Canyoneering a Slot Canyon with East Zion Experiences
Southern Utah has the highest concentrations of slot canyons in the world. Several of the most accessible are located near the town of Kanab. During a recent trip to Kanab, we participated in two different slot canyon adventures. Last post, I wrote about driving UTVs to Peek-A-Boo Canyon. Our second slot canyon adventure was even more intense. We spent a half day canyoneering Ladder Slot Canyon with East Zion Experiences. I’ve been trying to push myself slightly out of my comfort zone in recent years when I travel. And I’ve mentioned negotiating with my fear of heights several times already in this blog. Rappelling for the first time, down 60 foot slot canyon walls, sounded like great fun. And I figured that since the heights weren’t crazy high, I could manage my anxieties without too much trouble.
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East Zion Experiences – Our Guides
I found our canyoneering adventure at East Zion Experiences. They are located in Orderville Utah – near the east entrance to Zion National Park and 22 miles north of Kanab.. EZE has several guided canyoneering tours to choose from, each of varying length. I chose their 4-hour tour. They indicate on their website that this is the “Most Popular” tour.
I have no official canyoneering experience. In fact, before booking the tour, I checked on the official definition of canyoneering – just to be sure I was up to the task. Canyoneering is defined as exploring a canyon using a variety of techniques including hiking, scrambling, jumping, sliding, and rappelling (also called abseiling in much of the world). I decided that this sounded like the perfect way to explore a slot canyon. East Zion Experiences does indicate on their website that no experience is necessary. And that they take kids 4 and up. I figured that if a 4 year old could rappel, so could I.
Gearing Up and UTVs
On our canyoneering day, we started at the EZE main offices. Here we met our guides – Jack and Noah. They fitted us with our gear – a rappelling harness, helmet, and gloves. Then, along with two other couples in our group, we loaded into UTVs and were driven to the mouth of Ladder Slot Canyon a few miles away.
The 15 minute drive back and forth to the canyon is certainly part of the adventure. For much of the way, the road is sandy, rutted, uneven, and passes through several dry river beds. Ladder Canyon isn’t reachable with anything other than a UTV or high-clearance 4×4.
A Steep Hike To The Top
When we arrived at the mouth of the canyon, we didn’t enter. Instead, we first hiked around the side of the canyon, to its top. Once there, we would be canyoneering down its length. And unlike our hike through the relatively flat Peek-A-Boo Canyon the day before, Ladder Canyon is not flat. I’m guessing it gets its name from the series of drop-offs that occur through its narrow walls. It would be impassable without ropes. Our hike up and around to its top was approximately 0.5 miles.
Ultimately, we reached the sandy top where we were met with views of a sandstone peak called Sugar Knoll towering above us.
Our first rappel was about 50 feet, down into the canyon. There was another group ahead of us and so we had to wait about 20 minutes for our turn. Theoretically, a long time to spend fighting a racing heart. But despite my fear of heights, I wasn’t anxious at all. I watched the other group’s guide patiently work with each of their members, including two young kids, and quickly surmised that I could do it. I knew I wouldn’t fall. The worse that could happen would be a slip and getting a little banged up against the wall. I could accept that.
While we waited, Jack and Noah gave us a quick lesson on our equipment and how to use it. It was all pretty simple, and they were always there to help us hook up to the ropes each time.
Once it was our turn, I actually wanted to go first and get it over with. For this first rappel, they hooked up two ropes, and Mrs. TT and I went down in tandem. Consequently we weren’t able to get pictures of each other during our first rappel. My initial form wasn’t pretty I’m sure, but Jack and Noah were patient teachers, and I successfully walked backwards down the wall, learning to trust the harness and lean back. I was too busy trying to make sure I was doing things correctly to worry much about the drop below.
Rappelling Down Ladder Canyon
Because Ladder Canyon is stepped, the only way back down to its mouth was through a series of 6 more rappels. These were of varying heights. Some were only 10-20 feet. The longest was 65 feet. Each required slightly different footing techniques and body positioning. Jack and Noah continued to offer patient guidance throughout.
The 65 foot drop happened in one of the canyon’s most picturesque spots. Look close in the next picture and you can see Jack coming down through this drop-off.
Here’s what this rappel looked like from the top as I photographed Mrs. TT
And here’s what it looked like from the bottom as she photographed me.
More Canyoneering Skills
But our day canyoneering through this slot canyon wasn’t all about rappelling.
We had to slide…
Descend steep sandstone chutes…
Shimmy under rocks….
And squeeze through some pretty tight spaces…..
All great fun!!!
Slot Canyons Are Beautiful
Plus, the whole time we were canyoneering our way through this slot canyon, we were surrounded by the overall beauty of the place. Slot canyons are awe-inspiring.
Final Thoughts and Tips
Our entire adventure did last the full 4 hours as advertised. About 2.5 hours was spent canyoneering through the slot canyon.
Despite my fear of heights and lack of canyoneering experience, I never felt any significant anxiety at all.
Jack and Noah were outstanding guides. Their calmness and experience certainly went a long way towards preventing any anxiety.
It was a cold day. We started the day with temps in the mid 40s and ended in the mid 50s. Layers were useful. It is always cooler down in the canyon, too.
I was a little sore the next day, but not as much as I expected. My lateral hips hurt most from the repeated pressure of my full weight against the harness. Upper body strength was not required. I will be the first to admit that I do not have much, and I did fine.
The cost was $159 per person and well worth it. It’s an experience we will not easily forget. You can easily book this tour through Viator by clicking here
Canyoneering this slot canyon ended up being my favorite travel experience for 2021. You can click here to check out all my other favorite Food and Travel of 2021.
