Canyoneering Route Description

Stem School Canyon - 3A II
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Quick Facts

05-18-18, 3 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 3.5 hours) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 3 to 5 hours
Distance - 1.5 miles Total, 0.6 miles Technical
Rappels - 4 Rappels, Longest Rappel 140 feet but you will need 150 feet of rope.
Elevation Range - 5180 - 5600 Feet
Shuttle Required - No Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - No

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 150 feet and 50 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement.  Wet suits not needed but there is one pool where it is very likely you will need to swim for about 20 feet if you can not stem over it.

General Comments

Stem School is a little slot I had wanted to go look at for a long time but never really got around to it. After Arch Nemesis we had time to kill and John said he had also noticed the slot and was interested in joining me and Tracy to check it out.

On the approach you will find sections with crypto biotic soil. Please try to avoid the crypto and follow any trails already forming or water runnels to avoid crushing crypto. sometimes it is unavoidable but please try.

As expected Stem School is not stellar but does work well for a short day close to the road with only a few hours of commitment.  The first rappel is interesting as you rappel down to then over a hanging pothole sitting part way down a tall vertical wall. A few down climbs, few rappels and some short stem sections add to the fun of Stem School.

We could not think of a good name and I originally had some school themed name to stay in keeping with Old School Canyon a short distance away. After looking back on the days events John suggested the name Stem School and it seemed to fit. There is a long pool that can be a deep wade / swim but can be stemmed over. Ok, stemmed over by tall people. John went over with relative ease. I made it most of the way before feeling pretty stretched out but was able to pull it off (sometimes feeling like I was doing an iron cross as my feet flailed looking for purchase). Tracy being 5 foot 1 was just not tall enough to pull it off. John waded out and gave her feet assistance for her to finish it off. This very memorable moment from the route is why the name Stem School.

Note:
Groups descending this canyon later sometimes refer to it as Dinner Mint or Cobra Canyon.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

Start from the turn off of highway 24 to the Capitol Reef Visitor Center.   This is about 9.7 miles north on highway 24 from the town of Torrey, Utah, which is at the junction of highways 12 and 24.  

From the turn off to the Capitol Reef Visitor Center (vCapReefVisit) drive south on highway 24 for about 1.6 miles to a small dirt area on the left (northwest) side of the road (pkStemSchool).  This parking spot will be about 0.75 miles after passing the Grand Wash trailhead.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle is needed.  This is done as a loop route.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map of the entire route.

Details

The Approach:
From the parking spot (pkStemSchool) walk northeast along highway 24 for about 1000 feet to where Stem School meets the highway on the right (south) side of the road.

Example Pic. This is what will show as the caption. It can be as long or short as you like. The text will wrap and the  border will expand down to accommodate.

From where the Stem School drainage meets the road (jStemSchoolBt) walk south up Stem School about 200 feet from the road to a sloped slickrock ramp on the LUC (east) side.

Scramble up the slickrock ramp (StemSchool01) up to the dirt rim above. After getting up to the open dirt above continue south about 220 feet to the base of (StemSchool02) a rubble filled slope to walk up. As you walk to the hill, try to avoid crypto where possible and use any trails you find already forming.

From the top of the rubble filled hill (StemSchool03) walk south about 60 feet to the base of (StemSchool04) the next rubble filled hill and continue south up the hill.

From the top of the second rubble filled hill (StemSchool05) walk south toward the left (east) side of the sandstone peak to a spot about 350 feet away where you can scramble up the steep slickrock.

Note:
The terrain to the right (west) looks like it will be more gentle but you would be forced to make a sketchy climb at some point. Ask me how i know this.

Example Pic. This is what will show as the caption. It can be as long or short as you like. The text will wrap and the  border will expand down to accommodate.

When you get to the spot where it is possible to scramble up (StemSchool06) steep slickrock at the base of a sandstone peak. Most groups will need to partner assist each other up a short section near the start of the upclimb, while the rest of the way up is easy scrambling up. Once up the steep part, walk a little over 200 feet to where you can easily scramble up to the next higher level. There are two spots you can use about 100 feet apart and either works.

Once up to the next higher level (StemSchool07a) or (StemSchool07b), walk south about 500 feet to the base of steep slickrock and to the right (west) side of a crack / chute running up

Example Pic. This is what will show as the caption. It can be as long or short as you like. The text will wrap and the  border will expand down to accommodate.

From the base of the steep slickrock (StemSchool08) scramble up along the right (west) side of the crack. As it levels off veer right (west) and follow the natural line a little over 500 feet to where you can look down (StemSchool09) into Stem School.

Carefully walk / scramble down steep slickrock down into Stem School (yStemSchoolTp).

The Canyoneering / Technical Section:
Once in Stem School (yStemSchoolTp), walk along the LDC side for about 250 feet to rap 1.

