Elephant Butte

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Elephant Butte Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
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Elephant Butte Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3A III (v3a1 III)
Raps:‌2, max ↨82ft
Red Tape:Permit required
Condition Reports:
13 May 2023

"This canyon was a lot of fun. The route was easy to follow and the climbing portions were not bad at all. We did the extra hike up to Elephant Butte p

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Best season:
All year


Elephant butte is a combination hike, climb, rap adventure. This is the route that allows you to tackle the highest point in Arches if trying to tick of the high point in every park.

Navigation is extremely difficult even with a good description and a GPS. It is strongly recommended to get an app that can save satellite images for offline use with the GPS track on top, like Gaia App.


The approach is a quick 5 min hike from the parking lot to the start of the canyon. The canyon is well protected and the entrance a bit hidden with large sandstone boulders filling the entry. Just pick your way through them and make your way up and up. Beware there are some short (10-15 feet) 5.5 climbs on this route to complete. Easily done with a decent climber in the group and a spotter. Once you get a climber up, a hand line can easily get the rest of the team over these obstacles. But they are mostly vertical walls.

Keep ascending and you will eventually hit two different sandy areas. Both of these are exited to the RIGHT.

Once past the second sandy area, scramble/climb up through an obvious notch in the rock, again to the RIGHT. This is the crux 5.4 upclimb. A partner assist should work well here. Exposure is moderate.

  • The crux of the route, a 5.4 upclimb
  • Then, drop down through a tiny slot to find your first bolted rap.

    The bolts are NOT obvious from the tiny slot you just came through. Keep left and they will be very obvious.

  • RAP 1 is about 80 feet. A 200 (65M) rope was plenty.
  • Descent

    There are 2 raps on this route.

    R1: Bolts: 100'; The first rap allows you to cross over to the next canyon so you can continue UP to the high point. Follow the left canyon upwards, ascending the slick rock.

    There was a rock cairn marking the turn to the exit canyon (canyon right as you ascend the slick rock towards the top) should your party choose NOT to climb all the way up to the top of Elephant Butte.

    To reach the top of Elephant Butte, continue ascending upwards on the steep slick rock. Trend to the right as you climb, you will find a weakness in the cliff bands 2x, allowing you to gain the final top of Elephant Butte.

    Once at the top of Elephant Butte, the highest point in Arches NP, look back down what you just climbed up and the exit canyon will be slightly left of the canyon you just ascended. There are rock cairns marking the left canyon to descend on the way back down. Descend off left into the wide gully and follow it down the canyon to the final rap.

    R2: The final 50' rap is now bolted with a chain/ ring station on the LDC wall near the lip.

    There is a minor exposed downclimb just below the final rappel where a partner assist might be useful.


    Once off the R2, follow the water course down canyon and eventually, Walk out to the road or follow casual trails to the parking lot to the LEFT.

    Red tape

    A self issue permit is required with no limit. Can be done on-line or at the local kiosk. No fee


    Beta sites

    Trip reports and media



    Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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