Pine Creek Canyon
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Difficulty:3B II (v3a2 II)
Raps:8, max ↨100ft
Red Tape:Permit required
Shuttle:Required 10 min
11 Nov 2023
"Set a shuttle car at exit, and was lucky enough to find a parking spot right at the beginning of the canyon. 4 of us descended, (2) in 7mm wetsuits,
Late Spring; Summer; Fall
Pine Creek is a fantastic introduction to Zion canyons. It's easy to access and return, and hosts spectacular (and varied) scenery. There are typically plenty of permits available, and often combined with nearby Keyhole Canyon (Zion National Park).
Depending on the season, the canyon can be quite chilly or pleasantly cool. In March or April you could be swimming down dark corridors, teeth chattering in a 7mm wetsuit. By June that very same corridor could be dry walking passage and a shortie 2mm wetsuit too hot, or completely unnecessary.
For better or worse, you pay for the easy access to this canyon with the immediacy of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. The wilderness character of this beautiful gorge is subtly marred by the sound of automotive traffic passing above you.
To setup the car shuttle, leave your exit vehicle at the "second switchback" then drive your group east through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. After exiting the tunnel, park immediately in the first parking lot on the right. If no parking is available here, drop everyone else off and then continue driving east until a parking spot on the side of the road can be found. The drop-in is a concrete runoff spillway just off the parking lot's sidewalk. Don't walk down the dirt hillside, this contributes to erosion (and the park staff will ask you to use the concrete "path").
Pine Creek begins with some a few small down-climb problems and you quickly come across R1.
R1 Is no longer a two stage rappel. New anchors have been installed below R1 to mitigate previous rope pull issues. There are technically 8 rappels for this canyon now.
After a series of small downclimbs, you arrive at R2 and R3.
R2 is a short, somewhat-awkward rappel from jammed logs into a shallow pool the pours out onto R3. There is limited space out of the pool at the top of R3, so be sure to sequence well in order to avoid forcing people to wait while standing in the pool at the base of R2.
R3 is the Cathedral rappel, perhaps the most beautiful rappel of the canyon. Accessing the anchor LDC may be tricky; consider using a meat anchor to belay someone out to the anchor to rig it. This rappel often has a partially-swimming disconnect and then a short full swim across a very cold pool. Depending on time of day, there may be some small bit of sunlight penetrating the canyon for people to warm up in, but often this area is just cold. Be careful of thermal management issues.
After R3 comes the bulk of the canyon, full of small downclimbs and narrow water-filled passages. At one point, there is a short, very awkward rappel off a large tree into what is often a pool. At another point, there is a tricky downclimb down a narrow slot with old tree roots that is not immediately obvious. Finally, you emerge into sunlight.
R4 comes at the end of the boulder field. It used to be anchored RDC from a single glue in anchor about head high if you are standing on top of the boulder. That boulder has since washed away and the anchor is now unreachable. Use webbing around a log or small boulder to rappel 12-15'. Do not jump; even full of water this part was less than 3' deep.
R5 is located a short distance after exiting the narrow section of the canyon, anchored RDC. Be careful of rope abrasion due to bouncing on rappel.
R6 is the final, largest rappel. There are multiple options for this rappel.
One option is to climb up onto the large slab LDC and locate the anchor down a small weakness in the slab right at the edge of a very large dropoff. This anchor can be intimidating both to reach and to start rappelling on. A meat anchor is advisable for reaching the bolts, and the trick to a controlled start is to bring your rappel device as close to the anchor as possible before starting, and then sitting back onto it while walking sideways over the dropoff. Don't be surprised when you slowly swing to the left after starting to descend. The majority of this rappel is free-hanging, and it is slightly under 100' long.
Another option is to look slightly RDC of center canyon and find an anchor that drops you into a pool below.
Downclimb (scary) or meat anchor the small remaining drop (~25 ft) into the grotto. Alternatively, use a longer amount of rope (Maybe enough for a ~140 ft rappel) and rappel into the grotto off the R6 anchor.
Follow the canyon downstream, downclimbing and routefinding around and between the boulders. When in doubt, look for tracks to show the easiest way, although they are not always readily visible. This section can feel long and exhausting.
Don't be tempted to exit the canyon early, remember you're headed for the second switch back, not third which is much higher in elevation. Much of your time in the canyon will be spent in the non-technical exit, which in of itself is quite beautiful and contains many fun boulder gardens and down-climb puzzles. The canyon will gradually level and finally you'll find yourself just 80 feet below the second switchback parking area. Find the well established use trail and follow it up to the stone wall visible from the canyon floor. While traveling down canyon, look for a very large pool with a large rock upstream of it that looks like an attractive place to jump from. This is where the trail out of the canyon to the road starts. The retaining walls of the exit parking lot are visible from the watercourse if you keep an eye out for them about 30 ft above the watercourse and DCL.
A canyoneering day-trip permit issued by Zion National Park is required for this canyon.
- BluuGnome.com : Pine Creek Canyon
- Chris Brennen's Adventure Hikes (Southwest) : Pine Creek
- RoadTripRyan.com : Pine Creek
- CanyoneeringUSA.com : Pine Creek
- Climb-Utah.com : Pine Creek Canyon
- HikeArizona.com : Pine Creek Canyon
- Zion Canyoneering Book by Tom Jones : Pine Creek Canyon
- ToddsHikingGuide.com : Pine Creek Canyon
- CanyonCollective.com : Pine Creek
- Super Amazing Map : Pine Creek Canyon
- AmericanSouthwest.net : Pine Creek
- ZionCanyoneering.com : Pine Creek
- SummitPost.org : Pine Creek Slot
- WildPathsAZ.com : Pine Creek Canyon
Trip reports and media
- Video Mystery Canyon, Pine Creek and Keyhole Canyon
- Chasing Adventure : May 28th, 2017
- Ultra Pink Dirt
- Candition.com : Pine Creek
- Wikiloc.com : Pine Creek Canyon - Zion National Park
- Bogley trip report http://www.bogley.com/forum/showthread.php?79595-Pine-Creek-Zion-National-Park-July-28-2019