Bucket List: Canyoning Yankee Doodle Canyon

Bucket List: Canyoning Yankee Doodle Canyon

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 the rest of the story in a bit. But first, an intro to canyoning.

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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. From the entry point, 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 using as much friction as possible to keep us from slipping down the 5-7 foot drops, we made our way to the first in a series of narrow slots filled with cold muddy water. From here, we avoided the water by pushing our backs into one side of the wall and our feet onto to the other side and then inching our way across. Having a nice grippy pair of shoes here will make you a lot more confident of not slipping. Even though it’s just water below us, the protruding rocks and the hidden ones below meant a high possibility of serious injury especially at points where we were a clear 10-15 feet off the ground.

Kien Lam Stemming Across Yankee Doodle Canyon

The “Superman” Technique

Alex, being the taller hiker, had a natural 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.

Stemming Across Slot Canyon Yankee Doodle Utah

Stemming Across Yankee Doodle Canyon

On the next slot, we would eventually get into a fully extended “Superman” position and using the counterweight from our hands and feet to walk horizontally across. I went first and felt surprisingly comfortable moving a foot at a time across. My Inov-8 Trailroc 245 that I normally use for my running through mud and dirt worked really well and I never really experienced that slipping feeling. It came down to how long my arms could stay extended to hold me. It also helped knowing that you are fully committed once you start. 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.


Making it across felt like an 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.

Hiker Canyoning Through Yankee Doodle Slot Canyon

We repeated this a couple of times and eventually got to the end scrambling up a steep slab rock wall clinging to the rocks along the way. Not a bad way to spend a morning in Utah.

Climbing Out Of Yankee Doodle Canyon On Slick Slabs

If this sounds interesting, check it out the next time you see a sign for a canyoning or canyoneering trip. I’ve done similar, but completely different canyoning trips in India and Costa Rica. Check that out.


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