Canyoneering Keyhole Canyon

Utah Keyhole Canyon Parking Area

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

Scenic

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

Pack List

Canyoneering requires a large list of technical gear. Consult Zion Adventure Company or another established guiding company for a proper gear list. If you are inexperienced with canyoneering equipment, be sure become properly trained before starting your adventure or go with someone who is properly trained. This is NOT an adventure, for someone with little to no experience, to do on their own.

  • Rugged Clothing that can be scraped against canyon walls (warm layers depending on temperature - if dry suit is needed wear layers underneath it)
  • Canyoneering Shoes
  • Neoprene socks (temperature dependent)
  • Rappel Rope - 80 feet in length
  • Webbing
  • Harness
  • Rappel device
  • Locking carabiners
  • Helmet
  • Dry suit or wet suit (Temperature and Water level dependent - suggested for all seasons)
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Small backpack (20 liters- small enough to make it through narrow areas)
Read More

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

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

7 months ago
7 months ago

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.

9 months ago
9 months ago

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!

11 months ago
11 months ago

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.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Agreed with the other reviewer! The first half of this guide makes it feel like anyone can just start doing this canyon and just follow the simple instructions one by one. Those who aren't canyoneers need to know up front that this particular sport is VERY unforgiving to those who are inadequately experienced and prepared. But thanks for taking the time to write up the guide! :)

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Great addition but add the warning at the beginning instead of the end.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Kathie Green

The great outdoors is what keeps me alive. Mountains are the love of my life, whether it's hiking up them or riding down (hopefully in champaign powder). Rivers are next in line with whitewater excursions holding a special place in my heart. Sharing these adventures wi

Nearby Adventures

Hike Mount Ellen in Utah's Henry Mountains

Utah / Mount Ellen Peak Trail

Mount Ellen is considered an Ultra Prominent Peak. What's that you may ask? Well, Ultra Prominent Peaks are determined by how high the summit rises above its surroundings.

30 Saves

Camp at McMillan Springs In The Henry Mountains

Utah / McMillan Springs Campground

McMillan Springs Campground is south of Hanksville, Utah and within the Henry Mountains, which run north and south between Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks.

26 Saves

Spring Backcountry Ski Alta Ski Area

Utah / Lodge Rd, Alta

Still have the skiing itch but it's late in the spring and the resorts have closed and the other backcountry skiing areas have melted? No problem, just head up to Alta Ski Area and get some amazing b.

5 Saves