Category Archives: Lake Powell

West Canyon Hike – Take 2

I received several questions on my Lake Powell blog  so I figured I needed to follow it up with more details on the one aspect people seemed most interested in – our West Canyon hike. Lucky enough, my friends were up for the challenge again this year! Note that more pictures from this hike are in the West Canyon Hike Gallery. I’ve intentionally loaded low-res images on this blog so if you wants prints, pop me an email – don’t try printing from these please. 

So, without further ado, here’s where we  start from the main channel of Lake Powell (left). From here it’s a good 20-30 mins to the back of the canyon where you eventually park the boat. Of course this all depends on how high the water is, this year the water was pretty high. A couple years ago when we first did this hike, we had to park much further back and the hill at the end of the picture on the right was quite a climb. This year it was a piece of cake. Sign of things to come? Ahhhh, no – not really.


I said the water level was higher than normal and it showed from the beginning to the end of the hike. We had to wade and swim much more than a few years ago. Back then,

the initial hike was all sand and none of us remember this much vegitation. Still though, with the temperature around 90 degrees at the beginning of Sep, the water was welcome and refreshing.

Here’s the first hint of what’s to come though. The first entrance into a slot. By the way, at this point I should mention that there are four of us on the expedition. I’m Chris, then there’s CBart, Vach and Dave. Our other regular participant on these trips is Schreck but he couldn’t make it this year. He was with us the first time we made this hike. You’ll be seeing a lot of us for the next several minutes. The last time we ventured here, we didn’t take a camera. I vowed then that if we ever convinced ourselves to try this again, I’d definitely take a camera. I wasn’t able to take my Canon 7D but I was able to take our point and shoot which takes pretty nice pictures for a small camera. I had it in a waterproof case to protect it from the water and other hazards on that will soon become obvious.

Going through the first slots you find one of those hazards early on – algae covered rocks. With the water that doesn’t move much when it gets this low, algae grows and it’s tough to walk on but with a little care it doesn’t present much of a problem.

The pools in these canyons are sometimes deep but few were over our heads so again, with a little care they’re not a danger. You can walk around some of them but not all – some you have to wade or swim across. SO, let’s talk about the temperature of that water. How cold can it be when the air temperature has been 90s plus for months?

Luckily though, with good friends along for support, you can get through these feeling great about yourself. Supposedly, I uttered some high-pitched, not so manly curses as I crossed the pool. Clearly this is glacier melt although I’m not sure how the glaciers stay intact so close to Lake Powell. Oh, and check the other pictures in the gallery. They will show that my manly buddies here didn’t exactly enjoy this crossing either :).

 After navigating this icy pool, all’s well because there are more slot canyons to see! Honestly, when you see the other pictures in this series, there are some risky spots but even if you just go to Mushroom Rock (soon to come) it’s a great hike. It’s about 1 mile we guessed from where we park the boat to Mushroom Rock. The only real difficulties in this part of the hike are the freaking cold pools and slippery rocks. Sometime the path in narrows to form a “V” at the bottom which makes the hiking a little tougher here (yeah, this is the case in the picture on the right).

The first mile into Mushroom takes about an hour if you take your time which we did. You could do it faster but not if you want to appreciate the awesome scenery which I highly recommend. While you see all this water, I’ll say that I doubt any of it’s safe to drink. Make sure if you take this hike, you bring lots of water to drink. You’ll need it. We didn’t take enough last time and it got close to being dangerous as a few of our group were severely dehydrated by the end. This time we hauled a couple packs that we shared carrying that were filled with bottled water and snacks. BIG improvement.

This is Mushroom Rock (modelled by Dave and Vach) which marks the starting point in the circle. You take a right from here and you’ll come back to this spot (via a 10 foot drop off). You could concievably go left I guess but I think it would be harder going that direction.

After heading right, the going gets more difficult. This starts pretty quickly with my favorite part of the whole trip – the swim channel. It’s hard to describe this and taking pictures is tough because it’s so dark. There also aren’t many places to rest as the water is very deep here. This section is so cool though. The start is pictured in the image to the right.  The walls are narrow enough to touch both sides at the same time and the passage is filled with twists and turns. The water inside the slot is frigid (again!) but once you get in and start swimming, you get used to it. It’s probably around 100 yards in length but even so you’ll want to take advantage of the rocks that provide the rest areas because you’ll want to admire the environment. Those are nice places to take pictures too but the results will be mixed at best so take a lot of shots and expect to throw most away. Here are a few that were at least viewable.

I’ve occasionally tried to touch the bottom in this slot but have never been able to. Last year going through this section of the hike we found a large scorpion in the water. He’d obviously drowned fairly recently because his body was compeltely intact. Makes you think about where you put your hands!

As I said, I love this part of the trip. For some reason the combination of swimming and a beautiful slot canyon hits me just right. I wish I could show it better than this.

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