Arch Canyon

Canyoneering Rating: 3BII

Season: 15 September to 14 March

Length: 3-4 hours

Longest Rappel: 200 feet

Drinking Water: None, bring your own

Logistics: Stage a vehicle at the parking for Johnson Canyon, Drive a second vehicle to the Chuckawalla trail head on UT-18

Permit: Required

Flash Flood Danger: Significant drainage area

Local Ethics: Leave all cairns in place, do not remove any fixed hardware. Stay on durable surfaces when possible and avoid cryptogrammic soils. Avoid doing this hike when the rock is wet as it is fragile and may break unexpectedly

Arch Canyon is a major drainage for the west side of Highway 18 from the Ledges golf course south to the Gold Diamond ranches. The area is a maze of brief slot canyons, eroded monoliths, isolated basalt flows and innumerable small cliffs descending into Johnson Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park. The canyon system itself is comprised of several pour offs into pool areas interrupted by basalt boulders and open sand washes in between. The canyon is capable of holding water in deep pools throughout the year, necessitating deep wading at a minimum and potential short swims. As the season permits travel only during the late fall and winter, hypothermia is a significant risk, and all participants should be prepared with wet/dry suits and dry bags for additional clothes. Each rappel is progressively longer, culminating in a spectacular 200 foot drop into the very head of Johnson Canyon.

Gear and Difficulties
Rappel device
Wet/dry suit
Dry Bags
400 feet of rope
Arch Canyon has 6 rappels of progressively increasing length. The anchor systems are 1/2 inch X 6 inch glue in bolts, or 1/2 inch x 3/34 inch Rawls or equivalent, with chains. Anchors in the canyon are new and placed in winter of 2010/11

Getting there:
After getting your on-line permit, stage or arrange pick up from the trail head for Johnson Canyon at the south entrance of the park. To reach the starting trailhead: From Snow Canyon Parkway return to SR-18. Drive north on SR-18 for approximately 1/2- mile (0.5-miles). Turn left into the signed Chuckwalla parking lot. Hike north along the Chuckwalla Trail for 0.9-miles. Turn left onto the Turtle Wall trail. Continue north-west for one-mile. At the junction of the Turtle Wall and Paradise Rim trails turn right, heading north on the Paradise Rim trail. Continue north on the Paradise Rim Trail for 0.25-miles eventually merging onto the Gila Trail. Continue north on the Gila trail for approximately two-miles. Once you reach the major drainage to the west of Gold Diamond Ranches turn left into the wash. This begins your descent into Arch Canyon.


Following the above approach the Gila trail will attain a ridge with canyons on both sides, and will descend to Arch Canyon wash at the bottom of the ridge. Turn left and begin to follow the wash.

Travel downstream (DS) in sand and basalt boulders for 3 minutes to the first rappel. A 2 bolt anchor on the left wall is for the 40 foot rappel.

Continue DS two minutes to Rap #2 off a 2 bolt anchor on the left wall 65 feet to wash bottom

Hike DS 5 minutes, scrambling around the pools, and keep left along the wall of the slot to a 2-bolt anchor. Rap #3 into slot 60 feet and continue a few feet to a basalt chockstone

Locate slings and rap ring on boulder and do short 20 foot Rap #4 into possible pool

Walk DS 50 feet and locate a 2-bolt anchor on left wall Rappel 100 feet (#5) into likely pool of water at bottom

Walk DS 1 minute to rim of Johnson Canyon, and rappel (#6) off of a 3- bolt anchor on right hand wall. 200 feet to head of Johnson canyon.

Hike Johnson Canyon trail to parking 1 mile.