 0.2 miles will be another fork (wWaterCynDP-02) stay left on the drive in to Water Canyon or if doing Dothraki Canyon turn right and park at the Squirrel Canyon TH. Another 0.9 miles will be a large dirt parking area (tWaterCanyon).  The large parking area is the trailhead for Water Canyon.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle required.  This is done as a loop hike.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

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

Details

The Approach:
From the trailhead where you parked (tWaterCanyon), hike north up canyon following a trail to the left (west) of the water course.  The path is well defined and easy to follow.  Along the way are several places where smaller trails break off to the right and drop down to the stream.  Rather than follow any of these trails down toward the water, stay left higher up, following a very well worn path up canyon.  

About 0.6 miles from the trailhead the path goes through a long section of thick vines (they look like grape vines but I am not sure they are).   

At about 0.8 miles from the trailhead the path will drop down to near the stream and follow along the left side of the canyon next to a vertical wall.  The path then goes up again then drops back down to the canyon floor this time in the middle of the stream at about 0.9 miles from the trailhead (yWaterCanyonBt).  This spot is marked as the bottom exit of Water Canyon.  

Take some time to appreciate the spot where the trail drops to the stream bed (yWaterCanyonBt).  A view up canyon reveals a gently sloped water fall with a deep 2 foot wide trough below.  The side walls on the canyon here have vertical water stained stripes and there are a number of fallen boulders that have been there long enough for the water to have rounded the corners leaving more good stuff to look at.  

Walk up canyon about 100 feet to the base of the gentle sloped water fall.  Climb along the rock to get to the top of the water fall.  After getting over the water fall you will see a large wall just up canyon blocking travel up canyon.  Look LUC (left up canyon) for a path climbing along the left (west) wall to continue up canyon.  

About 500 feet up canyon after the gently sloped water fall the path travels along the LUC (west) side of a slot about 8 feet deep.  In this slot are anchors to rappel the drop you just bypassed using the path.  This drop will be rappel 9 on your way back down canyon (dWaterCynR9).  The anchors are in the slot both LDC and RDC.  RDC has two glue-in anchors with chains and LDC has 2 glue-in anchors with no chains.  

A short distance up canyon of rap 9 will be another obstacle preventing travel up canyon in the stream bed.  There will be a sandstone ramp going up the center of the canyon and impassable climbs on either side of it.  Look left (west) for a path leading up along the wall on a ledge on the left (west) side of the canyon.  

Follow the ledge as it turns to a dirt path leading up along the left (west) side of the canyon.  The path then continues up higher on the canyon wall with a sandy path going through more vegetation.  

About 0.3 miles up canyon, the path comes to a possible drop in to the canyon.  The path appears to top out and start to drop back down to the canyon floor.  Following the path down will lead to some steep sand cover down climbs to the canyon floor that may be dangerously slippery.  Following the path down is not a safe option.  Look left (west) over to the canyon wall.  There you should find a set of bolts on a vertical wall near a pine tree.  These bolts are where an alternate rap down to the canyon floor can be used as your entry into the canyon to start your descent (wWaterCynRP-01).  

Do not drop down this rappel to start your descent down canyon.  Dropping down this rap will have you miss what I think is some of the best of the route.  To see more of the good stuff continue with the approach up and over Top Rock.  The rappel looks to be about 60 feet but I have not measured it.  

From the possible drop in (wWaterCynRP-01) follow the path that initially turns facing down canyon and starts to climb up the left (west) canyon wall.  The path starts out steep and sandy.  

About 250 later, the path appears to fade out.  Look for the continuation of the path up on a ledge about chest high where the trail continues now switch backing to the up canyon direction.  Follow the path up a series of sandy dirt and sandstone sections as it makes 6 or 7 switch backs up the canyon wall.  

After about 0.2 miles after the optional drop in the path appears to top out on the up canyon side of what feels like a small hanging valley (wWaterCynRP-02).  The trail here is more level and seems to web out to the south along the small hanging valley like area.  Do not go south along the web of inviting trails.  Instead turn right (north – in the up canyon direction) and follow one of a few paths leading roughly northwest up toward Top Rock.  

After about 200 feet you will reach the top out of the trail near Top Rock (sTopRock).  There is a point about 100 feet north with an incredible view of the area.  Take a moment to walk over an appreciate it.  

After enjoying Top Rock, follow the trails starting roughly west then curving right (north west).  The trail starts dropping down toward Water Canyon again.   

