Canyoneering Route Description

Keyhole Canyon - 3B I
Zion National Park, Utah.

Quick Facts

06-01-08, 6 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 1.7 hours) Pictures Icon
09-06-08, 5 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 2.2 hours) Pictures Icon
09-06-08, 2 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 1.75 hours) In the Dark!
08-01-09, 3 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 2.1 hours) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 1.5 to 2 hours
Distance - 0.7 miles Total, 0.2 miles Technical
Rappels - 2 Rappels, Longest Rappel x60 feet.  Longest rap of 60 feet is 2 stages (optionally two raps of 30 feet each).
Elevation Range - 5420 - 5620 Feet
Shuttle Required -No Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - Yes

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 60 feet and 50 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement and to offer handlines if desired.  Wet suits are a good idea even in warm weatehr.

General Comments

Keyhole Canyon is a great introductory canyon for new people.  The total route is under a mile with less than a quarter mile of it being technical.  In this short distance the canyoneer is introduced to down climbing, wading / swimming in slot canyons (including a 60 foot long swim in a very narrow slot) and rappelling into water (possibly into water deep enough to swim in on the first rap depending on water levels in the canyon). If a person likes this canyon, they will have a taste of what lies ahead for them.  If a person does not like the experience, they are only in the canyon for a short time and do not have to endure a lot of something they don't like.

We combined Keyhole and Pine Creek Canyons in one day on 06-01-08.  Keyhole Canyon starts and ends in the same place so there is no need for a shuttle.

If you would like to try something out of the ordinary do Keyhole in the light, then go back and do it in the dark!  On my first night run through Keyhole, I thought it would be an eerie experience but found it was very enjoyable and peaceful.  Watching the light dance on the walls as it was reflected off the water added a lot.  Our only regret was neither of us thought to turn our head lights off while in there.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From the East Entrance Gate of Zion National Park on highway 9, drive 1.9 miles West. There is a small turn out on the south side of the road that will fit 2 or 3 cars.  The route is started from here and finished here.  The waypoint for the trailhead is where the route leaves the highway about 200 feet east of this parking area.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

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


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.


The Approach:
From where you parked the cars walk East on highway 9 about 200 feet where the route leaves the highway.  From there head about 0.2 mile north, up the wash leaving the road.  Looking up the wash is a small spire just to right of the major peak ahead.  Hike up to the top of the ridge between the major peak and the small spire.  Once at the top of the ridge (wKeyholeRP-01) just to the left of a small spire look down over the ridge to see down into the next wash. 

From the top of the ridge it is a steep but easy down climbing to the bottom of the wash on the other side of the ridge.  Part of the way down there is a set of bolt and hangers for rappelling (wKeyholeRP-02).  This section was easy enough to just down climb and I am not sure why someone took the time to install the bolts.

The Canyon / Technical Section:
Once at the bottom of the down climb (yKeyholeTp) a wash continues north.  Do not follow the wash north.  Instead look left (west) as soon as you get to the bottom of the down climb.  You will see a narrow slot with lots of rocks along the bottom.  The beginning of that slot is what I have marked as the beginning of the technical portion of Keyhole Canyon.   This narrow section is a little over 400 feet long and has a few easy down climbs of about 8 to 10 feet.  The first one starts from a log wedged between the walls (wKeyholeRP-03).   This first section can have ankle to knee deep water or water a little over waist high depending on water levels.  At the end of this narrow section the canyon opens to a pool and a sandy area (wKeyholeRP-04).

About 200 feet after the canyon opens, look along the left (south west) wall for a narrow slot.  This is where Rap 1 is located and is anchored LDC with 2 bolt and hangers.  Rap 1 (dKeyholeR1) drops about 25 to 30 feet into the narrow slot under a log into a pool of water.  This pool maybe waist deep or be deep enough to require swimming depending on water levels.

A short distance after rap 1 is a down climb about 8 feet into a pool of water a couple feet deep.  There is webbing tied to the choke stone at the top of the down climb to assist.  This down climb can be a little tricky.  If the water levels are high in the canyon, the pool at the bottom of the down climb will be a swimmer.  As you get toward the other side of the pool it becomes shallow enough to stand.

