Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)

Slot Canyon Characterisics

So what are some of the characteristics of slot-canyons?

Before I answer that question specifically, first I have to get this out of the way in order to set the appropriate context to answer that question.

1) Why are YOU wanting to do this?  (IE Challenge, beauty, fun, long days, exercise?)

2) WHO are you going with? (IE your friends, family, co-workers, a Meetup.com group?)

3) WHEN are you going? (IE the time of year: spring, summer, fall, winter)

If YOU are doing this because of a number reasons, then I imagine you doing this for a while.  If you are doing this because your friends or significant other  "made" you, then you may not last too long.  But if you keep an open mind and willing to be adaptable, then that can go towards a LONG way for canyoneering and will later contribute to a healthy and long-lasting passion for the sport.

If you are doing this because you are being "forced" to, I ask you to please be on your best behavior for the enjoyment of your group (although you may be cold and tired).  And please refrain from leaving trash or vandalizing rocks out of spite.  

WHO you are going with also makes a big difference in your expectations.  If I am taking older folks down a canyon, then I can expect to be more hands-on, taking more time, and may not be more engaged in risky behavior (like jumping). 

If I am going with my group of canyoneering friends, then I can expect us to have a later start (since no-one wants to get up early), but at the same time I can expect them to be self-sufficient in the canyons and at rappels.  I won't need to be more involved as I can be a little more relaxed.  And I can also expect my friends to be quite fast in the canyon and more willing be more adventurous.  (IE jump from a edge into water).

Finally, WHEN you are going makes maybe the biggest difference in canyon conditions.  In the spring time, typically you can expect more water to the be the canyon due to snow melt-off.  In the summer, you can expect it to be drier and therefore less gear will be needed, like drysuits.  And in the fall and winter, you can expect less green and shrubbery and much shorter days (daylight) and therefore need to carry headlamps and flashlights.  But, you will also need to carry thick wetsuits or drysuits due to how cold that water will be!  It all depends.

Here are some generalizations of specific Canyoneering areas depending on the time of year, just to give you an idea:

Death Valley, California:

                  Spring: Common time to go, but Death Valley is quickly warming up

                  Summer: Avoid! Temps near 110-120 degrees F.

                  Fall: common time to go, but still quite warm. shorter daylight time - plan short canyons.

                  Winter: winter time is ideal! Highs in 60s for these long days. 

Escalante, Utah:

                  Spring: a great time (not too hot) and will contain more water due to snow-melt

                  Summer: done mostly here. Highs in 90s. Located near Escalante River.

                  Fall: 2nd most frequented time. shorter daylight hours. Highs in 70 to 90s

                  Winter: less frequented time. Snow on approach (tricky!), short daylight hours. Cold!

San-Rafael Swell, Utah:       

                  Spring: popular time to go. Canyons hold more water due to snow. Bring wetsuits.

                  Summer: commonly done this time, due to canyons holding water. Bugs will be out!

                  Fall: 3rd most common time to go; least amount of water. Wetsuits are needed.

                  Winter: not commonly done; wetsuits/drysuits needed. long approach and/or exits 

Moab (and Arches N.P):

                  Spring: commonly done! More water in canyons due to snowmelt. Expect bugs!

                  Summer: commonly done but doable due to short length of canyons, but Hot!

                  Fall: another common time to go. warm in day and cold at night!

                  Winter: not usually done but doable due to short length canyons. Bring wet/dry-suits! 

North-Wash, Utah:

                  Spring: popular time to go.  Little water in canyons, typically.

                  Summer: a common time to go, but hot! I would avoid as it is too hot to enjoy.

                  Fall: popular time to go. Little water in canyons, typically. 

                  Winter: another popular time to go as these canyons are warmer than most. Can hold snow!

Lake Powell, Utah:

                  Spring: popular time to go. Canyons hold more water due to snow. Bring wetsuits.

                  Summer: commonly done this time, due to canyons holding water. Bugs will be out!

                  Fall: 3rd most common time to go; least amount of water. Wetsuits are needed.

                  Winter: not commonly done; wetsuits/drysuits needed. long approach and/or exits 

Virgin River Gorge, Arizona:

                  Spring: popular time to go. Canyons hold more water due to snow. Bring wetsuits. No water

                  Summer: not commonly done this time, due to long approaches and hot! Bugs will be out!

                  Fall: 3rd most common time to go; least amount of water. No water.

                  Winter: commonly done due to cooler temps and longer approaches. No water. 

Zion N.P., Utah:

                  Spring: popular time to go. Canyons hold more water (and snow). Bring wet/drysuits.

                  Summer: commonly done this time, due to canyons holding water. Hot!

                  Fall: 3rd most common time to go; least amount of water. Wetsuits are needed.

                  Winter: not commonly done; wetsuits/drysuits needed. Canyons can hold snow! 

Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)

© 2020 Brett Johnson | Canyoneering101.com