About 0.2 miles down from Top Rock the trail fades a bit (wWaterCynRP-03) as it gets closer to the canyon floor.  From here you can see a large hoodoo sitting on the canyon floor below about 200 feet away.  

Drop down into Water Canyon by the hoodoo (yWaterCanyonTp) which marks the top entry for Water Canyon.  There will be a down climb of about 5 feet just before reaching the sandy bottom of the canyon floor.

The Canyon / Technical Section:
Once on the canyon floor by the hoodoo (yWaterCanyonTp), turn right (east) and start walking down canyon in the sand.  

About 250 feet down canyon will be a drop of about 20 feet.  Bypass the drop by following a faint use trail LDC then scrambling down a sandstone slope to the canyon floor.  

Rap 1 (dWaterCynR1-2) is about 80 feet down canyon of the drop you bypassed.  Rap 1 is anchored from a large tree RDC about 30 feet back from the drop.  Rap 1 will need a rope length of about 110 feet from anchor to the bottom.  Rap 1 can be done with a single 200 foot rope if the anchor webbing is extended 15 or 20 feet out from the tree.  

Rap 1 can optionally be bypassed by traversing down canyon LDC and following a series of ledges to the canyon floor.  

Rap 2 is about 50 or 60 feet down canyon of rap 1.  Rap 2 starts down a slot and is anchored LDC from a single bolted hanger about head high as you enter the slot.  Rap 2 drops down 2 stages of about 10 then 15 feet each.  

The first stage of Rap 2 can be down climbed fairly easy and may need a thigh belay for some.  The second stage is down climbable but is a difficult down climb even with someone spotting from the bottom.  Although Rap 2 can be down climbed it is suggested you rappel it for the sake of safety.  

Rap 3 (dWaterCynR3-4) is about 250 feet down canyon of rap 2.  Rap 3 drops about 30 feet down to a medium sized shelf and has a single glue-in anchor RDC.  Near the bottom of rap 3 is a pothole about 2 feet in diameter and about 15 feet deep.  Do not throw the rope bag down from the top or you may have a little work to do to get it out of the pothole.  Instead the first person down should hang the bag from their harness and let the rope feed out as they rap.  

It is possible to down climb the slope slightly LDC of rap 3.  This is not suggested since it is steep and sometimes covered in sand.  If you slide down and go too far you will jettison over rap 4 and take a very long fall!  

Rap 4 starts from the shelf below rap 3 and is anchored from 2 glue-in anchors RDC.  Rap 4 drops down a mostly vertical wall about 170 feet to a pool at the bottom.  If full the pool would likely be chest high or maybe a swimmer and there would be no room to stand at the bottom of the rappel.  With levels dropped a bit there is room to stand for one person at the bottom of the pool but it is an awkward place to stand.  The rope pull is made much easier by pulling from the down canyon side of the pool which is about 40 feet across.  

After rap 4 is a narrow slot to travel through for about 300 feet.  At the end of the narrows you will find yourself on a wide open landing with the canyon to the left down below.  This landing is where you would drop to if you utilized the optional drop (wWaterCynRP-01) in rather than climb up to Top Rock.  

Looking over toward the canyon there are 2 options for dropping down to it.  On the right (east – down canyon direction) will be a drop down a slot that looks interesting from the top but has no obvious anchors.  The second option is to the left (west – up canyon direction) to a series of ledges that slope easily down to the canyon floor.  The ledges to the left are the recommended route down to the canyon floor.  

Just after getting down the ledges you will cross a pool as you continue down canyon.  

Rap 5 (dWaterCynR5) is about 80 feet after crossing the pool.  Rap 5 is anchored RDC from a small pine tree and drops about 25 feet.  There is also possible bypass trail around it LDC.  

Down canyon of rap 5 will be another narrow slot to get through.  On the down canyon end of the narrow slot will be a scramble down to a shelf.  On the other side of the shelf is a large Ponderosa Pine.  The anchor for rap 6 will be that Ponderosa and you will need to climb up about 10 feet on the other side of the shelf to get to it.  

Rap 6 (dWaterCynR6) is a little over 300 feet down canyon of rap 5.  Rap 6 is anchored from the large Ponderosa Pine and drops about 60 feet.  The lower half of Rap 6 is free hanging but you are close enough for your toes to touch the wall at various points along the way.  

The wall at the base of rap 6 has a large section of small holes in it.  This section of rock is striking.  Take a moment to look this over.  

