Canyoneering Guide Photos 1 2 3 4 5

Orderville CanyonOrderville Canyon is the amazing little sister to the famous Zion Narrows and is a great semi-technical day hike for beginning canyoneers and experienced hikers. Orderville is narrower and darker than the main Narrows, but seeing that beauty comes at a cost. Like the Narrows hike, you will be in the water almost all of the time and depending on conditions, there may be several deep pools, some that require swimming. You will also encounter many boulders, rock formations, and logjams that you must carefully scramble down, including two major obstacles that require a rappel or handline. All of this "work" adds up to an incredible canyon hiking experience.

WARNING: Descending this canyon involves downclimbing many obstacles in a wet canyon environment as well as two short rappels. This route is not suitable for casual hikers.

Two Ways to See Orderville Canyon:

Logistics of the Top-Down Hike:

PERMITS: A Zion wilderness permit is required for all descents of Orderville Canyon. The NPS limits this canyon to 80 hikers a day and will not issue a permit if waterflow in the Narrows is above 100 cfs. Please see the Zion Permits website for more information.

CAR SPOTTING: To get to the Orderville Canyon trailhead, from the east border of the park, drive 1.7 miles east on Route 9 and turn left (north) on the North Fork Road. Roughly 11.5 miles up the winding road, you will see a short dirt road to the west, designated by the BLM Orderville WSA (Wilderness Study Area) markers. Spot your car here for later retrieval. Alternatively, you can hire a Springdale outfitter like the Zion Adventure Company to shuttle you so you don't have to worry about picking up your car.

Detailed Description:

The top-down hike is a long 11-mile hike through a rugged and beautiful slot canyon. From the Orderville Canyon trailhead, begin hiking down the dirt road and in about 2.75 miles, you will reach the 120-ft dryfall that marks the beginning of Orderville Canyon proper. Back up from the dryfall a bit and find a path of use on the left/south side of the canyon that takes you down an old landslide to the canyon floor. Now you are on your way!

Orderville CanyonThe next several miles of the hiking in the canyon are quite easy; the upper section of Orderville Canyon is dry with not too many obstacles, so try to make quick time through this section. You don't really need a topo map for navigation on this hike, but if you're interested, keep an eye out for the junctions with several interesting little side canyons: Birch Hollow, Walker Gulch, Espin Gulch, and Englestead Hollow. (Englestead and Birch are fairly popular canyoneering routes.) The first major obstacle you will have to deal with is the "border boulder" -- a 15-foot tall boulder that is just inside the national park boundary. This is a simple short rappel off of bolts on the north side. (If you are a climber, you can chimney down the crack by the boulder, but don't jump.)

Once past the boulder, the canyon starts to build character with several narrow slot sections and non-technical obstacles like logjams and rock formations that you must downclimb. In the next few miles, you will notice the dry ground start turning into mud, then flowing water. By Bulloch Gulch, the canyon is lush and green and you are in a magical oasis. Half-a-mile downstream from Bulloch Gulch is the 2nd major obstacle: the "Guillotine" (double-chockstone obstacle)--a large boulder in the watercourse creating a 10-foot tall waterfall with a second boulder suspended above it. This is another short rappel off of bolts in the south canyon wall.

Orderville CanyonThe last mile of Orderville Canyon is the golden section referred to as the "obstacle course" or "waterpark" -- many little waterfalls, boulders to downclimb, interesting rock formations, and lush greenery. You will be sitting and sliding as often as you will be walking. Take it slowly and find the easiest/safest way down each little challenge. Note: Conditions may vary greatly depending on how the latest flash flood has displaced sand in the canyon. Some years, the entire canyon is barely waist-deep; other years when the potholes are not filled with sand, you may have more difficult downclimbs and several short swims.

Near the end of the route, you will have to descend "Veiled Falls" -- a waterfall that is usually only six-feet tall, but is the site of many rescues due to people jumping and twisting their ankles. The easiest descent is on the left (south) side of the canyon where subtle moki steps have been carved out of the rock to help give traction. Carefully make your way down the usually slippery rock. Once past this obstacle, you should see many Narrows day-hikers coming up to great you. Be sure to soak up the sites and enjoy your time because before you know it, the canyon is over and you will reach the Virgin River. Hike down the rest of the Narrows, then down the Riverside Walk trail to the Temple of Sinawava.

Zion Narrows topo map North Fork Road Driving Map.
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Zion Narrows topo map Orderville Canyon Map #1:
Trailhead to Border Boulder.

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Zion Narrows topo map Orderville Canyon Map #2:
Border Boulder to Temple of Sinawava.

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Technical Challenges:

Orderville CanyonPlenty of wet rock-scrambling, downclimbing, and possibly a few swims in cold water. Two small rappels, both less than 20' in height.

Equipment Recommendations:

Closed-toe water-friendly footwear is a must. Companies like La Sportiva make some good models. (Simple non-GORE-TEX trail runners will do in a pinch. Open-toe hiking sandals like Tevas will get trashed.) Hiking poles are useful at the start of the hike and especially in the Narrows near the end of the hike. And a drybag is essential to keep your electronics and camera dry when navigating some of the deeper pools.

TECHNICAL GEAR: 50' rope, rappelling gear, and a run of webbing (for handlines or if you need to replace webbing at one of the anchors).

Flash Flood Warning:

Orderville Canyon and the Zion Narrows both have a high flash-flood danger during rainstorms, so be sure to check the weather forecast and/or the Wilderness Desk for current conditions and for any advisories. Remember that it doesn't have to be raining directly above you for a threat to be possible. To see the current and median water levels, check the USGS's water data website.

Joe's Spin:

Orderville Canyon is mysterious, dark, wet, and amazingly beautiful; it is one of my favorite hikes and is an absolute joy, well worth the effort! From a hiker's point of view, this is a difficult, challenging hike. From a canyoneer's point of view, this is a fairly easy canyon with only two semi-technical challenges. If you have experience rock climbing or rappelling, this a great introductory hike to canyoneering.

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