Stephen Schreck a RoamRight Blog Author

Beginners Guide to Canyoneering in the United States

Canyoneering is quickly becoming a huge sport and it is a unique way to explore some incredible and remote places around the world. It is thrilling to wander into ravines and caverns that have been etched into our world through millions of years of erosion.

While the idea of exploring these masterpieces of Mother Nature sounds exciting, it is important to remember that canyoneering comes with risk, and, if you are not prepared, it is dangerous. It is important to have proper gear and training before venturing off. If you are curious about getting into canyoneering, this guide is the perfect place to start.

What is Canyoneering? 

Let us first define what canyoneering is before we get into the basics. 

Canyoneering, also known as canyoning, is an outdoor sport that involves traveling through canyons by any means necessary such as climbing, swimming, abseiling, or jumping. Actually, the easiest canyoneering is just traveling from point A to B through a canyon by hiking, so many of you might have already tried canyoneering and just did not realize it. 

Before You Get Started

Beginners will want to invest a lot of time into educating themselves before attempting harder routes. It is vital to know the technical classification and make sure that any canyon you attempt is in your skill set. Let’s take a look at how different routes are classified.

Class 1 – Basic. Class 1 Routes are completed entirely on the ground.

Class 2 – Easy. For the most part, Class 2 Routes are easy going, however, there are parts you will have to scramble uphill using handholds.

Class 3 – Intermediate. This is where canyoneering becomes more adventurous and just as dangerous. These routes require technical climbing up or down. Ropes are needed for lowering packs and belaying

Class 4 – Advanced. Lines are required for multi pitch climbs, rappels, and belays. Depending on the route, Class 4 could also mean squeezing through tight areas and steep climbs. It is not for the faint of heart and you need the proper skills and a guide before taking on Class 4.

Water levels also has a ranking system. 

A – Little to no water, depending on the season. If there is water, it does not get higher than waist deep. 

B – At this level, you are likely to run into water with light currents, little waterfalls, and still pools. The route might require a little swimming. 

C – The last level has strong currents and waterfalls. You need to feel comfortable in the water and using equipment like a wet canyon rope. 

Things to Know Before You Go

Start Slow and Develop Skills - Canyoning is not a sport where you want to immediately jump to the highest difficulty. It is important to take it slow, start with easy routes, grow your skill set, and work your way up. 

Take Lessons - An excellent way to practice honing your skills is by joining a climbing gym, building muscle, and taking on easy hikes. Other ways to improve your skills and comfortability is to take guided canyoneering tours. Many companies in states like Utah, which has a lot of canyons, offer canyon training. 

Take Friends or a Guide - As a safety precaution never go alone. This is especially vital in canyons that require rope work. As we mentioned above canyoneering is dangerous, and at the very least you need to let people know where you are going and when you are coming back. Also, make sure to have proper insurance. 

Do Your Homework - Before attempting any expedition that may prove difficult, it is important that you take some time and research the route, the conditions, and the weather forecast. Check internet forums and articles to see other people’s recommendations.  Another way to prepare yourself is utilizing videos on YouTube to get familiar with the terrain. 

Where to Go

Almost every state in America has some level of canyoning. A few states that offer some of the best tours are Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, and Alaska. However, Utah and Arizona are undeniably the most well known places to go in America.

Here are a list of some of the top canyoning spots in America. 

  • Zion National Park, Utah. 
  • Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
  • Watkins Glen State Park, New York
  • Waimea Canyon, Hawaii
  • The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Canyoneering is a fantastic sport that lets you explore the world from a different vantage point. These memorable adventures let you challenge and push yourself while rewarding you with rare beauty that is only seen by those who go looking for it. 

Love adventure travel? Us too! Just make sure you have our special adventure sports insurance coverage!

About the Author

Stephen Schreck

Stephen Schreck, a RoamRight Blog Author Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Get A Free Travel Insurance Quote 

Travel smarter with travel insurance from RoamRight. Get your free, no-obligation quote online today.

I'm a partner, take me to my portal


Stay Connected!

Sign up for RoamRight's FREE monthly email newsletter to get travel tips, tricks, news, ideas, and inspiration!

The RoamRight mark is used by Arch Insurance Company and owned by its parent company, Arch Capital Group (U.S.). All insurance products are offered and underwritten by Arch Insurance Company. The term "Partner", as used on this website refers to any unaffiliated third party entity that may offer or disseminate Arch RoamRight travel insurance. The term has no legal meaning whatsoever and Arch RoamRight hereby disclaims any such legal meaning that may be ascribed to it. Click here for privacy notice.

Copyright© 2018 Arch Insurance Company. All rights reserved.