So very fascinating. Just watching this elevated my heart rate and anxiety! At 75, I so appreciate ” hiking” with you. THANK YOU! Never stop adventuring and posting.
Love this!! It’s awesome to see you feed your need for adventure! Happy retirement 🙂
Thanks Linzie 🙂
Glad I could take you along 🙂
Chalk and cheese travels
What a fascinating and exciting experience to do, those slot canyons look unbelievable the formations are just stunning.
The first 50 feet sounds steep fair play for doing 👏
We actually couldn’t see over the edge on that first one because it was sloped. That probably helped. I actually thought it was much further down than it really was
Beautiful! I have fear of heights as well and this is inspiring me to try it! Thank you!
You should give it a try! The heights were quite manageable. And I think I want to rappel from some higher drops next time.
I loved your pictures, and the total experience looks and sounds totally awesome.
Thanks Don Carlos! We had a great time
Love this ! Living your best life & sharing these awesome experiences with those of us a bit less adventurous!
Sasha, I know you are not less adventurous than me. Our adventures are different, but I think yours are more adventurous than mine
Stefan (Berkeley Square Barbarian)
I had to google canyoneering too. Must admit I had only ever heard of canyoning (the much wetter version, including a fair bit of swimming, jumping into the stream from cliffs, traversing waterfalls, if my understanding is correct).
It’s amazing how you’re pushing yourself more an more on every trip. Your diving/snorkelling adventure was the most impressive to me so far until I read this post. How fabulous you didn’t feel any anxiety at all while abseiling. As little as one year ago I think I might have freaked out completely if I would’ve been in your position.
Ms TT and you look good on camera. 🙂
Canyoning sounds fun too…except for the swimming part which as you know from my snorkeling adventure might be an issue.
This absolutely beautiful.
So much beauty in that part of Utah…
Mitch - Very Tasty World
The slot canyons are so beautiful – really remarkable places! This looks like a wonderful experience. I didn’t know what canyoneering was – that it involved so many different techniques. It looks like so much fun and I’d love to try it.
We had a blast! Hope you get the chance some time
Carina | bucketlist2life
Canyoneering is one of those activities on my bucketlist that I didn’t get to do so far. It looks like pure adventure. Ladder Slot Canyon looks beutiful on your picutres!
If you ever make it over to Utah Carina, I would highly recommend it
What an awesome and slightly terrifying adventure for kicking off your retirement! Like you I’m terrified of heights but to see the gorgeous slot canyon I think I’d try it. The 10-20 feet drops I think I could do but the 65 feet would be challenging! What a great way to view the slot canyons!
The long one is towards the end, so you have a chance to hone your skills first. So I was ready and excited when it came time
Paul (Paul Explores the World)
I love that you faced your fear and went through this activity! Sounds and looks like it was a lot of fun. When you “sliding,” what exactly does that entail? Is it pretty controlled? I’m interested in trying something like this out next time I’m in Utah.
Never long slides. Maybe 6 feet at most. And not fast either. Kind of scooch, more than a slide
Travel for a while
What an adventure! For someone with fear of heights, you manage very well testing your limits. The slot canyons are truly beautiful.
It looked too fun when I was researching it online to pass up just because of my height issues
This is absolutely on my bucket list! I just spent an extended trip cruising through Utah in a campervan, and I swear I left with more things on my list than when I arrived! Thanks for this idea!
That’s definitely a risk of coming to Utah!
I would love to do this! Looks like it was an incredible experience. Those canyons are gorgeous.
It definitely was! New adventure surrounded by a lot of natural beauty
Wow! What an adventure canyoneering Ladder Slot Canyon with East Zion Experiences! So beautiful and would definitely be outside my comfort zone.
Traditionally it has been outside mine too, but so glad we did it!
Congratulations on your retirement Steven.
You’re a lot braver than me, canyoneering down a slot canyon although it looks incredibly beautiful down there. The fact that you weren’t anxious has put my mind at ease though, maybe one day! I;m still in awe of the beauty of Utah.
I think you should come over and do it sometime Wendy
Bernie and Jess Watt
Not a fan of heights by any means, but all those natural crawl spaces and colorful formations seem like it was all worthwhile, Steven.
It sure was! And next time I want to try some higher rappels.
This looks like an adventure where you did a Google search for ‘extreme’ and up came canyoneering in Ladder Canyon. Great how you got a chance to build up confidence before the last and extremely impressive rapel through the slot. As I’d expect, your blog had such amazing photos. THXS for sharing.
It really was nice to build up the confidence before the big one. The others probably would have been a letdown had we started with the long drop.
This canyoneering experience sounds like a lot of fun, Steven. I like that there was a mix of hiking, sliding, rappeling, and squeezing through tight spaces. The slot canyon at the end looked absolutely beautiful – especially those shots looking back up.
It was a lot of fun, and that variety of adventure was certainly a big part of that fun
Wow fair play for pushing yourself when you’re nervous of heights! Definitely looked like it paid off and you had a lot of fun. It looks like a great way to see the canyons up close and see a side to them others would usually miss.
Yes, I really don’t think there is any other way to see some of these beautiful canyons
Looks like tons of fun! I would love to do this same route. Always love reading your articles, Steven.
Thanks for reading them Tom!
Great post. Had a trip planned out to Utah to visit a number of the national parks cancelled from Covid. Canyon erring and exploring this area of the US is definitely on the list. Will bookmark this for the future when we get this trip back on the books.
Really hope you get a chance to get here and check out all the National Parks. Ironically, for us, it was COVID that led to us spending so much time in Southern Utah since we didn’t want to leave Utah very much