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Kolob Canyon - Zion National Park

Summary: A cool and strenuous technical two day canyon trip with some nice narrows. To complete this canyon you will need: 2 x 50 meter ropes, harness w/ descending gear, webbing, dry bags, wet or dry suit, camping gear, helmet and a permit (available at the Backcountry Desk in the Visitors Center). Special skills: Everyone in the party should be comfortable performing floating disconnects. Leave the bolt kit at home, this canyon is already over bolted. Do not attempt this canyon if heavy rains threaten.
!Warning!: water flow in this canyon is controlled by the Washington County Water Conservancy District. High rates of flow will make this canyon impassible and potentially deadly. Call the District (435-673-3617) prior to entering the canyon for flow (ask at the Backcountry Rangers Desk for the range of safe flows, when the author was here the District was releasing at 3 cfs and the canyon was completely dry).
Directions: Send me a request for directions via e-mail.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Moderate
Length: ~15 miles (two days)
Date Hiked: June, 2002
Weather Conditions: Nice & warm
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Note: The author completed this canyon after an extended dry period, actual water conditions will vary.
From the car park, follow the forest roads to the point where you can get into the canyon. Check the stream, if it's more than a gentle flow, it would demonstrate good judgement on your part to backtrack and try again another day. If it's a trickle, continue on. It's a weedy bushwack for a few hundred yards. Then climb out of the stream bed on the left just before the canyon cuts deeply into the sandstone (it's approximately 1 hour from the car park to canyon edge). On canyon left, just below a large fallen log put on your gear and pick a tree on the edge for use as an anchor for your first rappel (75' to the edge of a pool). Head down canyon, and your first of several cold swims. Here the strenuous fun begins:
Rap 2: 10' from a log
Rap 3: 10' from a log
Rap 4: double rappel from a sling around a log, 15' rap into a deep pothole, disconnect, swim, then 20' rap into a nice chamber
Rap 5: 25' from a sling under a cairn pile into a water filled pot hole (load this anchor carefully)
Rap 6: double rappel from three bolts and hangers (B&H) on the right, 80' into a big pot hole then 30' into another pool (you'll need both ropes for this one)
Rap 7: 20' from 2 B&H on right into pool
Rap 8: 60' from 2 B&H on the right
Rap 9: 30' from 3 B&H on the left into a pool
Rap 10: 30' from 2 B&H on the right, 10' to top of log jam then 20' into a pool
Rap 11: double rappel from 2 B&H on the right slope, 55' then 25'
Rap 12: 150' from 2 B&H on the right into, you guessed it, a big pool
You made it! Pull your ropes and it's one more short swim to an open section. This makes a nice spot to take off your wet suit and harness since you won't need them for a while. Time to complete technical section = ~4 hours.
The canyon opens up and it's easy rock hopping in a dry wide canyon for a while. Eventually, where the canyon makes a sharp right turn you'll see water flowing down the left hand canyon wall to form a flowing stream which you will follow for a while before it heads underground. The canyon eventually narrows and you will have a couple hand line assisted down climbs into pools. There is one more rappel into a pool (Rap 13) of 20' from a crappy bolt and homemade hanger on the left or a good B&H on the right (but you have to perform an awkward climb with a heavy pack to get to it). Then it's more nice walking through some great narrows formed of deep, dark rippling rock that reminded the author of the best parts of Buckskin Gulch. There is one last 20' down climb from a choke stone with a single B&H & handline into a pool before the canyon widens again. The author walked a short distance past this point then camped at a flat sandy spot. The rest of Kolob is wide & moderately scenic. About two hours from this last wade will bring you to the confluence with the Virgin River at Campsite #6. It's about 6 hours of casual walking from the end of the technical section to the end of Kolob canyon and the Virgin River. Follow the river down canyon through the narrows and back to the Zion Road End (about 4.5 hours from the confluence to the shuttle).
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife have been in this canyon on two occasions. The first time we fixed ropes and went down to Rap 6. The second time we completed the hike described at a moderate pace in a total of 15.5 hours with heavy packs. Having a few more people in your party would help to split the weight of gear, but will slow your time through the technical section. We carried full length 6mm wet suits, but only wore them from the waist down since the water was below normal levels.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Zion National Park, Zion N.P. Park Map
Books: None
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Alternate Rappel #1. The 2nd half of rappel #6.
Rappel #4.

Rappel #13.

Kolob Canyon.