Immediately after the down climb on the other side of the pool is Rap 2 (dKeyholeR2) which is anchored by a single glue in style anchor RDC about head height.  R2 is a double rap.  The first section is about 25 feet into a pool a little over knee deep.  On the other side of the pool is the second stage of Rap 2.  There is a single bolt and hanger RDC just below the pool which can be used to finish the rap if you accidentally pull your ropes before doing the second stage.  The second stage of the rap is down a slope into the next pool about 25 feet below.  This is the last rap in the canyon and is just over half way through the technical section.

Beyond rap 2 are a few down climbs of anywhere from 4 feet to 9 feet.  One of these has a log below to step on for traction.  The top of the log is slick and can be a point of frustration.  If you can locate the notch at the top of the log, it will provide a foot hold with good traction.

After most of the down climbs is a narrow slot full of water (wKeyholeRP-05).  When water levels are low a small section of this slot is a swimmer, but most of it is shallow enough that you can walk on the bottom.  When water levels are higher almost the total length of this narrow slot is a swimmer.  It can be stemmed to avoid full on swimming but takes a lot more energy than simply swimming.  The swim is about 60 feet long with the walls about 3 feet apart.   

A little over 300 feet after the swim is where the canyon opens and the technical section ends.  This section has one easy down climb of about 6 feet.  Taller people can stem the walls to down climb this.  There are sections of water to wade through on the way out.

When you see a way to climb out LDC you have that option.  Climbing out will avoid a little over a hundred feet of water filled canyon.  If you are enjoying the water you can continue in the water course until it opens up in the wash at the exit of the canyon.

The Exit:
After exiting the narrow technical section (yKeyholeBt), continue just over 300 feet down the wash to the road.  It is then about 0.1 miles east on the road to the cars to conclude the route.

GPS Waypoint Information

Downloadable GPX files available at BG-Gear Store (easier than manual entry and a great way to support Bluugnome).
Waypoint naming convention and map symbol information can be found on the Glossary page.  Elevations are approximate.
manually entering coordinates set your system to WGS84 datum and Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° coordinate format
Inconsistent datum's and coordinate formats will result in location errors.

Click to show / expand the list of waypoints below........
Keyhole (Zion) - Waypoints
  1. pkKeyhole          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22414   W -112.90127        Elev: 5,389 Feet
    Parking turn out for Keyhole Canyon. Large enough for 2 - 3 cars.
  2. tKeyholeBeg          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22394   W -112.90058        Elev: 5,430 Feet
    Trailhead for the start of Keyhole Canyon.
  3. wKeyholeRP-01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22654   W -112.90065        Elev: 5,620 Feet
    On top of ridge to the left of a small spire.
  4. wKeyholeRP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22675   W -112.90070        Elev: 5,600 Feet
    A set of bolt and hangers to assist down climb. Not really needed but there anyway.
  5. yKeyholeTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22687   W -112.90077        Elev: 5,590 Feet
    Top entry for Keyhole Canyon.
  6. wKeyholeRP-03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22679   W -112.90166        Elev: 5,534 Feet
    Log in the slot with a 10 foot DC.
  7. wKeyholeRP-04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22682   W -112.90219        Elev: 5,520 Feet
    Canyon opens up.
  8. dKeyholeR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22690   W -112.90242        Elev: 5,520 Feet
    Rap 1 for Keyhole Canyon. 25-30 feet. Anchored LDC from 2 bolt and hangers.
  9. dKeyholeR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22676   W -112.90302        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 in Keyhole Canyon. Double rap 25 feet to pool then 25 feet to pool. Anchored RDC from a glue in anchor. Also a single Bolt and hanger RDC at the top of the second stage.
  10. wKeyholeRP-05          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22603   W -112.90323        Elev: NaN Feet
    Narrow swim in a slot about 60 feet long.
  11. yKeyholeBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22547   W -112.90282        Elev: 5,460 Feet
    Bottom exit of Keyhole Canyon.
  12. tKeyholeEnd          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 37.22473   W -112.90259        Elev: 5,420 Feet
    Trailhead for the end of Keyhole Canyon.