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 Ranches trailhead off of SR-18
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
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
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, Drive North on SR-18 for approx. 4.07 miles from the intersection of Snow Canyon Parkway and Highway 18. Turn left onto a gravel road at the Gold Diamond ranches (4200 North) and travel west to the parking and step over. Hike south along dirt road for approx 0.8 mile to a step over, and travel north west for 100 yards to the Gila trail. Hike the Gila trail for approx 1 mile to the intersection with Arch Wash.
At the step over south of Gold Diamond ranches turn north west and hike for 100 yards to the Gila trail
Turn right (north) and follow the Gila trail for approx 1 mile. The trail will slowly descend off the rim into the red rock drainages. Eventually the 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.