Down canyon of rap 6 is a long sand bottom narrows that looks and feels like a hallway.  At the end of the hallway is a short drop over some logs to a pool below.  This drop will be rap 7.  

Rap 7 (dWaterCynR7-8) is a little over 500 feet down canyon of rap 6.  Rap 7 is a drop about 15 feet down into a pool.  At the top of the rap are some logs sticking up out of the sand.  The last person to go down can provide a meat anchor for everyone else.  The last person down can lap the rope over one of the logs sticking up out of the sand.  After rapping down the rope can be pulled around the log or simply flicked off the log.  The pool at the bottom of Rap 7 is a little over waist deep and is only about 10 feet across.  

It is possible to bypass rap 7 by climbing up a steep section of rock RDC then dropping back down a semi steep slope to the Ponderosa for the anchor to rap 8.  

On the other side of the pool climb up out of the canyon about 8 feet up by scrambling up the slick rock.  There you will find a large Ponderosa Pine where an anchor has been set for rap 8.  Alternately you can drop down the water course over a drop (not sure what the distance is or if it is easy) to find a set of glue-in anchors RDC below.  

Rap 8 is anchored from the Ponderosa which is about 20 feet back from the drop.  After the 20 foot slope down from the Ponderosa, Rap 8 drops another 45 feet to the canyon floor.  Mid way down rap 8 you can look over to a hanging pothole where the optional glue-in anchors are.  

From the top of rap 8 you can see the trail down canyon that was used on the hike up to the top of Water Canyon.  You will have to look close to see it but it is there.  

About 300 feet down canyon of rap 8 is a narrow slot with a drop of about 25 feet at the other end (wWaterCynRP-04).  Drop down into the slot rather than climb up on the large ledge LDC.  All but the last 6 feet of the drop is a pretty easy down climb.  The last 6 feet can be a little tricky as you stem between the walls near the bottom.  The last person down can easily provide a meat anchor for everyone else then down climb it.  

Rap 9 (dWaterCynR9) is about 350 feet down canyon after the down climb.  This is the rappel the approach trail hiked next to on the way up.  Rap 9 is anchored from glue-in anchors located down in a slot about 8 to 10 feet deep.  There are two sets of glue-in anchors to choose from here.  One set is on the RDC side of the slot and the other is on the LDC side of the slot.  Rap 9 drops about 105 feet down to a pool about waist high.   

The trail on the way up followed the LUC (left up canyon) side of the slot where rap 9 is located.  If you decided to skip this rappel you can follow the trail down RDC.  This is a very enjoyable rap so I recommend setting up the rappel and enjoy.  

Almost 200 feet down canyon of rap 9 is a ledge with glue-in anchors set to rappel about 40 feet to the canyon floor.  You can optionally rappel this drop or do a very quick and easy bypass of it using the trail RDC (which was used on the climb up the canyon).  

Next continue down canyon a short distance and scramble down the gently sloped water fall you climbed up on the way up canyon.  Then continue down canyon among the fallen boulders to find the trail up into the grape vines again (yWaterCanyonBt).

The Exit:
Follow the trail 0.9 miles back to the trailhead.

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

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.

