First Zion National Park Trip, Part II: Orderville Canyon

We first attempted Orderville back in June and July – too much water! However, when we hit it up a couple weeks back – it made for a great hike in the summer heat with some awesome water play.

Check around the web before you attempt this one as the water levels can get quite high. It’ll be good to see what others have experienced and what extra equipment you might need if you can find information from trips just before heading down.

No wet suits, but swimsuits/quick-drying clothing, dry bags and water shoes (with good outdoor adventure socks) are definitely recommended! We also brought rope and a couple of harnesses (plus belay devices and locking biner, of course) for rappelling that we used in a couple of spots: not necessary but helpful.

Coordinate a shuttle or driver as you end up more than 10 miles from the start point – note that the end point is the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop in Zion National Park and the start point is outside the paid park grounds but you will need a backcountry permit, nevertheless.

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How we shuttled – parked one car just outside the pay grounds, then jumped into the other car to the start point. Entering through the east entrance, you’ll get to pass through the long tunnel and head outside the pay grounds. From the 9 Highway, turn left onto North Fork County Road (it’s an obvious turn with a large sign that marks it… at least when we saw it) and continue for about 12 miles up (about half-way it’ll turn into a dirt road) until you see an open space for parking. There will be a fence where you could take the rocky dirt path down another couple or miles or so, but we found it easier to just trek down it. Here are some more exact directions from Climb Utah.

Near the entrance to the canyon trail, you’ll see another parking area. If you get lost beforehand – mainly follow the path that parallels the river. You may see cows (as we did… really…. closely) as it’s fairly grassy and not too hilly at all – perfect pasture grounds? When you journey down into the canyon, it may or may not be dry for a while. We had it pretty dry for a few miles, in the least.

Okay, so here is where I had my biggest injury for the trip (read about the first part of the trip through Echo Canyon)… taking photos down along our path and trying to catch up at the same time, I tripped over a rock and tweaked my knee! It dislocated and as I recovered, it popped back into place. It took me a few minutes to recoup but we kept going – a swollen, throbbing knee wasn’t going to keep me from seeing the Narrows later! Oh, did I mention that Orderville meets up with the Narrows for that last leg to the finish?

Well, anyhoo, onward ho! Gorgeous views within the canyons all along the way… The trees and vegetation growing along the rock was spectacular. The luscious greenery enveloping the years of forming mineral layers… so cool!

Well, a few miles into hike, we broke for an energy boost and a welcomed rest.

Quick snack later, we tried to keep up a good pace but… I totally held everyone back. Ah, I know, I know…. clumsy me.

Notice how most of the photos are of everyone else in front of me?

Anyway, not too far after, we saw our first rappel. Well, for the gals, we rappelled… but the manly men swung down on pure upper body strength and a hand line.

The gals managed to stay dry. But the boys inevitably got a bit wet…

Continuing on… more pretty canyon views.

It was still pretty dry for us with a few muddy puddle spots.

Then we reached the first water obstacle! It was a sight for sore eyes after hiking for miles in the heat. Although, the canyon is fairly well shaded… it was definitely not a cool day. The momentary sections of sun were enough to get a good sweat going for me.

We lunched soon there after… amongst lots of bugs and tadpoles…

From this point forward, our trek became mostly wet – the dry hike was over. Bring on the water play! There were a few obstacles throughout this leg of the trail, but with an experienced climber to help – beginners with oomph should have no problem blazing on. Most of the pools initially stayed under waist-deep…

And we encountered a bit of tree-climbing where it seemed like a forest had fallen and shaped into a damn… But as we hit a large chokestone – the hike became even more exciting (and fun)!

At the chokestone, which is apparently near the Englestead Hollow canyoneering route, we started encountering a few groups that had hiked their way from the bottom up.

It was fairly difficult (or maybe just… simply too much effort) to take photos throughout the water park portion of the hike, but it was incredibly fun! Water slides and jumps into deeper pools – test the waters before diving in though!

This leg of the hike wasn’t a long one (maybe a couple of miles – give or take) so before we knew it…. we had met up with the Narrows.

I had always wanted to hike (at least part of) the Narrows since hearing about Zion – it was always (in majority) what I saw photos of… heard about… when folks talked about the Park. Like a true tourist, I had to take at least a few photos… so I made the effort and took out the camera a time or two.

The waters were definitely stronger than I thought they’d be and footing wasn’t the easiest with a bum knee. But hell, I loved every bit of it. Some sections, you could even float down on your back and coast with the current!

Without socks, my feet were getting fairly raw and my knee was starting to throb like an award-winning Taiko drumming team so when the we finally saw stairs, I was only too excited. The last leg through the Narrows is a couple of miles or so, where you’ll also see Mystery Falls on your left, before you reach the paved trail back to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. There are restroom facilities at the stop where you can freshen up before heading back to the car on the (approximately) half hour shuttle ride.

Scrapes and rock rash; dislocated patella; random contusions and blisters later – worth every grimace and pain. Hell. Yeah.

Of course, if you rather just take an easier route – you can hike from the Temple of Sinawava along the Riverside Walk to the Narrows and up towards Orderville Gulch until the “moki steps.” You won’t need a permit for this part.


2 responses to “First Zion National Park Trip, Part II: Orderville Canyon

  1. It looks so fun and cool! Keep these pics coming!

  2. ahhh i miss the Utah great outdoors… jealous!

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