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Slot Canyon Hike to Kanarra Falls in Utah

Updated: Mar 23

I'll start off by saying this was one of the coolest hikes we've done.


On New Year's Eve, the last day of adventures of our third trip to Zion National Park in 2023, we were more or less planning on completing the third of three primary hikes in Kolob Canyons of Zion, but this hike was a 14-miler and could take 8 hours. The route in is pretty much all downhill, and the hike back to the trailhead would then be mostly all uphill. Not insurmountable, but after reading some of the reviews and comments on this hike, it started to sound like a lot of mileage for not a huge payoff.


So, we started to look at some other hiking options in the area. Bingo. My husband found a moderate hike through a slot canyon near Kanarraville, UT. He bought the necessary permits on the website and we headed out.


Hiking the Narrows in Zion is pretty high on our list, so we thought this hike to Kanarra Falls might give us a mini taste of what we might expect on that hike. Except that it's the middle of winter now. And we're probably going to need to wear rubber boots to escape hypothermia.


We weren't 100% certain what to expect with this hike, but we figured we'd better err on the side of caution, so on our way to the trailhead, we stopped at the local Walmart and purchased two $25 pairs of rubber boots and a couple of small ratchet straps to attach them to our packs. If we ended up not needing the boots and not wearing them, we could always return them.


At around 9 AM, we arrived at the trailhead and it was 23º F outside. I decided to add another layer to my already puffy upper body. I had also packed a number of disposable hand warmers and toe warmers in anticipation of this hike being a cold one.


The trailhead parking lot had one car (with Michigan plates) when we arrived. Before we headed out on the trail, another car showed up (with Oregon plates) and one woman got out, walked past, and headed right up the trail without saying a word. The parking lot now had representation from Michigan, Oregon, and Nevada. I started to wonder if we "out-of-towners" were all crazy, seeing as not one local person was here on a holiday weekend.


The sign at the trailhead stated that permits were limited to 150 per day. I had a feeling that limit was going to be a non-issue today.



My husband cinched our rubber boots to our respective packs using the ratchet straps to secure them.



And then before we headed up the trail with our hiking poles, I put a pair of hand warmers inside my choppers, as I could feel my fingers already starting to go numb. I needed to get moving.


The first section of the trail is actually a narrow gravel road, so we followed that up and down until it forked at the start of the hiking trail that soon led to the first water crossing, where we balanced across the stepping stones and logs to attempt to avoid getting our feet wet.



The trail paralleled the creek off and on and we had to cross the creek several times.





First water crossing ahead.


Crossing the creek, still wearing hiking sneakers.

Lots of snake grass along this trail.

Standing next to a water crossing of stepping stones.

Before we reached mile 2, over one of the water crossings, my right foot got wet. I stopped and told my husband it was time to change into my rubber boots because I wasn't taking any more chances on getting my feet more wet (and cold). He decided he was going to as well, adding that he'd already been sloshing around in his wet shoes. So, we removed the ratchet straps and replaced our hiking sneakers with the rubber boots, me adding a disposable foot warmer to the inside of each of mine. My husband used duct tape to secure the bottom of my pant legs directly to the upper part of my rubber boots to help prevent getting water inside my boots. And then we hooked our shoes to our packs and continued on.


Even though we were now wearing waterproof footwear, we still had to be cautious about how we walked in the water because some crossings were deeper than others and we really risked getting a boot full of water in the process, which could be disastrous. Not to mention, most of the rocks in the water had a slippery surface, and we encountered several ice patches, and because the rubber boots had far less grip than our hiking sneakers, we still had to step cautiously in hopes that neither of us would slip and fall.



"I feel so agile" I sarcastically announced, as I clunked along the trail, my feet bumping into rocks and tree roots in my path. We both chuckled. Good thing for these hiking poles.


Because the bottoms of my pant legs had already been saturated by the initial water crossings, the duct tape didn't last long and the bottoms of my pant legs were soaked in no time. Thankfully, it did not seem to affect me or the temperature of my feet or legs, so that was good.


Soon, the "water crossings" transitioned to "the trail is the creek," so it turns out we changed into our rubber boots at the best possible time to avoid getting wet.


Just before we got to the waterfall with the ladder, Michigan man was trekking towards us through the creek in his rubber boots. I asked him if he made it all the way to the end. He said no, he'd turned around at the waterfall after the ladder, mentioning something about how he was not geared up for climbing up and over it to continue farther. We thanked him for the warning and continued carefully slopping through the creek.


Hiking through the creek, hiker from Michigan ahead in the distance.

Not far after that bend in the creek, we entered the slot canyon.



And... It. Was. Awesome.














Then we arrived at the first waterfall; the one with the ladder. The steps of the ladder were secured by thin wires. Some of them moved when you stepped on them. It seemed totally legit and super safe.





So, we climbed the ladder and continued sloshing up the creek to the next waterfall – the showstopper for Michigan man.



The closer you went towards the falls and the adjacent boulder, the deeper the collection pool got. My husband waded over to devise a plan to climb over the boulder so we could continue on.



The logs in the corner were wet and slippery, and the smoothed rock walls of the slot canyon offered very little by way of hand or foot holds. This was one spot where our poles made things slightly too cumbersome.


We had to do a lot of finagling to conquer this section. The pool was deep – I don't know how I managed to avoid getting a boot full of water. We had poles in our hands. The logs were slick. There was hardly anything to hold on to. Oh, and I have short legs. Somehow we both made it without losing our poles or our footing.


