Water Canyon: To the Waterfall

Hike up a stunning slot canyon to a hidden waterfall.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
2.7 km
Ascent
153 m
Descent
153 m
Duration
0-1 hrs
Low Point
1.6 km
High Point
1.7 km
Gradient
10˚
Water Canyon: To the Waterfall Map

Sure, "Water Canyon" is a vanilla-sounding name that was undoubtedly assigned to this narrow slot canyon by a person who possessed no sense of poetry. Thankfully, the phenomenal beauty of this slot canyon is anything but vanilla!

Description

If this beautiful canyon hike was situated in nearby Zion National Park, it would undoubtedly be mobbed by thousands of people per day. But tucked away here on the southern side of the Canaan Mountain Wilderness, it's high inconvenient for the hordes of national park tourists to access this area. This relative isolation can pay off massively if you choose to hike this canyon.

The hike begins at a small trailhead at the end of a dirt road just north of Colorado City—home to the largest polygamous community in the USA. The trail begins immediately from the small trailhead, rolling along a sandy track as it slowly begins ascending into the canyon.

Many online sources list the hike in Water Canyon up to the waterfall as "easy," and while it might not be exceedingly difficult, I think most of the people rating this as "easy" haven't actually gone and hiked Water Canyon for themselves. Sure, this trail is relatively easy aerobically (although it still gains a few hundred vertical feet), but the sandy trail tread quickly gets rocky and rough. Loose, sliding rocks and a few steep, chunky pitches can make for challenging footing for the uninitiated. Despite some reports that might encourage this, Water Canyon isn't a great picnicking spot for the whole family... especially if you're trying to push a stroller up the trail while simultaneously lugging bags filled with groceries (true story).

Beyond the trailhead, it doesn't appear that any trail maintenance has been done in Water Canyon anytime recently, and there are no trail markers to follow. In many places, you'll have to choose between several branching trail options. All of these routes come back together, but if you pick the wrong option, you could find yourself sliding down into a steep washout and having to scramble back out.

The eventual destination is worth all the effort required to reach it, though! The small waterfalls in the depths of this stunning red rock canyon provide a cool respite from the harsh sunlight in the lower reaches. This is the perfect spot to stop for a snack and enjoy the stunning beauty of Southern Utah!

If you haven't had enough yet, you can choose to hike up and around the waterfall, climbing high into the canyon above. However, the moment you try to pass the falls, the technical difficulty of this route ratchets up to "Extreme." You'll have to use both of your hands to scramble up steep rock pitches. The narrow rock ledge is also extremely exposed above the canyon below. If you slip and fall on the upper pitches, you face certain death.

The route to Top Rock has been mapped separately here in FATMAP. Search for that longer route for more info on the more difficult version of this hike.

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Picturesque
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area