Illusions Canyon

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Illusions Canyon Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
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Illusions Canyon Banner.jpg

Difficulty:4B III (v4a2 III)
Raps:‌13, max ↨100ft
Approach:30min-1h ↑0ft
Exit:1.5-4h ↑0ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Shuttle:Optional 1h 15min
Vehicle:High Clearance
Rock type:Sandstone
Condition Reports:
6 Jun 2023

"Snow has melted away and the canyon is no longer flowing but water level at the keeper is still a foot above the lip. Two of us wore drysuits and the

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Best season:
Late Spring to Early Autumn;COLD in May;Sep;Oct


This is one of the best in Arizona.

Illusions and Insomnia can be combined as a two day combo with 3 vehicles. Leave 2 cars at the canyon exit and drive with one to the top of the canyon, camp there (it's free in BLM land) and start the canyon early the next day; approach will be immediate so you will have more energy and time to enjoy the canyon. Do Illusions the first day, when done take one of the cars you left at the bottom and drive back to camp (still leaving one car at the exit). Next day wake up early and do Insomnia, then use the car you left at the bottom to come back to camp and recover the other 2 vehicles. If you use only 2 cars you will have to drive up and down 3 times to set the shuttle up for the second day, which is a total pain.


The shortest way to run the canyon is with the Sneak Exit. It can also be done with long shuttle or with the original approach hiking up from the bottom and exiting West Fork of Oak Creek, but this adds a large amount of shuttle time and a strenuous hike up A.B. Young trail.

From Flagstaff, take the road marked in black on the KML. Alternatively, a shorter route on only slightly rougher roads can be taken from the 89A (535 to 536 to 231 to 9018M).

You can camp at the parking spot for the approach/exit, it's free to camp in BLM land.

Loop Route Using Sneak Exit

  • Parking: 34.9891, -111.7699
  • Drop In: 34.9865, -111.7721
  • Final Rappel: 34.9938, -111.7710
  • Exit Right Up Drainage: 34.9937, -111.7704
  • Exit Trail At Top: 34.9901, -111.7677


Full details on the descent are available through the CanyonCollective link and other beta sites listed below.

4 Rating

Illusions has potential keeper potholes - notably the pothole at the base of the final rappel. Depending on water levels, these features may require special equipment and skills to get past (reference ACA Canyon Rating criteria). Parties should review the below sources of beta and be equipped with appropriate pothole escape skills and gear prior to entering the canyon.

Other risk factors to consider include number of rappels, water temperature, prolonged immersion, and difficulty of escape.


A couple hundred feet after the 95 foot rappel a drainage enters from the right. Follow a developing use trail up the right side of this drainage. You will gain 1100 feet in a short distance. Veering left towards the saddle will add to your bush whacking and distance. Keep right along the cliff walls staying in the drainage for the path of least resistance. At the top there is an exit trail forming. Take it up about 300 feet in elevation to the top of the promontory where the car is parked. This exit was put in place for canyoneers as a means to shorten up the hiking distance and make it more desirable to run - same with the other I canyons in the area.

Beta sites


Trip reports

Trip reports and media

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  • Background

    First known descent by Joe and Sara DeSalme, Todd & Steph Martin, and Tom Wetherill. Canyoneers exit drainage was descended and documented by Jay Wisocki and Dinna Marquez down to the last pothole in Illusions then ascended back up making sure it was a go for canyoneers and to make the run much more appealing. My adventure companion Bucky joined us on the adventure as well (RIP). Illusions, Insomnia, Immaculate, Flintstone, The Perch, Barney Springs, Two Tone and Lone Spire have sneak exits in place.

    Red tape

    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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