Category Archives: Canyoneering

Soldier Canyon – Prison Camp to Hairpin Turn

After quite a few days of rain this weekend finally brought drier weather, it seemed like an interesting chance to see Soldier Canyon full of water – so we set out on a hike from Prison Camp to Hairpin Turn via Soldier Canyon. If you stay in the water course there are a number of possible rappels – but this is also very fun canyon to do without technical gear and it is possible to see practically all of the canyon without any rappelling. The weather was cold and the canyon full of water so we bypassed optional rappels 1-3. Here is a quick comparison of the water flow between January of 2006 and December 2007:

2006 Soldier Canyon Boulder

2007 Soldier Canyon Boulder

This hike requires a car shuttle – the lower car should be parked in the pull-out along the right side of the road just before the first hairpin turn heading up the mountain (before the road crosses Soldier canyon). Climbers will know this as the parking area for the Hairpin Turn and Rivendale areas. After dropping off the car head for the the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area (often called ‘Prison Camp’) where, just as in past hikes to this area (same hike Jan. 2006, partial version of this hike 2007), we parked in one of the pull outs along the loop at the end of the road.

Start on Soldier Trail which will quickly take you to Soldier Canyon – leave Soldier Trail as it heads up and left and follow the canyon. Bypass the first drops and falls on a climber’s trail on the right side of the canyon and continue hiking and scrambling into and down the canyon. The scrambling in this section is generally easy, but it is also easy to escape the canyon bottom to bypass any difficulties.

Eventually the canyon flattens out as you hike thru the area where Soldier Trail crosses the canyon several times. Soldier Trail leaves the canyon for the last time and climbs up to the cliffs on the left side of the canyon just before the canyon begins to narrow into another beautiful – and possibly technical – section.

As you work down the narrowing canyon bottom you will come to a short drop, optional rappel 1 (depending on water flow stronger climbers may bypass this rappel). Shortly down canyon you will come to optional rappel 2 – this is more easily down climbed than the previous drop but flowing water could make the climbing quite slick. Work past another short drop on the left side of the canyon and down to optional rappel 3 which takes you around a huge boulder that creates one of the most beautiful spots in the canyon. It is awkward – but possible – to bypass optional rappel 3 by working up onto the cliffs on the left side of the canyon. All of the optional rappels can be easily avoided by hiking along the cliffs above the canyon and thrashing back down into the canyon bottom.

After the giant boulder there is one more set of cliffs down canyon that form optional rappel 4 – when the cliffs are dry this could be a down climb for confident climbers (there are also options to escape and reenter to the canyon). Past these cliffs the canyon is a beautiful hike down to Hairpin Turn with a number of small scrambles and occasional route finding puzzles. Map.


Arizona Canyoneering Books

I updated a few of my posts today to note that there were alternate descriptions in the latest book about canyoneering in Arizona:

Arizona Technical Canyoneering – by Todd Martin (you may know his website – Todd’s Desert Hiking Guide – lots of good information and hike/trip reports)

The other book that is not to be missed in this category is:

Canyoneering Arizona
– by Tyler Williams (revised edition)

I have not done enough of the hikes in either book to offer a review – but I have had a few good adventures with Canyoneering Arizona and am already excited about some of the destinations in Arizona Technical Canyoneering.



Inside Behunin Canyon

Recently ADT and I headed up to Zion to meet some friends and do a little canyoneering! Trips to Zion have been the high point in my summer for the last four years and this trip was no exception. This year we did Behunin (interesting entrance to the canyon and great final rappel) and Englestead (unforgettable start, walking thru the woods in a small stream and then walking out of the woods onto the huge first rappel!). Here are a few links and a little info if you are tempted to visit –

We usually stay in the Watchman Campground (reservations) – there are plenty of other options but the easy access to Springdale and the Backcountry Desk are a big plus. I think it has been windy just about every night that we have camped in the summer – well worth staking down your tent…

The hiking in Zion is fantastic and hassle free for day hikes – if you want to canyoneer inside the park there is a good chance you will need a permit. Opinions vary on this system, but for now you will likely want to visit the Zion National Park – Backcountry Reservation System – walk-in permits are available also.

If you are looking for some general canyoneering information you might start from the American Canyoneering Association website.

For detailed information about canyoneering in Zion try:
CanyoneeringUSA has the very useful Tom’s Utah Canyoneering Guide (including, of course, Zion) and many other interesting links. Tom Jones has also recently published a book Zion: Canyoneering.

Anther source for Zion Canyoneering information is Some of the canyons in the Zion section are only available to members of the site ($25 a year) and all contain useful information including GPS waypoints.

You can not have too much information so you might also check out Zion National Park Canyoneering – there were some details in these descriptions that helped us out on this trip.

Visit Zion!