Water Canyon (1) - Drive to Trailhead
  1. extUtahAve          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.00351   W -113.00152        Elev: NaN Feet
    Hwy 59 and Utah Ave.
  2. extCanyonSt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.00361   W -112.96330        Elev: NaN Feet
    Canyon St and Utah Ave
  3. ExtWaterCynRd          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.01456   W -112.96230        Elev: NaN Feet
    Turn off for Water Canyon road.
  4. wWaterCynDP-01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.02268   W -112.95406        Elev: NaN Feet
    Fork in the dirt road stay right on the drive in to Water Canyon.
  5. wWaterCynDP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.02609   W -112.95330        Elev: NaN Feet
    Fork in the dirt road stay left on the drive in to Water Canyon.
  6. tWaterCanyon          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.03781   W -112.95518        Elev: 5,230 Feet
    Water Canyon trailhead. This is a very large dirt parking area.
Water Canyon (2) - Approach
  1. tWaterCanyon          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.03781   W -112.95518        Elev: 5,230 Feet
    Water Canyon trailhead. This is a very large dirt parking area.
  2. yWaterCanyonBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.04885   W -112.96029        Elev: 5,770 Feet
    Path drops down to the stream bed here with a view up canyon to a small water fall and stripes along the vertical side walls creating a very scenic section worthy of pictures.
  3. dWaterCynR9          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05032   W -112.96126        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 9 - Water Canyon. Anchored RDC from two glue in anchors with chains or optionally from LDC from two glue in anchors with no chains. Rap 9 drops about 105 feet.
  4. wWaterCynRP-01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05340   W -112.96464        Elev: NaN Feet
    Possible rap down into the canyon to start the descent. The rap will likely be about 60 feet but I did not measure it and is anchored by 2 bolted hangers on the left (west) wall by a pine tree. If you drop in here you will miss what I think is a very fun part of the canyon. Continue following the path up to Top Rock.
  5. wWaterCynRP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05176   W -112.96441        Elev: NaN Feet
    Path seems to level off on the up canyon side of what feel like a small hanging valley. Do not follow the paths that web all over the small valley to the south. Instead turn north (up canyon) and continue toward Top Rock.
  6. sTopRock          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05209   W -112.96488        Elev: 6,520 Feet
    Trail tops out here near a point with an incredible view. Take a moment to walk north a few feet to enjoy the view from the point.
  7. wWaterCynRP-03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05358   W -112.96712        Elev: NaN Feet
    Trail fades as it drops down toward the wash below. A hoodoo down on the wash floor can be seen below. Travel down to the hoodoo.
  8. yWaterCanyonTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05405   W -112.96734        Elev: 6,355 Feet
    Top entry for Water Canyon. The trail drops down to the canyon floor here after going up and over Top Rock. A hoodoo is located here on the canyon floor.
Water Canyon (3) - The Canyon and Exit
  1. yWaterCanyonTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05405   W -112.96734        Elev: 6,355 Feet
    Top entry for Water Canyon. The trail drops down to the canyon floor here after going up and over Top Rock. A hoodoo is located here on the canyon floor.
  2. dWaterCynR1-2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05462   W -112.96665        Elev: 6,310 Feet
    Raps 1 and 2 - Water Canyon. Rap 1 anchored from a tree RDC about 30 feet back from the drop. Rap 1 is about 110 feet from anchor to ground but can be done with a single 200 foot rope if the anchor is extended from the tree 15 or 20 feet to keep the length down under 100 feet. Rap 2 is anchored from a single bolted hanger LDC near the start of a slot. Rap 2 drops over 2 stages of about 10 then 15 feet each with a horizontal section between them.
  3. dWaterCynR3-4          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05421   W -112.96587        Elev: NaN Feet
    Raps 3 and 4 - Water Canyon. Rap 3 is anchored from a single glue-in anchor RDC and drops about 30 feet. Do not throw rope down rap 3 since there is a deep narrow pothole at the bottom. Rap 4 is anchored from 2 glue-in anchors RDC and drops about 170 feet to a pool below.
  4. dWaterCynR5          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05360   W -112.96416        Elev: 6,001 Feet
    Rap 5 - Water Canyon. Rap 5 is anchored RDC from small pine and drops about 25 feet.
  5. dWaterCynR6          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05317   W -112.96330        Elev: 5,960 Feet
    Rap 6 - Water Canyon. Anchored from a large Ponderosa Pine and drops about 60 feet. Take a moment to look over the interesting holes along the wall at the base of the rap.
  6. dWaterCynR7-8          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05204   W -112.96235        Elev: 5,930 Feet
    Raps 7 and 8 - Water Canyon. Rap 7 Anchored from some logs sticing out from the sand at the top of the rap and drops about 15 feet. Rap 8 is just below rap 7 and is anchored from a large Ponderosa RDC. The Ponderosa is about 20 feet back from the drop and rap 8 drops a total of about 65 feet including the 20 foot slope down from the ponderosa.
  7. wWaterCynRP-04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05129   W -112.96198        Elev: 5,915 Feet
    Down climb of about 25 feet after going down a narrow slot.
  8. dWaterCynR9          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.05032   W -112.96126        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 9 - Water Canyon. Anchored RDC from two glue in anchors with chains or optionally from LDC from two glue in anchors with no chains. Rap 9 drops about 105 feet.
  9. yWaterCanyonBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.04885   W -112.96029        Elev: 5,770 Feet
    Path drops down to the stream bed here with a view up canyon to a small water fall and stripes along the vertical side walls creating a very scenic section worthy of pictures.
  10. tWaterCanyon          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.03781   W -112.95518        Elev: 5,230 Feet
    Water Canyon trailhead. This is a very large dirt parking area.