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Mystery Canyon – Zion National Park

Zion National Park, Utah


Mystery Canyon, Mystery Springs, Mystery Waterfall, the Narrows, slot canyons


Depending on which approach trail you take. The Observation Trail approach (which begins at the Weeping Rock Trailhead) is about 4 miles. The (optional) shuttle route from Zion Ponderosa is about 2.11 miles. The actual Mystery Canyon trail is roughly 1.8 miles. Then once you exit Mystery Canyon, you will need to continue hiking down the Narrows until the shuttle parking lot which is about another 1.27 miles.

Parking Lot Elevation

From the Observation Trailhead: 4366 ft

Summit Elevation

6738 ft to the Entrance to Mystery Canyon (which is at the top of the mesa). Keep in mind you will hike back down to the narrows from here.

Elevation Gain/Loss

2372 ft

Time Required

7-12 hours. This of course depends on your hiking speeds, skill levels of everyone in the group and how many breaks you take. We did Mystery Canyon from start to finish from the Optional Ponderosa Trailhead in about 7 hours with a group size of 6 with skill levels ranging from beginner to expert.


Not allowed


Yes. You will need permits for Mystery Canyon which can be obtained from the Visitor Center or on the Zion National Park website. They don’t allow too many people to do Mystery Canyon per day so make sure you plan ahead and get the proper permits required.

Water Info

Bring 3-4 liters of water. You will come to Mystery Spring just before you finish the canyon which puts out a good amount of water. We always bring a filter just in case.

Best Season

Spring, fall. Summer is OK but can be really hot.


Open year round

Sun Exposure

You will travel in about half sun exposure and half shade.

Trail Condition

Trail is in good condition. It is clear and easy to follow.


Only at the visitor center and other designated Zion shuttle stops

Visitor Center

Yes, back towards the park entrance.


By permit only. And in designated spots only.


Bring meals and snacks as needed. We brought lunch and several snacks per person.


You will need full canyoneering equipment.
We brought my 200 9.2 Canyoneero Rope, Rope bag, 200 foot pull-cord ,harnesses for each person, gloves, helmets, good canyoneering shoes (we used our trusty 5.10 canyoneering shoes), we brought about 80 feet of webbing, belay devices, ascenders (for just in case purposes), many carabiners, several rapides, a few runners, chain reactors, large backpacks for our food and water, water container of some sort, hats,sunglasses

Please make sure you have the proper training and skills to go through Mystery Canyon.  Remember that you are only as good as the weakest member in your group. That being said, this is an incredible canyon with some fun and amazing rappels and sights to see.  Enjoy!

GPS Coordinates

Zion Ponderosa Approach (shorter but requires a 2 vehicle shuttle system): 37.296732°, -112.900958°
Observation Point Trailhead Approach (longer but does not require a 2 vehicle shuttle system): 37.270662°, -112.938478°
Mystery Canyon Entrance:  37.289260°, -112.929658°
Mystery Canyon Exit (requires rappel): 37.299420°, -112.944309°

Trail Map

Driving Directions

It is up to you which approach you will take!

Zion Ponderosa Approach
For the Zion Ponderosa approach which begins up at the Zion Ponderosa area (it’s located at the north of the East Entrance to Zion National Park) , you will need a shuttle system. Either have two cars; one you can leave at the Visitor Center and one you can leave at the Zion Ponderosa. Or you can pay someone to drop you off up at the Zion Ponderosa and leave your car down at the visitor center.

Observation Point Approach (begins at the Weeping Rock Trailhead)

The Observation Point approach is about 4 miles long and much steeper. But it does not require a shuttle system. You simply park at the Visitor Center and take the Zion Park shuttle to the Weeping Rock Trailhead, then follow up the East Mesa Trail until you come to the top of Mystery Canyon.

The Trail:

Mystery Canyon

We started this hike from the Zion Ponderosa area.   We like this approach because it is about 2 miles to the entrance to Mystery Canyon and it is nice and flat.  This way we can save most of our energy and water for going through the canyon.

Our first time going through Mystery Canyon back in August 2008 we started the hike from the Observation Trailhead (Weeping Rock Trailhead) which is located at the bottom of Zion Canyon.  This approach took us about 3 hours to hike and it is about 4 miles in length.  We about drank all of our water and we hadn’t even started hiking in Mystery Canyon yet.

Mystery Canyon

The Zion Ponderosa approach is very casual and we got to the Mystery Canyon entrance in less than an hour.

Mystery Canyon

Here you can see Mystery Canyon from the very top of the mesa.   You will need to carefully hike down to the bottom of this canyon before you will be using any ropes.

Mystery Canyon

The hike down is very steep and precarious.

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

We passed by 3 optional places that you could use the rope.  All 3 of these are easy to bypass with side trails.  We didn’t even bother doing these 3 optional rappels because honestly, they are somewhat pointless.
Mystery Canyon

It really is a beautiful canyon.

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Here is another OPTIONAL rappel.  It is about 15 feet in length and is, again, pointless.  There is a side trail where you can bypass this. (you can see the rapide in the left center of the picture below.)

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

It is a good distance from the top of the mesa to the first rappel.  Just take your time and enjoy the canyon as you wonder through it.

