Canyoneering Guide Photos 1 2 3 4 5

Hidden Canyon from the TopHidden Canyon is best known as a day hike up from the Grotto Trailhead for those looking for a secluded narrow canyon diversion on their way up or down the Observation Point/East Rim Trail, but descending from the top makes for an interesting technical canyoneering adventure. As a fault-based canyon as opposed to a water-carved slot, Hidden Canyon is admittedly less scenic or compelling than many of the more popular canyoneering routes in Zion, but it is a fun and ever-changing obstacle course of boulders, logs, and debris that make their way down the seemingly endless chute.

WARNING: This route is not suitable for hikers who have no technical canyoneering experience.

CLOSURE NOTICE: Weeping Rock and the lower East Rim Trail/Observation Point Trail are currently closed due to a massive landslide. (On August 24, 2019, a large rockfall off of the face of Cable Mountain buried the Weeping Rock pantheon in sand and rubble. The trail was previously closed from a smaller landslide that blocked the trail in January 2019 as well as several landslides that blocked the Hidden Canyon spur trail in July 2018.) Sadly, Hidden Canyon may be closed for the foreseeable future.


You must get a permit to do this route. The National Park Service limits access to "Hidden Canyon - Upper (technical)" to 12 people a day. For more information on canyoneering permits and reservations, please see the Zion Wilderness Permits website. If you are looking for the non-technical hiker-friendly version, see the Hidden Canyon day hike.

Detailed Description:

Hidden Canyon from the TopThe easiest starting point for this hike would be the somewhat remote Stave Spring Trailhead, accessible via dirt roads behind the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Roughly 1.7 miles east of the Zion National Park border along Route 9, turn north onto the paved North Fork Road and follow it for 5.4 miles, then turn left onto the dirt road that heads west under the Zion Ponderosa gate. Turn left at Buck Road as it heads southwest towards the trailhead. (See map below.) Hiring a shuttle service for a ride to the trailhead would be a convenient option. If you're up for a longer approach hike, the East Rim Trail starting at the East Entrance or Weeping Rock would be alternatives.

Whatever your starting point, make your way to Stave Spring and take the trail to Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain, then at the next junction, take the trail to Deertrap Mountain which heads roughly southwest. After .9 miles on the Deertrap Mountain Trail, the trail starts swinging south. Leave the trail and head due west. You will descend a small band of slickrock; explore a bit to find a friendly way down. After crossing the open meadow, head into the heavier growth just to the right of the closest yellow rock formations and hike downhill through the overgrown little valley. This will take you to the head of Hidden Canyon. (Use a GPS and map to confirm your location; there are several more difficult canyons in the area, including Grotto Canyon just .4 miles to the west.)

At the head of Hidden Canyon is a convenient tree for the 1st rappel, roughly 100-ft down a sloping chute of bare slickrock. Now the fun begins! Just down canyon is an intimidating little drop that can be downclimbed on the far right or rappelled from a tree high above on the left. (It takes a bit of climbing to get to the tree.)

Hidden Canyon from the TopThe scenery in upper Hidden is a bit reminiscent of Mystery Canyon's "death gully", a seemingly endless descent down a debris-filled chute. Unlike many popular canyons in Zion that have a formulaic listing of rappels and lengths, Hidden is an ever-changing obstacle course. Depending on the positioning of various boulders and logs, you may do half a dozen or so short little ad hoc rappels, many of which go under large precariously-positioned boulders. Be prepared to build anchors as necessary. One of the more interesting obstacles is the "cave" -- carefully downclimb a log or the front-side boulder into a small chamber and rap off the bolt to the cave exit below.

After 2-3 hours in the obstacle course, the penultimate rappel is roughly 70 feet off of a tree on a shelf on the left side above a drop into a taller narrow section of canyon. Just down canyon, you will see a large chockstone wedged in the walls; this marks the final rappel and this chockstone can be seen from below by dayhikers who have made it up as far as possible from the bottom. A few options for the final drop include rappelling off of the tree just above the chockstone (roughly an 80' rap) or hiking the the shelf on the left above the chockstone, crossing a small rock bridge, and rappelling off of one of the trees further down canyon (roughly a 100' rap).

After this big rap, you are now in dayhiker territory, but you still have a good deal of hiking and scrambling down obstacles to get to the mouth of the canyon. Soon enough, you will pass the famous little Hidden Canyon Arch and reach the mouth of Hidden Canyon hanging above the main Zion Canyon. Follow the trail out and down to the Weeping Rock trailhead.

map icon linking to large map Map #1: Driving to the East Side Trailheads
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map icon linking to large map Map #2: Hidden Canyon (canyoneering route)
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Joe's Spin:

Hidden Canyon admittedly isn't the most exciting canyoneering adventure, but it is a good workshop in dealing with various obstacles. And if you've hiked up from the bottom in the past, it's really fun to connect the dots and see the whole canyon.

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