Rap 1 (dStemSchoolR1) is anchored slightly LDC of water course from a small shrub or large rock about 10 feet back and drops about 140 feet down a vertical wall with a hanging pot hole to cross part way down - using about 150 feet of rope.  From the bottom of the rap are a few easy stem / galumph downclimbs of 8 to 10 feet in narrow slot for about 200 feet before the walls widen out to easy walking in vegetated wash.

Almost 800 feet farther is a confluence (StemSchool10) with another fork of Stem School dropping in from the LDC (southwest) side. Continue down canyon bridging over a pool or scrambling the sloped RDC wall to bypass.

About 200 feet farther is bowl / ravine (StemSchool11) on the RDC (east) side where you could likely enter or exit the canyon scrambling moderately sloped slickrock.  Continue down canyon about 200 feet to rap 2.

Rap 2 (dStemSchoolR2) is anchored on the LDC side from a tree and uses about 80 feet of rope as it goes over to then slowly rolls off vertical down onto the top of a large choke stone. From the choke stone, stem / elevator down about 15 feet to just above a pool where you can easily stem over the pool.

Note:
Rap 2 drops down to the choke stone to bypass a pothole at the start of the slot here. Optionally you can anchor from the start of the slot and play through the pothole. Bypassing allows one to keep dry.

Shortly down canyon is a long pool to stem over (StemSchool12) that gets wide near the end. Tall people can get over this pool with some effort while shorter people will likely need to cross in chest deep to swim depth water for abut 30 feet. Just after is one more pool to easily stem over.

About 300 feet farther a chute drops in from the LDC (StemSchool13) where you could scramble down into canyon if you walked the LDC ledges from rap 2 to bypass the rap and a couple pools.  A little less than 100 feet down canyon is rap 3.

Rap 3 (dStemSchoolR3) is anchored from a tree about 25 feet back and drops about 40 feet slightly overhanging. Walk open wash about 220 feet to the next rap.

Rap 4 (dStemSchoolR4) is anchored from a tree up on the LDC side uses about 60 feet of rope with a vertical drop of about 25 feet.

Note:
The tree in the water course is weak and does not feel secure which is why the tree over on the LDC side was used.

About 400 feet farther is a drop of about 25 feet (StemSchool14) that can be downclimbed directly, bypassed RDC down a short rubble filled ravine or bypassed farther RDC down slickrock ledges. Walk the wash about 150 feet to where the canyon walls begin to open up (yStemSchoolBt).

The Exit:
From where the canyon opens up (yStemSchoolBt) walk another 150 feet back out to the highway then turn left and walk about 1000 feet back to the car parking spot (pkStemSchool).

