Bucket List: Yankee Doodle Canyoning In Zion

Bucket List: Yankee Doodle Canyoning In Zion

Last Updated on September 8, 2020

1. Brick It:  verb \ ‘brik it \

: To “Brick it” is to “sh*t a brick”, where one is scared to the point that one not only loses control of their bowels, they lose control epically, resulting in something akin to a brick being dispelled and left behind.

Don’t worry, I didn’t brick myself. That honor belongs to my friend, Alex, who laughed at my height before we attempted to ‘superman’ across a slot canyon. We’ll get to that, but if canyoning is not on your bucket list, it definitely should be now. But first, an intro to canyoning.


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About Me

Kien Lam  

I'm Kien, an international photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. After quitting my job in finance, I've traveled to over 70 countries in the last 10 years finding the coolest experiences to check off my bucket list. I hope to help you find your inspiration with my photography and tips to travel the world.

What Is Canyoning?

Canyoning is the process of making your way through a canyon using a variety of techniques that include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, rappelling and swimming. Depending on the canyon and the environment, you can find yourself jumping into water pools, rappelling down waterfalls, or in this case, scrambling across slot canyons.

From the town of Hurricane, gateway to Zion, we headed by van to Yankee Doodle Canyon. At the point of entry, you could hardly tell that there was a beautiful sprawling slot canyon below. That’s often the case with slot canyons. We did our safety briefing and went over rappelling techniques to get down the large drops. We were told that this would be the easy part. And it was.

Rappelling Down Yankee Doodle Slot Canyon

After scrambling down a few large boulders, we made our way to the first in a series of narrow slots filled with cold muddy water. From here, we had the option to wade through or avoid the water by pushing our backs into one side of the wall and our feet onto to the other side and inching across. Having a nice grippy pair of shoes here will make you a lot more confident of not slipping. Even though it was just water below us, the protruding rocks and the hidden ones below meant a high possibility of serious injury if you fell the 10-15 feet to the bottom.

Kien Lam Stemming Across Yankee Doodle Canyon

Using The “Superman” Technique While Canyoning

Alex, being the taller hiker, had a natural reach advantage as the distance between the walls started to grow. Even so, at some point, the distance grew to about 4-6 feet apart making it impossible to continue with the sitting technique.

On the next slot, we fully extended into the  “Superman” position, using against both walls with our hands and feet to horizontally shimmy across. I went first. As long as you’re not fully stretched out, you can angle your legs downwards making it easier to push into the wall. My all time favorite trail shoes (also available for women) that I normally use for running through mud and dirt worked really well and I never really experienced any slipping.

Trail shoes will good grip will help a lot and I felt pretty comfortable as long either my arms or legs weren’t fully extended, allowing me to split my weight by pressing into the rock.

Before you go start, just make sure you are mentally and fully committed. A drop would have been disastrous. For a couple of seconds, I imagined smashing jaw first into the rock just a few feet below before breaking my knees on the canyon floor. Having had my jaw sealed shut for two weeks once, I did not want to go through it again.

Stemming-Superman-Technique-Yankee-Doodle-Slot-Canyon

Don’t Look Down

Making it across felt like a real accomplishment. Alex went next. Despite the height advantage, the poor grip on his shoes made it a more terrifying experience. For a few minutes, he shifted uncomfortably back and forth trying to find a steady foot hold before proceeding. The transition from this position to the “Superman” position was no easier. I filmed his efforts wondering whether we were getting in beyond our abilities and if I would have to bear the bad news to his mom when he goes face first into the canyon.

“Sorry Mrs. Lanwarne, I told him to do more upper body exercises, but he didn’t listen. I’m sorry for your loss”.

For the next 10 minutes, I heard heavy breathing and a declaration that he was “bricking it”. Leave it to Alex to still find humor when he was spread out like a plank trembling 12 feet up. Eventually, he made it across and both our hearts settled to a more acceptable rate. We continued on.

We repeated this a couple of times and eventually got to the end with one final scramble up a steep slab rock wall, clinging to the rocks along the way. It was definitely not a bad way to spend a morning in Utah.

We went out with Red Desert Adventures, who I highly recommend, because all of their tours are private, so you go at your own speed and don’t have to worry about other people. Our guide, Joe, was very professional but easy going, making it easier for me to get the photos I needed during even some of the extreme moments, offering to help at any opportunity. We had the entire place to ourselves, which only happens when you get off the beaten path.

If you want to explore some slot canyons on your own in the Zion area, check out these 5 of the best hidden slot canyons spots in the Utah/Zion area.

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