Mystery Canyon

First Rappel

Eventually, the canyon will narrow tightly and you will come to the very first rappel.  It is about 45+ feet in length and there are already anchors in place for you to use.  We found webbing attached to all of the anchors when we did this hike in November, 2014.Mystery Canyon

On the first rappel.Mystery Canyon

Looking up the first rappel.  It was awesome!
Mystery Canyon

Second Rappel

Here is the second rappel which is located just next to the first rappel. It was probably 25 feet in length.

Mystery Canyon

Another look at the second rappel.

Mystery Canyon

Looking up from the second rappel.Mystery Canyon

Third Rappel

The third rappel is also close the the first and second rappels.  We didn’t even bother putting our rope back in the rope bag since the first few rappels are consecutive.
Mystery Canyon

The third rappel is about 25+ feet in length.Mystery Canyon

The slot canyons are impressive and incredible to see for yourself!

Mystery Canyon

Fourth Rappel

Here is the fourth rappel.  It isn’t too much farther from the 3rd rappel.  It is about 40+ feet in length.
Mystery Canyon

Climbing down the 4th rappel.Mystery Canyon

Fifth Rappel

Here is the 5th rappel.  It was about 15 feet in length.Mystery Canyon

Sixth Rappel

The 6th rappel could technically be done by down climbing but we wanted to be safe so we just used the rope again.  It was about 35 feet in length.Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Just outside the slot canyon after the 6th rappel.  We stuffed the rope in the rope bag and made our way to the 7th rappel.

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Seventh Rappel

The 7th rappel is about 20+ feet in length too.Mystery Canyon

Another view of the 7th rappel.Mystery Canyon

Looking up from the slot canyon.
Mystery Canyon

There are a few areas where you may want to help others in your group down climb.  This area is one of those and it is located just below the 7th rappel.
Mystery Canyon

The canyon opens up again and you will see many oak sage, cottonwoods and even pine trees.  Fall really is the best time to see this canyon.Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

After a few hundred yards of hiking you will come to the “Landslide Area”  You can see in the picture a giant wall of dirt and rock piled up in the distance. Usually, there isn’t water in this location but the week before our arrival there was a torrential storm that caused flooding and unfortunately for us we had to trudge through the muck.  It was only about waist level but still it was dirty and slimy. Nasty!

It was about a 75 foot walk through the water to reach the otherside.Mystery Canyon

Here is a friend looking up from Landslide Area.  You had to climb over this then hike back down the other side.
Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Eighth Rappel

Here is the eighth rappel. It was located just below the Landslide Area.Mystery Canyon

Looking up from the eighth rappel.  It was about 35 feet in length.Mystery Canyon

Another down climb area where we helped each other get down safely.Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Some people left their writings on the rocks.  This is of course stupid and tells the strikingly low level of intelligence of the people that wrote them.Mystery Canyon

Ninth Rappel

Once around the corner from the eighth rappel, it will open up into a place called Mystery Springs.  The water seemingly comes out of the rocks and collects at the bottom of the canyon and runs down into the narrows.

Here you will need to get out the pull cord and rig the rope with a “biner block” so you can retrieve both ropes later.  There was several anchors that you can use out on the ledge. You can see someone placed a 30 strip of webbing so you can attach a runner or chain reactor to safely walk out to the anchor point.  Yes, the anchors are located where my brother is standing in the picture below. 🙂 It’s exciting!

This ninth rappel is about 110 feet in length and it ends in a pool of water that you will need to swim across.  It is about a 5 foot swim to the other side but is deep enough that you probably can’t touch the bottom.
Mystery Canyon

My brother setting up the rope and looking to the spring.  You can see the spring water coming out of the rocks in the picture below.
Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Getting ready to rappel down.

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Once at the bottom of the large rappel, the water isn’t as cold as you would think.Mystery Canyon

You will follow the runoff from Mystery Spring for a few hundred yards.  There are several areas where you will have to get wet and jump in the water.  Also, the rocks are very slippery so please take your time and make sure you have the right footing before you walk just anywhere.Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

Tenth Rappel

The last and 10th rappel overlooks the Narrows. Mystery Canyon

Looking down into the Narrows.  It is about 125 foot in length to the bottom and the rappel parallels Mystery Waterfall which is VERY slippery!Mystery Canyon

Setting up the last rappel.
Mystery Canyon

Looking up from the bottom of Mystery Waterfall.Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon

This is the last picture I took of our hike through Mystery Canyon.  It was dark and we had just gotten to the paved trail at the Narrows before the sunlight was completely gone.  What a day!!
Mystery Canyon

The Return:

Head back towards your car at which ever parking lot you left it at.

Personal Thoughts:

I have now completed Mystery Canyon three times.  This was one of the first canyons I have ever canyoneered and it was a blast!  I think it was a great introductory canyon for me as I went with several others who were way more knowledgeable and skilled in canyoneering than I was and it was great to come back here a third time to see how far I have grown in my own skills.

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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.

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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
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4 Comments on "Mystery Canyon – Zion National Park"

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The “Observation trailhead” is technically called the “Weeping Rock Trailhead”. Might want to fix that for clarification.

Looked like a fun trip though. Nice photos.


Thanks for sharing those information. Did you guys do it fairly recently? I’m going the next weekend so I’d love to know more about the current condition.


Hi Michael, sorry for the late reply. Yes, you can check out current conditions here:
And for Mystery specifically, check this: