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Keyhole Canyon – Zion National Park
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Overview
Location

Zion National Park, Utah – Southern Utah

Sights

Slot canyon, several rappels

Distance

.70 miles round trip from parking lot

Parking Lot Elevation

5424 ft

Summit Elevation

5631 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

207 ft

Time Required

1-3 hours depending on size, skill and experience of your group

Pets

Not allowed

Fees

Yes. You will also need permits which can be acquired at the Zion Visitor Center or online here. Make sure you get these before you head down to the national park as Keyhole is a popular canyon. Also, check out the weather information at the permit desk to see if there are any weather warnings and additional information.

Water Info

Bring two liters of water. This canyon has stagnant water and it is always COLD water. I have done this canyon in March when there was ice and snow. Always count on there being water in the canyon. If you come early in spring then the first section will most likely be just ankle and chest deep water. I have also done Keyhole in the summer and found that the first section only has a few potholes full of stagnant water. Later on you will need to swim through several parts after the first rappel. I highly recommend you get wetsuits or even drysuits depending on what is best for you.

Best Season

All. I have done this canyon in the middle of summer when it is very hot and I have done it in March when there was lots of ice. Usually the summer is the most popular time for this canyon.

Hours

Open year round

Sun Exposure

You will be in a slot canyon for a good part of the hike. The hike leading to and from the actual canyon doesn't have much shade to offer.

Trail Condition

Trail is clear and visible. If you are a Trek Planner Private member you can see the exact route information below in the “Trail Map” section.

Restrooms

Nearest restrooms are at the very small parking lot/trailhead just as you drive out of the upper tunnel back near Pine Creek. Also, the visitor center has restrooms.

Visitor Center

Yes, back near the entrance to the park

Camping

Not allowed in Keyhole.

Food

Bring some snacks for this short canyon.

Equipment

A 100 foot rope will be more than enough to get you through Keyhole, helmets, watertight bags, harnesses, belay devices, good hiking/canyoneering shoes, gloves, backpack for food and water, drysuits or wetsuits (see water information above).

A quick easy slot canyon that is fun filled.  It is a great way to introduce someone to the sport of Canyoneering and it is also enjoyable for experts.

GPS Coordinates

Parking Lot/Trailhead:  37.224632°, -112.902614°
Jug Handle Arch:  37.236540°, -112.904298°
Start of Actual Keyhole Canyon:   37.226798°, -112.900847°


Trail Map:


Driving Directions:


The Trail:

Here is the short turnoff where you can park your vehicles. This is also the trailhead

Here is the short turnoff where you can park your vehicles. This is also the trailhead

I have successfully traversed Keyhole Canyon several times now and it is still a great little canyon to explore.  On this particular visit we escaped the cold of northern Utah to head down to the semi-warm of Zion National Park in Southern Utah in the middle of March.  Since we had already known that Keyhole holds very cold water we knew that doing the canyon in March would bring even colder water!  So we rented some drysuits and began the adventure.

You have to hike a little ways before you get to the actual Keyhole Canyon entrance but it really isn't that far of a hike anyway.

You have to hike a little ways before you get to the actual Keyhole Canyon entrance but it really isn’t that far of a hike anyway.

From the parking lot head east around the first bend in the road and then immediately cut north up the small canyon.  You will need to gain some 200+ feet in elevation to the ridge line before you drop again to the actual entrance.

Jug Handle Arch

Jug Handle Arch

From the ridge line just before you drop to enter Keyhole canyon, you can see Jug Handle Arch in the distance directly to the north.

Here is the actual entrance to Keyhole Canyon

Here is the actual entrance to Keyhole Canyon

Once you reach the ridge line you will then need to drop down to where the entrance is to the actual canyon.  When we did this canyon in March there was lots of snow melt making the entire canyon running with murky water.  If you come in dryer months then you will most likely only see large potholes full of water and little to no running water.


Ankle to chest deep water at the beginning

Ankle to chest deep water at the beginning

Keyhole Canyon can be very narrow at times and you will need to use both your hands for balance on the sides of the walls to keep you from tripping and falling in.

More slot canyon fun

More slot canyon fun

Every once in a while there will be large rocks that you will need to maneuver or climb around.  Use this time to get familiar with how you are using your feet and hands to get around the canyon.  This was actually one of the first canyons that I have ever done and I took my time and watched the other experienced canyoneers move about.

Keyhole Canyon holds lots of fun for you!

Keyhole Canyon holds lots of fun for you!

Pausing for a picture

Pausing for a picture

Even though we came in a large group, most of us were already experienced canyoneers and rock climbers.  Also – please note that many of us are NOT wearing helmets. This is NOT recommended.  You should ALWAYS wear a helmet if you are doing any type of technical hiking or if you simply feel you need to wear one. Do as we say, not as we do! 🙂

Checking out the ice

Checking out the ice

Even though we did this in March and the water was freezing cold, the drysuits kept us nice and warm.


Minor technical down climbing needed

Minor technical down climbing needed

The first section of Keyhole Canyon doesn’t require any rappels.  It is mostly simple down climbing and slot canyon hiking in ankle to waist deep water.  It is still very enjoyable!


A look into Middle Keyhole

A look into Middle Keyhole

Here is Middle Keyhole where the water flow from the first section meets in a pool and then funnels down to the first rappel (if there is snow melt or high levels of water flow).



First Rappel

First rappel

First rappel

The first rappel is probably just over 15 feet in total length.  The bolts are right above the rappel and you will be going down into the black abyss…actually there is a pool below that you will need to swim across.

Looking down the first rappel

Looking down the first rappel


A handline section

A handline section – or you can use your rope here too

A little bit further and you will come to a short handline section.  We found a rope that was already in place so we just used that.  Or if you want you can use your own rope to get down the tricky area.  Once you get through the down climb you will need to swim through the pool on the other side.

Swimming across the small pool

Swimming across the small pool

Thank goodness for drysuits!  The drysuits gave us some good buoyancy making the short swim even easier.  Did I also mention that the water was cold??

Here we are at the other side of the pool

Here we are at the other side of the pool.  You can see the bolt and the rope is already setup too



Second Rappel

After the pool, you quickly come to another rappel

After the pool, you will immediately come to another rappel

There is a bolt at the top of this rappel that you can see in the picture above this one.

Rappelling down into the black abyss

Rappelling down into the black abyss

Here is a photo looking down this rappel. Most of these rappels are great to learn the basics of canyoneering.  They are simple and short rappels so newcomers can understand the basics in a straightforward environment.  Of course, the person(s) teaching newbies should be thoroughly trained themselves as well.


Third Rappel

The last rappel or down climb

The last rappel or down climb – I apologize for the blurry photo

The last rappel could be done as a down climb.  There is a bolt at top which you could use your rope for or you can shimmy down the side of the short down climb and use your legs and back to carefully lower you down.

After this down climb you can put away your rope because it is swimming time!  Here you are just about out of the canyon and only need to swim a little ways before you are out.


The exit of Keyhole Canyon

The exit of Keyhole Canyon

Here is the exit of Keyhole Canyon.  It is really close to the road if you parked at the turnoff.


The Return:

Head back towards your vehicle.


Personal Thoughts:

Keyhole Canyon is a great canyon for people of all skill levels.  If we are hiking around Zion and have an extra 1-2 hours we usually try and get permits for Keyhole.  Keyhole is short and sweet and offers plenty of adventure. Trek Planner Logo


 

 

Ratings (out of 10)
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Difficulty
3.0
Technicality
5.0
Enjoyment
7.0
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek.  If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

7.5
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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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