Angel Creek (Lower)
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Raps:4, max ↨45ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Rock type:Cutler Sandstone
31 Jul 2023
"Low flow, shallow pools. A guided group of 12+ showed up as we were rigging R1. R4 can be downclimbed on canyon right. Even shorter than advertised -
Lower Angel Creek is a great, short introduction to flowing canyons, or "C" class canyoneering. It is suitable for first-timers with the proper supervision. The entire route may take only 1 1/2 hours for an experienced group, consisting of a 20 minute approach, roughly 1 hour in canyon, and 20 minute exit. With first-timers, a large group and/or anchor-building it could take up to 4 hours. Like all canyon routes in and around Ouray, the season for Lower Angel is short, typically July 4th weekend until the end of September. Lower Angel has one of the longest seasons in Ouray, due to the relatively low elevation, relatively low CFS, the possibility to avoid almost all direct waterfall contact, and the numerous escape routes DCR. It is also one of the only canyons in Ouray for which a wetsuit is not mandatory. Great for early and late season, as is Portland Creek just down the road. These two make a great 2-fer combo on the same day.
From the center of the town of Ouray, drive south on Highway 550 for half mile, turn right onto CR 361 also know as Camp Bird Road, a dirt road. Go past the first right turn for the Ice Park. Continue on the dirt road for 2 miles to Angel Creek Campground, which is right after you cross over Canyon Creek and on the right side. Park at the parking area as soon as you turn in. You are able to drive in further on the dirt road, but it is the drive for campgrounds only and any parking you see is reserved for the campers.
From the parking area at Angel Creek Campground, walk down the dirt road past several camp sites until you see a sign straight ahead that prohibits motorized vehicles. The dirt road continues to your left and there is another campsite, camp 8, on it. Follow the dirt road past this campsite until it turns into a well well-worn single track trail. You will soon see the drainage on your right. The trail gradually descends and the trees open up on the right revealing the creek. Walk down the trail to a sandy beach with flat bedrock and change into your wetsuits. The first rappel is downstream and the anchor can be seen on the rock DCL.
Update (7/7/16): The bolts on R1 and R3 were chopped recently, and they have been replaced with unlinked ring anchors (do not add webbing to these anchors). The bolts at R1 are difficult and exposed to reach; it is recommended to use a handline (traverse line) to reach these bolts safely. There are bolts at all 4 rappels if you are so inclined, but feel free to practice your natural anchoring skills with the beta below.
You will get soaked on the first rappel. However, after the first rap it is possible to avoid getting wet above the knees so it is personal preference whether you want to don a wetsuit or not. A rain shell with a hood is my preference, as it's hardly worth the time to don and doff a wetsuit and then carry a wet wetsuit up the exit. The anchor for the first rappel is a rock pinch-point in the watercourse. The rap is 32' from the anchor to the floor. For a beginner, this may be a difficult start. The going is slippery. Starting on one's side, on the hip, is a good way to get started. Get in the water and enjoy. The second rap is soon after the first one, not more than 5 minutes of down-climbing. When you get to the ledge at the top of the second rap turn around and look back about 15 feet. The anchor is slightly DCR of the watercourse and is a rock pinch-point. The rap is 28 feet but the drop is only 12 feet. It is possible to down-climb DCR but that way is getting quite a bit of man-made erosion and is unnecessary, so don't do this. Stay in the watercourse to prevent further erosion and do what you came here to do, rappel in waterfalls. This drop has also been downclimbed on canyon left, directly adjacent to the flow, though this downclimb is pretty scary. The third rap is shortly after the second, again, only about 5 minutes of down-climbing. Take the time to look back at the succession of waterfalls. The section between the first and third raps is the best part of the route. The anchor for the third rap was a tree DCR and up the slope about 10 feet. Unfortunately, from this tree you will miss the watercourse. The rap is 50 feet, but the drop is only 40 feet. The webbing can be extended another 10 feet. It is a fun rap down a dry flume (dry unless there is a torrential downpour). Historically this drop had two bolted anchors on canyon right, 10 feet or so from the lip of the drop though they have gone through periods of chopping. Look for the bolts before using the tree. Also birds have occasionally nested in the nooks and crannies on canyon right just above the lip. Leave them in peace and stay on canyon right.
From the bottom of the third rap to the top of the final rap is about a 10-15 minute walk down the creek bed. It opens up a bit. The anchor for the fourth rappel was two bolts DCL. It is a 12 foot rappel. This may be difficult for beginners as you come off a huge chock-stone and have to maneuver the start from a crack on one side of it and then you will swing under it and go through the falls to an impressive little grotto behind the falls. After swinging under, your feet will almost be touching the ground. It is possible here to bring the rope DCR over a boulder and rap down from here and stay dry. If someone is missing a helmet or is getting hypothermia this would be a good move, but otherwise, you are missing one of the best raps. This drop has been downclimbed many times and isn't as bad as it looks, though beginners won't agree. Watch for steel wire that has been tangled in the rocks over the years.
After the fourth and final rappel, you can take your gear off and get ready for the hike out. Continue down stream for a few minutes. You will see several downed Pine trees and climb over or around them. If you look to the right you will see a hand line coming down. This is the exit. If you get to the confluence with Canyon Creek, retreat about 100 feet and look to you left (heading up Angel Creek). Follow the hand line for a couple hundred meters up the ridge between the two creeks. Once at the top of the ridge, go straight onto the wide dirt path, which will take you right back to the campground. Continue straight through the campground passing all of the camp sites to your car.
- Canyoning in the Colorado San Juan Mountains Book by Ira Lewis
- Current Water Level Assessment from Canyoning Colorado: https://canyoningcolorado.com/canyon-reports
- HikeArizona.com : Lower Angel Canyon
- Super Amazing Map : Angel Creek
- Icopro.org : Angel Creek
Trip reports and media
- Candition.com : Angel Creek