U-Turn Canyon

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U-Turn Canyon Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
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U-Turn Canyon Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3A II (v3a1 II)
Raps:‌3, max ↨102ft
Overall:2-4h ⟷1mi
Approach: ↑400ft
Descent: ⟷0.4mi ↓203ft
Red Tape:Permit required
Condition Reports:
12 May 2023

"A good canyon for taking beginners or to use as a second canyon to fill up a day, but otherwise not too remarkable for the area. The initial scramble

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Best season:
All year


The Dirt is Alive!:

If you look closely, you can see a microscopic community of life in the soil. Dark, lumpy surfaces are mature biological soil crust: a mixture of cyanobacteria, mosses, lichens, fungi, and algae.

Young, living soil looks a lot like sand, and it needs to be left undisturbed for many years to mature and help plants grow. Just one footprint does years of damage.

Dark, mature soil crusts are the basis of life in this desert. One footprint destroys years of growth.

This remarkable soil community holds the sand together, absorbs moisture, produces critical nutrients for plants, and provides seed beds for new plants to take hold.

Please don’t walk on it. Stay on designated trails to protect living soil and plants.

An interesting, very short diversion of a canyon while spending time in Arches National Park. One of three great loops (U-turn, NOT Tierdrop, Tierdrop) right off the park avenue trail head in Arches NP. Low risk of flash flood, easy access with little exposure, and quick exit means you could do all three in one outing.


Up rock gully. Turn right at top. There are two domes that need to be passed to get to the start of the Drop. Stay LEFT around both domes. The first dome has no exposure. Second Dome must climb up Class 1 scramble then head LEFT around the dome with some exposure. Hand line may be beneficial.

  • Tierdrop is the far left large opening,
  • Not Tierdrop is in the middle after going left, it is hidden from view by the dome slopes in the middle and access by trail below going from the far left.
  • U-turn is the only one that goes to the right along the ridge after ascending the gully.


Mostly BOLTED Rappels are 15'-102' depending on anchor location

  • R1 ~15', Tree anchor at top, OR suitable Down climb
  • R2 ~15', Single BOLT now located under rock RDC
  • R3 ~50', Two bolts up around to the LDC on far LEFT WALL. Do not use rock anchor - SEE BELOW PICTURE
  • R4 ~105', Two Bolts next to large rock center of canyon

Please avoid wrapping your rope around the obvious anchor at R3. Numerous parties have apparently been doing so which has led to severe and unsightly grooving.  :(

At the bottom of the last pitch, please avoid the sand dunes. Follow the arrow installed by the NPS and skirt around walking on the rock.

  • Damage at R3
  • Exit

    At the bottom of the last pitch, please avoid the sand dunes. Follow the arrow installed by the NPS and skirt around walking on the rock. Continue following the bench around to the right enjoying the excellent views. You will soon find yourself just above the viewpoint near the parking lot.

    Red tape

    Registration required at visitors center or online at park website. Currently this one is self registration but check with park in case they modify their process

    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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