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Stem School (1) - Approach
  1. pkStemSchool          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28063   W -111.17947        Elev: 5,200 Feet
    Dirt parking spot on northwest side of road. Park here to start Stem School or Beaver Bay Canyons. To go to Stem School canyon walk northeast along hyw 24 for about 1000 feet to where Stem School meets the highway on the right (south) side of the road.
  2. jStemSchoolBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28277   W -111.17742        Elev: 5,180 Feet
    Stem School drainage meets the highway here. On approach walk south up Stem School about 200 feet from the road to a sloped slickrock ramp on the LUC (east) side. On exit turn left to walk southwest along hyw 24 about 1000 feet to the car parking spot.
  3. StemSchool01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28218   W -111.17721        Elev: NaN Feet
    Slickrock ramp running up the LUC (east) side where you can easily scramble up to the dirt rim above. After getting up to the open dirt above continue south about 220 feet to the base of a rubble filled slope to walk up. As you walk to the hill, try to avoid crypto where possible and use any trails you find already forming.
  4. StemSchool02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28159   W -111.17693        Elev: NaN Feet
    Base of a rubble filled hill. Continue south up the hill.
  5. StemSchool03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28114   W -111.17705        Elev: NaN Feet
    Top of a rubble filled hill. Walk south about 60 feet to the base of the next rubble filled hill.
  6. StemSchool04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28099   W -111.17693        Elev: NaN Feet
    Base of a rubble filled hill. Continue south up the rubble filled hill.
  7. StemSchool05          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28047   W -111.17669        Elev: NaN Feet
    Top of a rubble filled hill. Walk south toward the left (east) side of the sandstone peak to a spot about 350 feet away to where you can scramble up the steep slickrock. Note: The terrain to the right (west) looks like it will be more gentle but you would be forced to make a sketchy climb at some point. Ask me how i know this.
  8. StemSchool06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27954   W -111.17629        Elev: NaN Feet
    Spot where you can scramble up steep slickrock at the base of a sandstone peak. Most groups will need to partner assist each other up a short section near the start of the upclimb, while the rest of the way up is easy scrambling up. Once up the steep part, walk a little over 200 feet to where you can easily scramable up to the next higher level. There are two spots you can use about 100 feet apart and either works.
  9. StemSchool07a          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27902   W -111.17616        Elev: NaN Feet
    One of two spots where you can scramble up to the next higher level. Once up to the next level, walk south about 500 feet to the base of steep slickrock and to the right (west) side of a crack / chute running up the slickrock.
  10. StemSchool07b          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27873   W -111.17587        Elev: NaN Feet
    One of two spots where you can scramble up to the next higher level.
  11. StemSchool08          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27760   W -111.17568        Elev: NaN Feet
    Base of steep slickrock just right (west) of a crack / chute running up the the slickrock. Scramble up the steep slickrock along the right (west) side of the crack. As it levels off veer right (west) and follow the natural line a little over 500 feet to where you can look down into Stem School.
  12. StemSchool09          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27618   W -111.17622        Elev: NaN Feet
    You can look down into Stem School and carefully walk / scramble down steep slickrock down into Stem School.
  13. yStemSchoolTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27598   W -111.17637        Elev: 5,600 Feet
    Top of Stem School Canyon where the route scrambles down to the canyon floor. Walk along the LDC side for about 250 feet to rap 1.
Stem School (2) - Canyon and Exit
  1. yStemSchoolTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27598   W -111.17637        Elev: 5,600 Feet
    Top of Stem School Canyon where the route scrambles down to the canyon floor. Walk along the LDC side for about 250 feet to rap 1.
  2. dStemSchoolR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27660   W -111.17665        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap1 - Stem School. Anchored slightly LDC of water course from a small shrub or large rock about 10 feet back and drops about 140 feet down a vertical wall with a hanging pot hole to cross part way down - using about 150 feet of rope. From the bottom of the rap are a few easy stem / galumph downclimbs of 8 to 10 feet in narrow slot for about 200 feet before the walls widen out to easy walking in vegetated wash.
  3. StemSchool10          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27824   W -111.17820        Elev: NaN Feet
    Confluence with another fork of Stem School dropping in from the LDC (southwest) side. Continue down canyon bridging over a pool or scrambling the sloped RDC wall to bypass.
  4. StemSchool11          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27870   W -111.17774        Elev: NaN Feet
    Bowl / ravine on the RDC (east) side where you could likely enter or exit the canyon scrambling moderately sloped slickrock.
  5. dStemSchoolR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27932   W -111.17810        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 - Stem School Canyon. Anchored on the LDC side from a tree and uses about 80 feet of rope as it goes over to then slowly rolls off vertical down onto the top of a large choke stone. From the choke stone, stem / elevator down about 15 feet to just above a pool where you can easily stem over the pool. Note: Rap 2 drops down to the choke stone to bypass a pothole at the start of the slot here. Optionally you can anchor from the start of the slot and play through the pothole. Bypassing allows one to keep dry.
  6. StemSchool12          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.27966   W -111.17817        Elev: NaN Feet
    Long pool to stem over that gets wide near the end. Tall people can get over this pool with some effort while shorter people will likely need to cross in chest deep to swim depth water for abut 30 feet. Just after is one more pool to easily stem over.
  7. StemSchool13          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28047   W -111.17803        Elev: NaN Feet
    Chute drops in from the LDC where you could scramble down into canyon if you walked the LDC ledges from rap 2 to bypass the rap and a couple pools.
  8. dStemSchoolR3          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28066   W -111.17775        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 3 - Stem School. Anchored from a tree about 25 feet back and drops about 40 feet slightly overhanging. Walk open wash about 220 feet to the next rap.
  9. dStemSchoolR4          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28115   W -111.17769        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 4 - Stem School. Anchored from a tree up on the LDC side uses about 60 feet of rope with a vertical drop of about 25 feet. Note: The tree in the water course is weak and does not feel secure which is why the tree over on the LDC side was used.
  10. StemSchool14          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28198   W -111.17740        Elev: NaN Feet
    Drop of about 25 feet that can be downclimbed directly, bypassed RDC down a short rubble filled ravine or bypassed farther RDC down slickrock ledges. Walk the wash about 300 feet out to the highway.
  11. yStemSchoolBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28244   W -111.17733        Elev: 5,190 Feet
    Where the canyon walls end and open wash continues out the highway. On approach walk about 80 feet up canyon to a slickrock ramp on the LDC side to scramble up. On exit walk about 120 feet to the highway.
  12. jStemSchoolBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28277   W -111.17742        Elev: 5,180 Feet
    Stem School drainage meets the highway here. On approach walk south up Stem School about 200 feet from the road to a sloped slickrock ramp on the LUC (east) side. On exit turn left to walk southwest along hyw 24 about 1000 feet to the car parking spot.
  13. pkStemSchool          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.28063   W -111.17947        Elev: 5,200 Feet
    Dirt parking spot on northwest side of road. Park here to start Stem School or Beaver Bay Canyons. To go to Stem School canyon walk northeast along hyw 24 for about 1000 feet to where Stem School meets the highway on the right (south) side of the road.