Canyoneering

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A person rappelling into a canyon

Canyoneering is a growing recreational sport on the Colorado Plateau. It often requires scrambling and climbing through tight, rugged canyons. It may involve swimming, rappelling, or other technical rope work. Please use care during canyoneering trips, including during approaches and exits, as delicate plants, fragile biological crust, and other sensitive park resources exist in many off-trail areas and within many canyons. Small group sizes should be considered for any backcountry travel for the safety of participants as well the protection of park resources. See below for group size limits. Information on Capitol Reef canyoneering routes can be found on various websites and in other publications. Search the internet for details.

Please note, canyons and routes may close seasonally for the protection of sensitive natural resources. See seasonal closures below for any current closed areas.

Rock Type

The multiple rock layers found at Capitol Reef offer a diverse canyon environment. Many popular canyoneering routes pass through the Navajo and Wingate sandstone formations. Drainages within the Wingate Sandstone often follow natural vertical fracturing and form deep canyons with long drops and tight vertical canyon walls. Canyons within the Navajo Sandstone tend to be shallower and typically produce tight slots, potholes, and shorter drops.

 

Permits

As of January 1, 2020, permits are required for canyoneering. Free day-use permits can be obtained in person at the visitor center or via email. Please review all rules and regulations prior to filling out or requesting a permit. A separate permit is required for each canyoneering route. For example, Wife 1 and Wife 2 are two separate routes and require two separate permits. If canyoneering for multiple days, submit a separate email for each day.

Email care_permits@nps.gov for a canyoneering permit. Use the following format:

Subject: Name of canyoneering route and date you will be canyoneering.

Email Body:

  • Date of visit (single day only):
  • Canyoneering route (single route only):
  • Number of people:
  • Vehicle location:
  • Number of motorized vehicles:
  • Vehicle description(s):

If you plan to camp overnight as part of a canyoneering trip, you are required to obtain a free backcountry permit, available at the visitor center.

 

Restrictions and Concerns

For the protection of park resources, canyoneering groups are limited to a maximum of eight people, with some exceptions for certain routes near the Fruita area. Ask at the visitor center for details. Capitol Reef is a clean canyoneering area. Minimum impact techniques that do not damage or destroy rock or other park resources are required:

  • The installation of new fixed anchors (bolts, pitons, etc.) is prohibited.

  • Bolts may be replaced only if an existing bolt is unsafe.

  • The use of power drills is prohibited.

  • Where it is necessary to leave or replace existing webbing, the webbing should be black or closely match the color of the surrounding rock.

  • Protection may not be placed with the use of a hammer except to replace existing belay and rappel anchors and bolts on existing routes, or for emergency self-rescue.

  • Physical alteration of rock faces is prohibited, such as chiseling, glue reinforcement of existing holds, trundling rocks, and gluing of new holds.
  • It is prohibited to wrap webbing or rope, or rappel off any arch with an opening greater than three feet.
  • The intentional removal of lichen or plants from rock is prohibited. Potential seasonal closures or use limits may be in effect during your visit. Check at the visitor center for current closures or limits.
  • Potential seasonal closures or use limits may be in effect during your visit. Check at the visitor center for current closures or limits.

Seasonal Closures

Effective immediately and until August 31, 2020, the following canyoneering routes are closed to protect sensitive natural resources in the area:

  • Burro: Beginning at the head of Burro Wash (the crest between Burro Wash and South Draw) and continuing downstream (east) in the wash drainage for a distance of 2 miles (3.2 km).
  • Cottonwood: Beginning at the head of Cottonwood Wash (the crest between Cottonwood Wash and South Draw) and continuing downstream (east) in the wash drainage for a distance of 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to the park’s east boundary.
  • FiveMile: Beginning at the head of Fivemile Wash (the crest between Fivemile Wash and South Draw) and continuing downstream (east) in the wash drainage for a distance of 2 miles (3.2 km).
  • Shinob Canyon: Specifically, the canyoneering routes that descend into Shinob Canyon.
    • Na-gah
    • Nighthawk
    • Timpie

Safety

  • Canyoneering is an inherently dangerous activity. Groups should fully research the intended route and be prepared for unknown obstacles. Many canyons require full commitment once started and escape is often not possible.
  • Know the latest weather information. Be familiar with the terrain and know your escape routes. Deadly flash flood waters can travel from many miles away with travel times of 10 hours or more. Don’t enter slot canyons or rugged terrain during stormy or wet weather.
  • Consider your group’s experience and skill level before selecting and entering any canyon. Groups can overestimate their abilities and become delayed or stuck.
  • Notify a friend or family member of your plans before leaving.
  • Rescue resources in a canyon environment can be limited and groups may be forced to self-rescue. Many canyoneering routes are in remote, seldom-visited areas with no cell phone service.

Last updated: May 19, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791

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