Orderville Canyon - Zion National Park
Canyoneering is becoming more popular and Zion National Park has the most concentrated collection of extraordinary slot canyons anywhere. Orderville Canyon is among the most used canyons in the park due to its beauty, but also because, like the Subway, advanced canyoneering skills are not required. Still you will need solid down-climbing skills along with some simple rope work knowledge. This canyon is often considered to be "semi-technical" rather than technical. You will be wading in cold water and expect to do some swimming. Even if you do this in the summer, neoprene socks make the hike more comfortable. There are obstacles that can be down-climbed but most people will need a rope to navigate the canyon safely. You will also need basic canyoneering gear such as sturdy water shoes, dry bag, a rope and a rappelling device. The canyon begins outside of the park boundary, dropping into Zion where it begins to form a narrow slot. This is one of the prettiest slot canyons in the park, with vertical walls several hundred feet high. The canyon ends when it butts into the North Fork of the Virgin River, not far from the end of the Zion Narrows Route. After you finish Orderville Canyon, you get an added bonus as you wade into the Zion Narrows out to the paved Riverside Walk Trail that leads to the Temple of Sinawava and the end of Zion Canyon. Many hikers like to use ski-like hiking poles to keep their balance once they are in the Zion Narrows due to the increased water flow compared to that in Orderville Canyon. I dislike hiking with poles but this is one place they are very helpful.
ACA Canyon Rating - 3B IV
Car Shuttle -
You will need to have two vehicles and one should be a 4WD, but if the roads are dry you can get away with using a 2WD vehicle, but you will have to hike a little farther than if you have a 4WD. You can also pay a commercial shuttle to drop you off eliminating the need for two vehicles and a 4WD. If the seasonal Zion Canyon Shuttles are running (usually from March to November) then you can park in Springdale, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the Zion Human History Museum or Canyon Junction. I prefer Canyon Junction (where the Zion-Mt. Carmel Hwy and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive meet) since then I don't have to sit on the shuttle so long and although parking there is limited I have never had a problem finding a spot. Leave a car at the site of your choice and drive the other vehicle out the east entrance of the park, then continue on Highway 9 for 2.4 miles and turn on the signed Left Fork Road. Drive 5 miles on this road, headed toward the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. Eventually the pavement ends and turns into a graded dirt road. This section of the road requires a 4WD when wet, but even with such a vehicle the road can be extremely dangerous or impassible when wet. One trip we took out of there in the rain was terrifying to say the least! When you see the gate to the Ponderosa pass it by and drive another 5 miles to the marked turn-off for Orderville Canyon. Drive in as far as you are comfortable with. This is where you will begin to hike.
Zion Adventure Company: 435-772-1001
Zion Backcountry Trans: 435-772-7608
Zion Ponderosa: 800-293-5444
Zion Rock: 435-772-3303
Orderville Canyon Topo Map
Zion Hiking Topo Map
Follow the beaten path and drop into the canyon. The first few miles you will pass some canyons which are tributaries to Orderville Canyon including: Birch Hollow, Walker Gulch and Esplin Gulch. Be prepared for obstacles and be aware that obstacles can change after a flash flood rearranges things. The first obstacle should be a large boulder that can be down-climbed through an opening on the side. When the water is flowing this can be scary for some since you have to climb through the water. I have seen so many groups of people jumping from this rock and others in the group terrified because they don't want to jump but do not know how else to get down. Please don't jump, Zion's SAR team would appreciate it. There have been terrible injuries in this canyon due to jumping. Learn to down-climb and bring a rope for the obstacles that cannot be down-climbed by members of your group. After passing the large boulder and continuing down stream you will pass Englestead Hollow and Bulloch Gulch. After this last side canyon there will be several obstacles to overcome. Either down-climb them or set up short rappels as needed. The last obstacle should be the moqui steps on the waterfall. This is a slippery place to down-climb. Please set up a rope! You are almost to the Zion Narrows at this point. Once you are at the Narrows you have hiked 8.5 miles through Orderville Canyon. Continue through the Narrows, then down the Riverside Walk and get on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. If you do this canyon after the shuttles close for the season you will be able to park your car at the Temple of Sinawava. If you are not an experienced winter canyoneer, please do not attempt to do this route during the colder months of the year when a wetsuit and other gear and knowledge may be essential.
