Zion: Keyhole Canyon
Keyhole Canyon is a wonderful skinny slot canyon adventure with an easy and quick approach and exit.
At a Glance
Canyoneering: Never enter a technical canyon without the knowledge and skills needed to safely explore and return. Rappelling and downclimbing skills are required to navigate through Keyhole Canyon. Do not jump. Jumping in Zion's canyons have resulting in many broken bones.
Parking for Keyhole Canyon is 2 miles east of the small tunnel. A pullout large enough for 3-4 cars is located on the south side of SR- 9. The parking area is at the end of the Keyhole drainage entering from the north. Standing at the parking area and looking north through Keyhole, a glimpse of Jug Handle Arch in the Skyline is possible. Walk east on SR-9, passing Keyhole on the left (staying on the shoulder) for nearly .25 miles, bypassing a second drainage, entering from the left. Continue until another drainage is visible on the left. Enter the third drainage and walk up it (north) until the slickrock on the right side yields to travel. Continue up the slickrock bowl heading for the hoodoo on top. Once on top, travel to the right side of the hoodoo and seek the steep trail back down into the drainage on the north side of the saddle. At the bottom, turn left into the Keyhole drainage and work through the narrow sections until arriving at the first rappel from the large pine tree.
First Rappel - The first drop is about 20' but a longer rope is needed because the anchor is set back. Use a 100' rope to complete the canyon. Some people have slid down the log wedged in the slot at the first drop but is not recommended. There may be a pool of water awaiting you at the bottom of the first rappel. Getting out of the pool can be a challenge. Do not send anyone down alone (first) who might have trouble getting out of the cold water pool without help.
Obstacle - The next challenge is a short 7' downclimb into another (possible) pool of water.
Second Rappel - Continue another 20' downstream to the next anchor. This anchor is a glue-in type eyebolt anchor. This anchor will be used to rappel 20' into a bowl below. Walking across the bowl will afford another anchor opportunity which can be used to continue down another 20' on a low angle slab. There is the option to continue down this slab using the same glue-in anchor used to lower into the dish and then pull the rope once the low angle slab is negotiated. At the bottom of the slab the canyon becomes very deep, dark and convoluted.
Obstacles and cold water swim - Shortly down canyon a somewhat awkward 8' downclimb is encountered providing the way deeper into the slot. A little further down-canyon brings a somewhat easier 10' downclimb which ends in a narrow section of swimming which may be somewhat long (100') and cold.
Notice how the water in Keyhole gets increasingly colder while navigating through the canyon. Meandering down canyon for the next 150 yards brings a couple of wading pools and eventually the end of Keyhole Slot Canyon. The road is visible from the end of the canyon and once on the road the parking area of Keyhole is in view.
Options - Jug Handle Arch is an hiking option.
GPS Coordinates WGS84 Datum
Keyhole Slot Canyon
Start of Keyhole:
End of Keyhole Slot:
Total Hike Length: .25 miles
GPS coordinates are only references and may or may not be accurate. Do not rely on GPS coordinates as the sole method of navigation. Always have an accurate, detailed map at hand and have the proper map reading and navigation skills before setting out on any hike. Many of the hikes listed in this guide travel into canyons where a GPS has limited capabilities. Always check your position with a detailed map before dropping into a canyon.
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Suggested Gear: A sturdy pair of shoes are recommend to hike the trails in Zion National Park. Many quality shoes will help grip the rocks and prevent injury.
Zion National Park, Utah
History of the Thunderbird
This is my new favorite quote:
"I don't know who Tanya Milligan is, but I mean www.zionnational-park.com
It's a better site than the NPS's anyway."
Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park