Keyhole Canyon Full Fascinating Guide
After visiting the beautiful hike to the Lower Calf Creek Falls, it is time to explore Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah! This beautiful little canyon is perfect for some adventurous canyoneering. In this article, we will list all the things you NEED to know to plan the best trip to Keyhole Canyon.
Let’s get STARTED!
Keyhole Canyon Location
Keyhole Canyon is a captivating ‘slot canyon’ in Zion National Park, Utah.
The canyon is located just north of Highway 9 and just west of Pt 5538 on the Springdale East quadrangle. The canyon is around 2.1 miles west of the East Entrance to the park.
The canyon is a tributary of Clear Creek, cutting through dark red Navajo sandstone rocks close to UT 9.
Keyhole Canyon is known for its unique natural beauty. Its subterranean nature gives it a mysterious feel, making it a must-visit spot for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.
The canyon is a narrow slot canyon carved from dark red Navajo sandstone. This impressive geologic formation stands out against the pure blue sky. As you enter the canyon, you’re surrounded by towering granite walls that demonstrate the everlasting power of erosion.
The way light interacts with Keyhole Canyon’s thin walls is one of its most beautiful aspects. The shifting forms of shadows and highlights generated by the sun as it sweeps across the sky transform the canyon into a living artwork. The light reflects off the smooth, curving rock surfaces, producing an ethereal radiance unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Geological History of Keyhole Canyon
Keyhole Canyon is a fascinating geological location in Zion National Park. The canyon’s geological history is related to the broader geology of the Zion canyon area, which represents 150 million years (!) of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation.
Keyhole Canyon is a short, narrow slot canyon formed of red Navajo sandstone rocks. The Navajo Sandstone formation, primarily found in southern Utah and northern Arizona, is one of the world’s largest and thickest eolian (wind-deposited) sandstone units.
It’s known for its beautiful red and pink colors, and its high, sheer cliffs form some of the most iconic images of Zion National Park. TIP: canyons with Navajo sandstone rocks deliver the most amazing pictures when taken with the right light (sunset/sunrise).
The canyon was formed thousands of years ago by dynamic geological processes. Its walls were carved and re-carved by bursts of rushing water, a process known as flash flooding. This process continues today, still gradually reshaping the canyon’s contours. The erosive power of water, particularly during these flash floods, cuts into the joints in the rocks, deepening and widening the canyon over time.
The canyon also holds archaeological treasures, housing ancient rock art believed to be left behind by the Mohave, the Paiute, and the Anasazi/Pueblo peoples. These petroglyphs provide a glimpse into the region’s human history, adding another layer of intrigue to the canyon’s rich geological story.
Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park offers a host of activities that cater to adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Below, you can find our recommendations for the best activities to do!
Keyhole Canyon is a popular spot for technical canyoneering. The canyon is short but includes a few rappels and a long swim, making it a perfect introduction to the sport. It’s a fantastic way to explore the canyon’s deep and narrow slots.
The canyon offers an amazing hiking experience. The first part of Keyhole Canyon doesn’t require any rappels and involves simple down climbing and slot canyon hiking in ankle to waist-deep water.
The second part of the Keyhole Canyon does feature several rappels, offering a thrilling experience for those with a head for heights. This activity allows you to safely descend the canyon’s steep walls, providing a unique perspective on its natural beauty.
Due to its wet nature, swimming is necessary for the journey through Keyhole Canyon. This adds an extra layer of fun and challenge to the adventure. Just imagine swimming between huge cliffs!
The canyon’s other-worldly scenery makes it a paradise for photographers. The interplay of light and color against the canyon’s smooth sandstone walls creates stunning visual effects that are a joy to capture.
Although generally considered highly challenging, Keyhole Canyon offers great opportunities for rock climbing. This activity allows adventurers to test their physical fitness and agility while enjoying the breathtaking views of the canyon.
Exploring Prehistoric Art
The canyon’s walls serve as a canvas for ancient petroglyphs, offering a chance to delve into the history of the native people who once inhabited this area.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Keyhole Canyon can be enjoyed throughout the year depending on your comfort with varying weather conditions.
Spring, summer, and fall are recommended for visiting Keyhole Canyon. The canyon can offer a refreshing escape from summer heat due to its subterranean nature and the presence of water. However, it’s important to note that the water in the canyon can be very cold, even during the summer.
Winter visits can also be enjoyable, especially if you prefer cooler temperatures. However, the canyon’s wet nature can make it significantly colder during this time.
In terms of the time of day, starting your hike early in the day is advisable. This allows you to avoid crowds and gives you plenty of time to navigate the canyon, which usually takes 1-2 hours to complete.
Tips and Tricks for Visiting
Here are some of our useful tips and tricks to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience:
1. Clothing: Given the canyon’s wet and cold nature, wearing appropriate clothing is critical. Opt for quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics. Avoid cotton as it takes a long time to dry and can make you feel colder when wet. Layer your clothing to adjust to changing temperatures. A wetsuit can be beneficial, especially during colder months or if you plan on swimming.
2. Footwear: Sturdy, water-resistant footwear with a good grip is essential as you walk on slippery rocks and through the water. Canyoneering shoes or neoprene socks with sandals can be a good choice.
3. Amenities: Keyhole Canyon is a backcountry area so facilities are limited. There are no restrooms, trash cans, or water stations. Remember to pack out all trash and follow Leave No Trace principles.
4. Food and Water: Bring high-energy snacks and plenty of water. There’s no freshwater source in the canyon, so carry enough to stay hydrated throughout your trip.
5. Sun vs Shade: The canyon is mostly shaded due to its high walls, which can make it significantly colder than the surrounding areas. However, the hike to the entrance of the canyon can be exposed and hot. Pack sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
6. Equipment: If you plan on rappelling or canyoneering, you’ll need appropriate gear including a harness, ropes, and carabiners. A dry bag can be useful to keep your belongings dry.
7. Permits: A canyoneering permit is required to visit Keyhole Canyon. These can be obtained online or at the Zion National Park visitor center.
8. Safety: Check the weather forecast before your trip. Flash floods are a risk in the canyon, especially during monsoon season (July-September).
9. Timing: Start your hike early in the day to avoid crowds and give yourself plenty of time to navigate the canyon.
It’s a wrap!
This is everything we know about Keyhole Canyon, hopefully you were able to plan out your itinerary with our travel guide.