The Beartrap Canyon Loop is a seldom done, fairly strenuous off-trail day hike, once described in older editions of "Exploring the Backcountry of Zion National Park." This route takes you deep into an isolated corner of the Kolob section and is best done as Day 2 of a 3-day backpacking trip. If you want to do this hike, I recommend booking either La Verkin Creek Campsite 12 or 13 for the two nights that you will spend in the area.
The route starts near the border of the park where Willis Creek opens up into a meadow. Now for the hard part: leave the trail and hike southeast up the steep slopes, heading for the saddle above the Beartrap Canyon drainage. This is a difficult uphill battle; after facing a layer of slippery pine needles, you will battle the gamble oak shrubs that do a good job a blocking your way. The shrubs are so thick, there is no resemblance of a trail whatsoever; just keep plowing forward. Navigation skills during the climb are a must to avoid descending into the wrong drainage.
You will see the mythical Chasm Lake canyon opening on your left -- a fjord-like formation that you will see more prominently as you make your way up. Be sure to keep curving to the right and don't wander too far to the left and down into the drainage underneath Chasm. Once at the saddle, the adventurous can also take the 3-hour diversion hike to the mouth of the lake; a slow and partially exposed rock-scrambling adventure. (Chasm Lake has been descended by canyoneers in the past, but the land bordering the park is all private property.)
The saddle between Willis and Beartrap Canyon is the point at which you can breathe a sigh of relief and start hiking down into Beartrap Canyon proper; the hardest part is now over. Much boulder-scrambling is involved and webbing for handlines may be useful in a few spots. Once at the bottom of Beartrap, the route is much easier and more pleasant. Beartrap Canyon is a beautiful little canyon with dense vegetation -- the top section is dry, but water starts flowing about half-way through the canyon with the help of a side canyon coming in from the south. The only two obstacles come near the end of the route: first, a little 7' tall waterfall slide that you can downclimb with help of a log (if present) or webbing.
Then the final obstacle: the 30-foot tall Beartrap Canyon Falls which blocks access from the bottom. This is the one and only rappel of the day. Many old guidebooks mention rappelling off of a little tree to the right (north) side of the canyon, but the approach is quite sketchy, so I don't recommend it. A much better anchor is a big boulder on the shelf above the left (south) ledge just past the waterfall. The first person climbs up to set up the anchor and everybody else has a perfectly easy rappelling station. Once past the falls, Beartrap Canyon is quite beautiful and deep, but within moments you are back at the confluence with La Verkin Creek.
Navigation up to the saddle, scrambling down a few large boulders, and the single 30-40 ft rappel over the Beartrap Canyon Falls.
100' rope, 50'webbing, and rappelling gear for the one rappel over Beartrap Canyon Falls. (No bolt-kit needed; this canyon is bolt-free.) Maybe some long pants for the bushwhacking section.
|Beartrap Canyon Loop Map.
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Don't do this hike; it's torture! I still have nightmares of the uphill slog and the unrelenting bushwhacking! Seriously though -- if you want to work, this is a great remote hike to a mostly untouched corner of Zion, but it's probably not for everybody. The grueling approach helps keep this area so remote. Once you make it into Beartrap Canyon, however, it all seems worth it. Beartrap is a sublime and beautiful little canyon, and the rappel over the falls was a joy that ended the day perfectly.