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I’ve always wanted to try canyoneering. I already rock climb and hike but the slot canyons in southern Utah have always alluded me. Since it’s not an activity I could or should do alone, I had to wait until my husband go with me. He graciously agreed to take me and his sister in a the short Yankee Doodle Canyon near St. George, Utah.
The parking area isn’t hard to find but the trail is a little tricky. Take I-15 to the town of Leeds and exit off 22. Travel north on Main Street through Leeds. At about 1.5 miles go left on Silver Reef Road and follow it for just over another 1.5 miles. At the end of the pavement, stay right at the fork. At the next fork, at about 1.5 miles, stay left. It’s another 6 miles on the dirt road to the small parking area. We parked on the right. The trail is on the left. A pile of cairns marks the trail but we somehow missed them and wouldn’t have found the canyon had we not stumbled upon someone to show us.
I’ve done enough rappelling and felt confident I could help teach my sister-in-law. After a lesson on how to set up the ropes and how to use the rescue 8 for rappelling, I verbally walked down the wall so I could explain how it’s done. I know how scary the first time is when you’re looking from the top. We used a 150 ft. rope for the first rappel. The second rappel needed a longer rope. Luckily we hadn’t gone far and found a way to climb out as we had to send someone back to exchange ropes. We needed the 70 meter (229 ft.) rope for the second descent. This is the longest rappel and we didn’t need to use the long rope again.
|Top of 2nd rappel|
|Looking up at 2nd rappel|
At the second rappel, the biggest challenge was getting over the boulder at the top. Once I maneuvered around, I had no problem getting down the wall.
After the second rappel, there are numerous down climbs. Some of these were trickier than the rappels. We were glad we brought a shorter, lighter rope with us. There are anchors near the down climbs and though they could be navigated without a rope, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to try.
The water in some of the spots came to my waist and was cold. I brought a wetsuit but the canyon is short enough that the burden of carrying the wetsuit wasn’t worth it. For me, the worst part consisted of something alive and wet landing on my arm. It ended up being a little frog but with my reaction, it might as well been a huge snake.
|Down climb with smaller rope|
The canyon has a nice mix of narrow slots and hiking areas. While Yankee Doodle Canyon is short, I would still plan about two hours to complete it. One of the biggest challenges with the canyon is knowing where to exit. After the last down climb and pool, a rock slab on the left marks the way out. A tree sits along the wall. Along the left, an arête or ridge and tree roots make it easier to climb. It can be navigated without climbing ropes since the wall sits at an angle. However, we saw a family using a safety rope anchored to the tree with webbing. After about the first 40 feet, the wall gets a a bit steeper but there are carved steps that make the ascent easier. Once off the wall, there is a steep but well traveled trail that leads to the top near the road. At the road, we turned left and walked less than a quarter mile back to the car.
We had a great time and even got a chance to see a cactus in spring bloom. I’ve spent enough time in the desert to know how little time the cacti actually have flowers.
Do NOT attempt this canyon or any canyons in the area if raining or even raining near by. Flash flooding is common and cause injury or death to those trapped in the canyon.
200 ft. (70m) rope
Canyoneering or climbing harness
Smaller 30 ft. rope or webbing for down climbs
Water and Food
Grippy shoes that can get wet (NO FLIP FLOPS)
Figure 8 rappeling device