Orderville Canyon was on our list to complete in 2006, but due to a high level of water flows, permits were not being issued. We returned in June 2008.
Orderville is similar to the "Subway" in that it can require the use of rope, rappelling gear, and definitely some dry bags. This canyon has been described as a water park of sorts.
This hike requires a vehicle spot at the upper end of the 12-mile hike as well as another vehicle inside Zion National Park. Since this was the first time our group of eight had done the hike, we only had one rope and one harness. Later, we realized how much time would be saved if everyone had their own harness.
After a long trek into the canyon, the walls began to narrow, and our first two major obstacles required short rappels. The rappels are not difficult, and many have down-climbed and sometimes – against advice – jumped. As with the Subway, NEVER JUMP.
After the first two obstacles, the path began to get muddy and wet. The farther we pushed into the canyon, the wetter it became. The canyon walls continued to narrow, and boulders of every size lay in the middle of the path. The water flowing over the boulders provided the perfect opportunities for pictures but also some challenging and exciting down-climbing.
One of the final mini-obstacles was Veiled Falls, which required navigating around the falls on slippery, moss-covered rock. Moki steps have been cut into the rock to give hikers handholds and footholds.
Following the canyon downstream for approximately eight miles brought us to the majestic Virgin River and the Zion Narrows. We turned downstream with the Virgin River current into cold water sometimes as much as chest deep until we made it back to the trailhead.
The trip took us approximately 10 hours – a long, rewarding day. We returned again in 2010, created some new memories, and broke our time record (7.5 hours).
For a more detailed description of this canyoneering trip, here are two great resources:
- Zion National Park - Orderville Canyon
- Joe's Guide to Zion National Park
Beginning canyoneering trips like the Subway and Orderville Canyon do require permits as issued by Zion National Park. For more information visit the Zion National Park Backcountry Reservation website or desk at the park.
In 2008, our group decided to make an attempt at Parunuweap Canyon, which is comparable to the popular Virgin River Narrows inside of Zion National Park.
The trek to the canyon required excellent navigational skills and a significant amount of water due to the extreme exposure to the June sun. We each carried approximately three liters of water when we started past Checkerboard Mesa and over the sand and sandstone for five miles. By the time we reached the drop in point to the canyon, however, two members of our party were already out of water. Without proper water filtration equipment, we thought it better to abandon our adventure that day and make our way back the five miles to our vehicle. It was the right decision because we shared literally drips of water on the way out.
We returned in 2010. With the assistance of a local expert, we took the more technical route – Fat Man’s Misery – and were able to reach the magnificent canyon. We, of course, had our water filtration equipment with us this time and refueled when we reached the East Fork.
The hike back out was much easier than in 2008 because we were proud of our success and full of fresh, cold water.
The Parunuweap route carries an ACA rating of IC IV.
The Fat Man’s Misery route carries an ACA rating of 3B III.