Best Time to Go
Mid-June to mid-September when the water is warmer. Any other time of the year check to see what the water temperature is. You might need a wet/drysuit.
Gear - Bring a 60 foot rope, rapelling device, neoprene socks, a dry bag and wear appropriate water shoes and quick dry clothing - not cotton. Never jump in these canyons! Use your rope and do not go unless you have some down-climbing skills.
Hi-Tech Clothing - The hi-tech shirts have probably become the most popular form of this type of clothing, often stocked in large department stores amidst regular clothing. The various types of hi-tech clothing are not only comfortable but they are light to wear and to carry so you can dress in layers and then toss into your pack what's not needed. The fabric wicks moisture away from skin and dries quickly which can be essential when hiking in cold weather. You will find the apparels quick dry properties essential in canyons where drying quickly can become essential to staying warm.
Safety - Orderville Canyon looks like a water park to some, but jumping and horse-playing in the slot canyons can and has resulted in serious injuries. Check the weather before going. Never enter a slot canyon when it's raining at the location or upstream from where you will be hiking. Most canyons offer no refuge in the event of a flash flood. Do not think you can out run one or climb to safety. Sticky rubber shoes are essential for canyoneering. Carry enough water for the trip and wear quick dry clothing such as hi-tech shirts and shorts.
Remember - You are responsible for your own safety.
Photo: The last obstacle in the canyon involves coming from the top of the waterfall to the stream below. There are moqui steps carved into the rock but it's still too slippery for most people to climb down. A rope should always be used here.
Entrance Fees and Permits for Zion National Park
America the Beautiful Pass and Fees
$80 (annual) Pass to "all" public lands (Does not really seem to be all though, but it's a good pass to most things.)
Private Vehicle $25 (7 days)
Zion Park Pass $50 (annual)
Pedestrian/Bike $12 (7days)
Oversized Vehicle Fee (2 times /7days)
Backcountry Permit: $10
If you are bringing a camper or bigger into the main section of the park you need to know that there is a $15 (good for 2 trips in 7 days) escort fee for anything 7'10" wide and/or 11'4" tall or larger.
There are permits issued for a total of 50 hikers per day. 30 are filled by online lottery registration and 20 by walk-in permits issued from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center the day of or the day before a canyoneering trip. If you canyoneer in Zion often, apply for an Express Permit which allows you to obtain a permit on-line. A backcountry permit is required from the National Park Service to do Orderville Canyon. Choose Orderville Canyon from the drop down box on this NPS site. This canyon is in the Prmitive Zion due to the Mexican spotted owls and thus 50 people per day can visit the canyon.
Nearby Free Camping
Mosquito Cove, located between mile markers 23 and 24 on the south side of Highway 9, south of Springdale. Also you can probably camp on the BLM land around Eagle Crags. In the Kolob Terrace free camping is often found at Smith Mesa.
There are 6 sites at Lava Point in the Kolob Terrace section. Due to winter road conditions the campground is usually only open from June to November.
Camping inside the Main Park
The Watchman Campground is near the south entrance of the park and is open year-round. Sites are given on a first come, first use basis November through March. Reservations can be made during the rest of the year. $16 per site without electric hookups, $18 per site with electric hookups, and $20 per site for river sites. Reservations: 877-444-6777
The South Campground is also located near the south entrance and is open March through October. All sites in the South Campground are first-come, first serve. $16 per site, per night.
Both of these campgrounds provide restrooms, picnic tables, RV dump, drinking water and utility sinks. There are no showers.
For any backcountry camping you will need to apply for a permit at the visitor center and there is a fee. Groups must be 12 or less. Backpacking permits can be obtained up to three days before your trip date.
Informative links about Orderville Canyon and Zion National Park
National Park Service
The official NPS site is the place to read the rules, regulations, closures and current permit information.
Bo and Tanya's Orderville Canyon
Shane Burrow's Information - Shane's Photo
Tom Jones Information
National Park Service
This is the Zion National Park section of the National Park Services official pages.
Back Country Guide - PDF File
East Zion Tourism Council
The East Zion Tourism Council covers the area from the east entrance of the park to Glendale.
Springdale Chamber Commerce
Springdale is the small town adjacent to the south side of the park.
Bo and Tanya's Zion National Park site.
Zion Food and Lodging
Food and Lodging - NPS Site
Tsunami Java & Juice - Springdale
Zion Rock & Mountain Guides -Springdale
Zion Area Map