Mystery Canyon -- May 2014

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Sep 26, 2012
This is a long post, but I couldn't leave any of this out from the original post on my blog.

Mystery Canyon, Solved!

Ever since I strolled up the Riverside Walk and into the Narrows of Zion National Park, I have felt compelled to find the canyon beyond Mystery Falls. The 100 ft. waterfall, cascading into the Virgin River, has always been on my bucket list.

Mystery solved.

The stars aligned for me, my wife and the two friends who came with us. Sadly we had two others on the permit, but they were forced to cancel at the last minute.

Needless to say, we had a good time.

To the right is the obligatory photo at the trailhead.

We started the canyon with a shuttle to the East Mesa Trail. I have to say, this is the way to go to reach Observation Point and those other areas on the top. It was such a nice stroll. The trail just meanders through a pine forest, and while we were there many wildflowers were blooming.

In a matter of minutes we were staring down the barrel of Mystery Canyon. Granted we had some walking back and forth to find the place to start the climb in, but after about 20 minutes we found it and began the descent.

The first obstacle of Mystery is the 'Death Gulley.' Aptly named because of the intense scramble it is to get down. Several hundred feet of loose scree and landslides. If you don't watch your footing, you will fall and possibly to your death. Tumbling and tumbling through brush and rock to a nice hurtful stop. Too gruesome?

Granted along the way if you look closely it has it's own beauty.

Right about when my feet were about to give up and my knees were screaming in agony from the constant pounding on the rocks, we were down and at the first rappel.

We were on it so sudden that I missed getting any photos from the first rappel. But here is the second rappel which was a few feet past the first.

The slot canyon that follows is one of the best sections of slots I have been in. The sculptured sandstone is something to admire. Thinking about what formed this chasm is actually quite daunting. The force of the water to scour out this rock and stone is impressive.

I love the reflected light. As it comes cascading down into the depths and bounces off the walls to cause such an amazing scene of light and dark.

Oh, and the rappels in here are fun little rappels. Nothing bigger than 50 ft through the whole section of slot canyon. Of course there are the small beauties that I love to find. The flowers blooming and the striations of the sandstone.

All to sudden, we were out of the slot canyon and in a dry lake bed. A large slab of sandstone fell off the face of the Mountain of Mystery some time ago. The resulting dam filled up the canyon each year with rain water and snow melt off. The lake is dry now. but the slab is a fun hike up (I thought canyoneering was supposed to be going down, not climbing up).

After you hike up and over the natural dam, Mystery Canyon takes a drastic change. A beautiful change!

The floor becomes sandstone and the second to last rappel opens up before you. The canyon below is growing green. Seeps of water are coming out of the walls everywhere. It's a gorgeous looking site.

Before I take you down this rappel (it's a fun rappel) check out what the traverse looks like to get over to the rappel station.

This rappel is fun. A nice 120 ft cliff face that drops into a gorgeous riparian area, where Mystery Spring gushes out of the sandstone in a deep, clear pool.

Then the bottom of the area is, as I said, a gorgeous riparian area. Ferns and flowers and water seeps and just an amazing area. The rest of the canyon is this way. Beautiful Mystery Canyon.

Every bit of the canyon was worth the effort, but this section takes the cake for the best.

And then we were there, standing about the Narrows on top of Mystery Falls. It took the hikers in the Narrows awhile to notice we were there, but soon they were gathering to see what the heck we were doing and ask a million questions.

I loved this rappel. Best rappel I've ever done (and I even became one of those canyoneers who slipped in front of all the tourists). It was just an amazing place to be.

Then I couldn't pass up another shot of my favorite flower.

Featured image for home page:


Oct 1, 2012
Awesome! The Narrows looks really shallow right now-is that right?

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Sep 26, 2012

Mike K

Jul 6, 2012
Great shots. The canyon looked really lush and green and blooming with flowers. Sweet. You feel like a rock star on that last rappel, huh!?


Jan 19, 2012
Beautiful shots!!!! Looks like a lot of fun!

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Sep 26, 2012
The last rappel is the coolest. I just zipped right down the falls.


Mar 3, 2013
Good pics, looks like a good trip. Never had a chance to get a permit to do Mystery.....

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Sep 26, 2012
Good pics, looks like a good trip. Never had a chance to get a permit to do Mystery.....
We just are always looking for what days are available. The day we did it there were six spots left online so we took them. THen the friend who got the 6 couldn't go so we went in the morning to trade the name and he just said he would give us a new permit because most spots were still open...conclusion: go on a wednesday!
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