Above, we were greeted with neat rock formations, another small waterfall, and the Oregon gal making her way back down.






She told us that the bolder climb we just did was by far the toughest obstacle on the trail and that the trail didn't go much farther. In fact, at one point, the slot canyon gets much narrower, the water a bit too deep, and it crosses into private property, so we would have no choice but to turn around.


We thanked her and continued trekking through the water.


Sure enough, the canyon narrowed, the water got deeper, and we spotted a sign that warned of private property ahead.



So, we turned around and started back toward the waterfalls.







When we returned to the boulder climbing section next to the waterfall, it was pretty nerve-wracking trying to descend it, facing the same sketchy scenario again: short legs, nothing to hold onto, slippery surfaces, managing hiking poles, deep pool below. I went about as slow and calculated as I could and was quite relieved when I safely made it down to the pool. My husband followed shortly after without incident.


Then was round two of the super-sketch ladder. What's funny is that we've seen older photos of this section of trail and the ladder is a relatively new enhancement.


Photo Credit: https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/

So, I guess the ladder isn't so bad...






Once we emerged from the canyon, we could feel that the outdoor temperature had risen since we started the hike at 23º F. Even though the rubber boots were a bit clunky and cumbersome to hike in, we decided to just keep them on until we got back to the trailhead, rather than change back into our hiking sneakers. If it had been a longer hike, we likely would have changed out of the boots once we were no longer hiking in the creek. Our shoes are more comfortable and they have better grip.


When we descended the final stretch of the trail, we had an overhead view of the parking lot and we noticed another vehicle had parked directly next to us (the lot was nearly empty). It seemed kind of odd. At any rate, we approached our vehicle, and the owners of said neighboring vehicle were still there, standing at the rear of their trunk area. It was a couple, and the woman had a pretty strong Scandinavian accent. She started asking us all sorts of questions about the hike – how far did you go, how long did it take you, was it cold, did you get wet, did you need YakTrax for traction, etc. We could sense her trepidation and assured her it was an awesome hike, well worth the effort.


Then I got this idea to see if she wanted to use my rubber boots on the hike. Her eyes lit up. By this time, the burley man she was with appeared and my husband offered his boots to him, as well. They felt bad they didn't have any cash on hand to pay us something for the boots, but we just shrugged it off and they said they would pass the boots on to other hikers in need in the parking lot when they returned.


But.

Before we handed our boots off to the couple, there was this:



New boot goofin'. If you aren't familiar with the reference, I implore you to watch this.


If Angels Landing and Observation Point were my top favorite hikes in 2023, this one comes in close behind.


For a hike to Kanarra Falls in the cold/winter season, this is the key gear that made this hike tolerable (for me in the cold):


  • Rubber boots

  • Hiking shoes (though doing the entire hike in rubber boots is doable)

  • Hiking poles (not temperature related, but saved me from slipping/falling/getting wet)

  • Wool socks

  • Wool base layers under more layers

  • Chopper mittens

  • Hand warmers (for inside the choppers)

  • Foot warmers (for inside the rubber boots)


I also always carry an extra pair of wool socks in my pack, just in case. It was also helpful that the hiking pants I wear (made of nylon) tend to dry quickly. If we were to prepare for this same cold hike again, however, we might figure out a different method to prevent our pant legs from getting soaked.


For me, slightly taller rubber boots might have been nice, but mid-calf height seemed to be mostly sufficient with the current water levels, and keeping my pant legs outside of the boots helped prevent water from getting inside my boots as we sloshed through the creek.


Lastly, having boots with carrying loops or holes at the top/opening would also be a nice feature, because then you could probably secure them to your pack with carabiners (or other clips) rather than with the makeshift ratchet straps we used – before we changed into our boots and they were still attached to our packs, we kept checking to make sure neither one of us had unknowingly dropped a boot behind us on the trail.


In the end, what we had/did worked well enough.


Note: The total distance advertised for this hike is 4 miles round trip. GPS may have bounced around while we were in the slot canyon, resulting in skewed stats.

Kanarra Falls


Total Distance

5.67 mi

Total Time

2:56:39

Total Ascent

620 ft

Max Elevation

6,093 ft


On our drive back to Cedar City, we took the long way and did some sightseeing through Brian Head, UT.


Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument.


View from the overlook at Cedar Breaks National Monument
View from the overlook at Cedar Breaks National Monument.


View from the overlook at Cedar Breaks National Monument
View from the overlook at Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Canyon/Hwy 14. Beautiful drive before we headed back to the hotel. Even though it was New Year's Eve, it was an early night for us, because we got up at 5 AM to start the 9-hour drive back to Tahoe.


Cedar Canyon
Cedar Canyon.

Cedar Canyon
Cedar Canyon.

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madge56
madge56
Jan 07

Wow! Just WOW! This was amazing. The canyon slot was very cool. Great idea to “rubber boot up.” I’’m imagining it to be very loud in there too. I’m also debating which part was better…..the canyon slot footage or the boot goofin’ video! I’m almost leaning towards the latter. 😆

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Yeah, it's definitely a toss up between the two. Boot goofin' was the icing on a delicious cake. 😂

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Hi, thanks for dropping by!

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures and checking out the photos I take along the way!

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-Brianna

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