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Water Canyon, One of Southern Utah's Best Adventures

Don't miss the 7-minute highlight video here.

Gluttons-for-punishment might enjoy the 90-minute blow-by-blow version here.

Liesl on the first rappel in Water Canyon
Liesl on the first rappel in Water Canyon

Few things make me happier than seeing the faces of friends and family light up when we go somewhere outdoors that is wild, majestic, and beautiful.

Slot canyons offer the modern adventurer a peek into what it was like to see the natural world in its pristine state. Soaring cliffs, dramatic drops, and stunning scenery await those willing to walk off a precipice, trusting to a tiny anchor and a narrow rope. Hiking, climbing, scrambling, swimming, and rappelling are typically required in these marvelous places. Canyoneering is a relatively new sport, moving into the mainstream, so to speak, only in recent years.

Access often requires a lengthy, strenuous approach hike that keeps used-toilet-paper-strewing "riff-raff" away. Dehydration, hypothermia, heatstroke, and costly mistakes are very real risks, but proper preparation and fitness reward the adventurer with an unforgettable communion with nature and one's fellow travelers.

The author tries to keep dry using a technique called stemming.
The author tries to keep dry using a technique called stemming.

Five years ago today my wife and I took a friend and several kinfolk on our first sibling canyoneering trip. It was the maiden rappelling voyage for most of them and all of them have joined subsequent trips so apparently none of them hated me as a result. Bonus! And it ended up being one of the most fun and rewarding days of my life.

Our destination that day, Water Canyon, features all the beauty of nearby Zion National Park, without the crowds or technical route permits. I first experienced this magical place years ago while accompanying our local boy scout troop on an overnight campout. The following morning at "top rock" was one of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen.

Siblings Doug and Dave on the 165 foot "big wall".
Siblings Doug and Dave on the 165 foot "big wall".

Water Canyon can be enjoyed as a day hike, overnight or multi-day backpacking trip, or as a technical canyoneering route requiring ropes and other equipment and training.

Many excellent websites provide extensive details on this adventure, so I won't repeat them here, but be advised that this is an all-day adventure in the backcountry, i.e. wilderness. You're on your own. Rescue is very difficult and is typically hours or days away.

Big smiles all day long
Big smiles all day long

Since that day we've gotten together once or twice a year for a canyoneering adventure. No one has died and gratifyingly, more and more family members have joined us as the years have passed.

Two years ago several of us took the next generation on their first "cousins" trip, with some as young as seven years-ago hanging off a cliff. It has been a delightful way to gather, have long and deep conversations, and fret together about getting old.

I assembled a seven-minute highlight reel here:

If you want to see more of the route and hear more of the banter our family is (in)famous for, check out the 90-minute version here:


  1. What do you do to stay close to family and friends?

  2. What does spending time in nature do for you?

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