Canyoneering Keyhole Canyon

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Added by Kathie Green

Amazingly Gorgeous Canyon. Technical Canyoneering. In the heart of Zion National Park .

Keyhole Canyon is an experience for the adventurous, thrill seeking explorer. Hidden between the jagged mountains of Zion National Park, this canyon sits roadside, just two miles from the east entrance. 

Before we continue, please note that Canyoneering is a dangerous sport. This canyon is not for the inexperienced. It is imperative that you have or obtain the appropriate skills to navigate a technical canyon safely. A fluid knowledge of rope work and rappelling operations are essential. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, there are a number of professional guide companies in the Zion area. Please do not attempt this canyon alone or without the proper gear and experience.

After stopping at the Visitor's Center for a permit, park your vehicle in a small pull off that rests where the drainage crosses the road and hike 1/4 of a mile east on Highway 9. From there, you will take a left onto an unmarked trail.

Soon you will reach a beautiful slab of steeply slanted rock. While the trek may be daunting, it's worth the climb. However, you will also find a steep decline once you've reached the top. Again, worth it. Once at the bottom, a stream leading into beautifully curved, multicolored canyon walls mark the start of the adventure; here is where the fun begins.

First, don the gear: helmet, proper canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks (temperature dependent), dry-suit or wetsuit, harness, rappel device (pirana hook), and don't forget the rope.

Once you're dressed for success, follow the current. The first half of the canyon, dubbed "Middle Keyhole," includes a large amount of down climbing, stemming and wading through pockets of water (rainfall dependent). The view is spectacular. The canyon walls rise high above you like a wave, painted with streaks of orange, red, black and brown. While you may spend a lot of time assessing your footing, be sure to look up as much as you can.

After the warm-up, you'll reach an opening. Here, you'll come to the first of three rappels. This initial fifteen foot drop marks the entrance to "Lower Keyhole." Anchor yourself to the already-placed bolts and take the plunge. Depending on water levels, you may be rappelling off of a waterfall or have a dry decent. Either way, you're likely to find yourself in a pool of water at the bottom. The remainder of the canyon becomes very narrow, with two more short rappels, potentially deep pockets of water, extensive down climbing, and of course, gorgeous views.

The second clearing marks the end of the journey. With a short walk straight forward you will find yourself only a few yards away from your car. Keyhole offers and outstanding two-three hour canyoneering experience. You will climb up over the final hill with a strong sense of pride, as any surrounding tourists gawk with wonder.

While Keyhole is rated for moderate to advanced skill levels, it is still a technical canyon. Those with little to no experience in canyoneering or rappelling NEED to seek out the expertise of guided trip. Be sure to fully inform and prepare yourself for the risks of canyoneering, such as flash flooding. In addition, if you are lacking the proper gear for such an adventure, rentals are available at the Zion Adventure Company in Springdale, UT, just outside the south entrance to the park.

Key Coordinates:

Parking:
37°13.4750N, 112°54.1610W

Start of Keyhole:
37°13.4408N, 112°54.0246W

End of Keyhole Slot:
37°13.5340N, 112°54.1820W

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awesome

i

🥉Contributor

about 4 years ago

Thank you!

Hello All, I appreciate the feedback and apologize for any improper expectations this write up gave. I've added a more extensive warning. Kathie

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

over 4 years ago

Fun beginner Canyon for those with canyoneering experience

This was the first canyon my family and I did without a guide! It's short and not very technical, but you definitely need rappelling and canyoneering experience before attempting this one. Also when I did it the water at the end was FREEZING (even in July) so be prepared for that.

🥉Contributor

over 4 years ago

Great Short Canyon For EXPERIENCED canyoneering

You must be efficient at rappelling, and canyoneering. Canyoneering is a unforgiving sport, but well worth the rewards. This canyon was short and fun. It's a good starting point, or if you are in Zion and only have half a Day left. For the more experienced, there are far far better slot canyons in Zion. Unless you are pressed on time, I would say definitely explore something bigger!

proceed with caution

Canyoneering is an amazing and beautiful experience, but it is dangerous if not done properly. This article does not emphasize these dangers enough. People do die in these canyons. In order to descend a canyon safely, you need to make deliberate, informed decisions about weather, anchor placement, and equipment. Once a descent is started, very rarely is it possible to backtrack and escape the canyon. For these reasons, please *do not* attempt Keyhole canyon as your first canyon. Gain some experience with guides or other canyoneers before attempting Keyhole on your own. This will result in a better experience for you, and for the other canyoneers you may encounter.

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