Shelf Canyon is a fun little trek on the east side of Zion National Park. It takes a bit of boulder hopping to explore, but beyond some easy obstacles it's a short stroll through a pretty part of the park and offers the visitor, who may have minimal hiking skills, equipment, and limited time, an opportunity to explore a true slot canyon. Hoodoos, tall thin spires of rock, decorate from the onset with the first attention grabber sitting high on a lofty perch to the left. During the wetter times of the year, a refreshing trickle of water spills down the mountainside providing ferns below with enough water to thrive in this shady little haven. Lush evergreens add a touch of year-round green to the spectrum of colors along the hike and contrast with towering tangerine colored rock. Toward the termination of the route, walls close in forming a short, yet impressive, slot until the path completes at a series of shelves - thus the name Shelf Canyon. Like much of the hiking on the east side of the park, this is a good winter excursion when the slickrock is dry.
Trailhead - Look for the Canyon Overlook Trail parking lot near the east side of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Shelf Canyon is 250 yards east of this parking lot and 300 yards west of the Upper Pine Creek drainage. The entrance to the canyon is an unsigned area on the north side of the highway, so peer over the edge to find the path of use and then drop into the sandy drainage. There are a group of hoodoos at the top of the sandstone cliff above and some fun rock formations to navigate around. A stone slab with lateral engravings is the first climbing obstacle. Toward the end of the path walls close in to make a short, but narrow slot. Rocks clutter into the passage and a series of horizontal ledges or shelves prevent further exploration. Climbing at the end of the canyon is tempting, however strongly discouraged.
Shelf Canyon Trail: This drainage is often called Shelf Canyon because the many shelf-like rock layers. Steve Ramras (Ram), well known canyoneer, named the canyon.
Best Trail Features: Like much of the east side hiking, Shelf Canyon is a good winter route when dry. This is a great little hike away from the crowds that is fun and easy.
GPS Coordinates WGS84 Datum
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.
To post trip reports, offer corrections, updates, or for more information please visit the Zion National Park Forum
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
Stay in the heart of the parks, Mount Carmel Junction, and visit the treasures of the Southwest and Utah.
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