Other than the Zion classic Angels Landing, peakbagging in Zion has never really taken off. Maybe it’s the understandable distraction of all the unbelievable scenery in the park that pulls people away from the presumably unclimbable peaks above them; perhaps it’s those peaks’ typically chossy rock that steers people away; perhaps it’s what was once an unfortunate lack of route beta to be found out there; or perhaps it’s the atrocious nature of many of the approaches…long and bushwhacky; or the technical nature of some of the approaches…sketchy climbing on bad rock, multiple rappels from natural anchors of questionable fortitude, and whatnot. Who knows?
For these, and perhaps other, reasons, a number of peaks in Zion National Park have no documented ascents. This peak didn’t see its first ascent until 2001.
Not exactly a park full of peak-gimmes, most of Zion's peaks require considerable effort, a lot of nerve, and/or some extraordinary route-finding.
The Peaks + Routes Overview-- Kolob TerraceLocated some miles west of Zion Canyon and north of Virgin and south of Kolob Reservoir, the Kolob Terrace area holds fantastic scenery; some of the park's best scrambling peaks, including the classic North Guardian Angel and the elusive ultra-classic South Guardian Angel; the world famous semi-technical slot canyon known as the Subway; and, in comparison to Zion Canyon, a feel of being almost deserted. A good deal of private property abuts this section of the park, but there is still a wild, wide-open feel to much of it. Be aware that there are no NPS campgrounds out here except for the one at Lava Point, which is several miles north of the best peaks and trails of the Kolob Terrace area. However, there is some BLM land adjacent to the park out here, and one can camp there for free and with few restrictions.
West Ridge-- Class 3
East Northgate Peak
North Slopes-- Class 2
North Guardian Angel-- East Ridge-- Class 4
Pine Valley Peak-- East-North Face-- 5.5
South Guardian Angel-- Northeast Ridge-- Class 3
Tabernacle Dome-- Northwest Ridge-- 5.2-5.4
West Northgate Peak-- East Face-- Class 3
In and Near Zion Canyon
The Organ-- SE Chimney, 5.6
Three Marys-- Scramble to Middle and Right Marys (5.2-5.4)
"Aires Butte"-- SE Face-- 5.6
Ant Hill-- South Buttress-- Class 4
Checkerboard Mesa-- East Side-- Class 3
"Destination Peak"-- Via Gifford Canyon-- Class 4
Jenny Peak-- North Ridge and Slopes-- Class 4
"Lost Peak"-- Clear Creek-- Class 3
Nippletop-- North Ridge-- Class 3
Progeny Peak-- Southwest Slopes-- Class 3
"South Ariel Peak"-- South Face-- Class 2-3; Southeast Face-- Class 4
The Triplets-- Traverse-- Class 4
Just Outside the Park
Canaan Mountain-- Water Canyon-- Class 2
Clear Creek Mountain-- Birch Hollow Drainage-- Class 2
Lambs Knoll-- Northeast Face-- Class 3
CanyonsFrom “walk-thru” canyoneering classics like the world-famous Virgin River Narrows (aka – Zion Narrows or “The Narrows”), to semi-technical classics like The Subway (Left Fork of North Creek), and yet still to technical canyoneering epic-builders like Heaps Canyon, Zion canyoneering (click on the link for further, and highly informative, reading) has certainly found its way onto the adventurer's map.
A mere sampling of some of the fine canyoneering adventures available in the park follows. Permits are required for all those listed except for the Hidden Canyon route linked below. Canyon ratings are in parentheses.
-Separation Canyon (1AII)
-Zion Narrows (1BIV)
-Hidden Canyon (2A R II)
-Behunin Canyon (3AIII) - trip report
-Spry Canyon (3AIII) (photo)
-Keyhole Canyon (3BII) (photo)
-Middle Echo (3BII)
-Pine Creek (3BII) (photo)
-Mystery Canyon (3BIII) (photo)
-The Subway (3BIII) (photo)
-Orderville Canyon (3BIV)
-Englestead Canyon (4AIV) (photo)
-Das Boot (4BII) - (photo)
-Imlay Canyon (4B R IV)
-Heaps Canyon (4B R V) (photo)
Canyoneering ratings in a nutshell:
-The first character in the rating, such as the "3" in 3BIII, refers to the technicality of the canyon.
A "1" refers to a non-technical canyon hike. No rope or other technical gear is needed.
A "2" is a basic canyon, wherein one might need to do some scrambling to work through the occasional obstacle. A rope might be useful for assistance with packs, belays, etc. Up-canyon escape options (without fixed ropes) are available.
A "3" is an intermediate-level canyon. There may be actual climbing (and/or downclimbing) and/or rappels involved. A rope will be needed and a retreat upcanyon would necessitate fixed ropes.
A "4" refers to an advanced canyon. Multi-pitch rappels, difficult climbing and/or complex rope work can be expected. Natural anchors may be challenging to establish, and unique canyoneering obstacles, such as keeper potholes and Mae West obstacles, may be present.
-The second character in the rating, such as the "B" in 3BIII, refers to the water volume and current in the canyon.
An "A" means that the canyon is typically dry or contains very little water. Some wading might be needed.
A "B" means that there is water in the canyon. The water should have little or no current. Some swimming can be expected.
A "C" means that there is water in the canyon and it moves swiftly. Expect waterfalls...and expect that wet canyon rope techniques will be needed.
-The third character in the rating, such as the "III" in 3BIII, refers to the grade of the canyon.
A "I" means that the canyon will only take a couple of hours to do.
A "II" means that the canyon should take about half a day to complete.
A "III" means that the canyon can be expected to take most of a day to complete.
A "IV" means that one should expect a long day. A bivy may be required.
A "V" means that the canyon will take about two days to complete.
A "VI" means that the canyon will take two full days (or more) to complete.
Occasionally, a rating will have an "R" or an "X" as well. The "R" means that the canyon is particularly risky. Beginners, even in the presence of solid partners, are not appropriate. An "X" means that the canyon is appropriate for experts only.
Canyoneering, like climbing, is a potentially dangerous activity. Conditions change regularly. Don't bite off more than you can swallow. 'Nuff said.
Refer to Tom Jones' excellent Utah canyoneering site for more info. He's got a Zion canyoneering guidebook out too. Check it out.
Big Walls and Climbing Spots (Short Routes)
Getting ThereZion National Park has three entrance stations:
The main entrance is located on Highway 9 at the east end of Springdale, Utah.
The park’s east entrance can be found about 10 miles west of Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah, also off Highway 9.
And the park’s third entrance, lending access to the Kolob Canyons section of the park, is found off Interstate 15 north of St. George, Utah.
Additionally, the Kolob Terrace [Reservoir] Road, found off Highway 9 in the small town of Virgin, gives access to the Kolob Terrace section of the park. You can also reach Kolob Terrace Road from the north from Highway 14 near Cedar City.
Consult the park’s SP mountain pages for specific directions to a peak (or climbing spot) of interest. Or click on one of the park contact links found on most of the mountain pages for more information.