Cold Feet in Kanarraville

I mentioned in my last post that there were two places I wanted to visit in Kanaraville. The Red Ledge RV Park would provide the best possible position to explore them both. I knew the park was within easy driving distance for the Tracker to make it to Cedar Breaks National Monument. What I didn’t realize is that it would be within walking distance of my second destination, Kanarraville Falls.

One of two parking lots. The other one looks more official, but, well, this one is the "sweet spot."

One of two parking lots. The other one looks more official, but, well, this one is the “sweet spot.”

The first 1.5 miles is up a dirt road.

The first 1.5 miles is up a long dirt road past two water tanks, ending at the pump station.

Canyon walls start to close in.

Canyon walls start to close in.

I wanted to visit Kanaraville Falls during my 2015 visit to Zion. But the weather turned cold too fast, and the conversation fell flat at the first mention of “…but you have to get your feet wet.” No amount of lobbying could persuade any of “the gang” to cast their vote my way when planning our hikes. So with this being the season of “seeing new places,” I set my intentions to do it this year regardless…even if it means going it alone.

I talk to Kevin, the Red Ledge campground host at length about this hike. When he’s not working in the office, he leads first timers on the hike. He assures me I’ll be fine, saying he recently took a 94 year old man into the falls. He gives me lots of pointers on how best to dress for the cold, what landmarks to recognize, and at what point to give up on keeping my feet dry. And then he does what no other camp host has ever done before….he says, “Check in with me when you are back please, so I will know that you made it back safely.” Filing a flight plan with Kevin makes me feel much more comfortable about going into the slot canyon, up ladders and into waterfalls alone.

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Kevin also tells me “If you want to make it to the falls, it’s a ‘wet hike.’ Give up all hope of avoiding it.” I am still plagued by my nagging “cave cold” I caught in Great Basin, sounding like I just cut back to a pack a day. So my better judgment is questioning a hike where staying dry is not an option. Just the thought of hiking for most of a six mile hike in sloshy shoes is giving me “cold feet.” The high for the day is only supposed to be 57 degrees. But one of the benefits of hiking solo is, I can abort the hike at any time without inconveniencing others. I tell myself I will wait until the middle of the day until it warms up, but truthfully, I am working on getting up my nerve.
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Light reflecting off canyon walls makes Kanarraville Creek take on a copper-colored glow.

Light reflecting off canyon walls makes Kanarraville Creek take on a copper-colored glow.

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It’s only three blocks from the Red Ledge RV Park to the trailhead and by walking, I save the $10 parking fee. Kevin tells me that crowds in the summer can number up into the thousands, and the town had to construct designated parking lots to keep people from parking on personal property. There are two large parking lots on either side of the road for $10 per car. But today, there are only 3 cars in the lot.

Entrance to the first slot canyon

Entrance to the first slot canyon

Canyon walls are taller than I anticipated.

Canyon walls are taller than I anticipated.

A stranger adds perspective...one of less than half a dozen I saw this chilly day.

A stranger adds perspective…one of less than half a dozen I saw this chilly day.

It’s a mile and a half up a dirt road until the canyon starts to close in alongside Kanarranville Creek. It’s possible to boulder hop over the first half a dozen creek crossings, but then I meet another couple on the trail, and ask “How much further before keeping my feet dry is no longer an option?” They tell me the slot canyon, filled with ankle-deep water, is only 15 minutes up the trail. So I just decide “screw it” and wade on in. It’s not as cold as I anticipated at first, but the further I go up the canyon, the colder it gets.

Finally, I come to the first of the two ladders....

Finally, I come to the first of the two ladders….

It's not too bad, though a bit daunting looking down.

It’s not too bad, though a bit daunting looking down.

Looking back from where I just came, through the slot canyon.

Looking back from where I just came, through the slot canyon.

The first slot canyon is dramatic in its steep walls and narrow passageway. The undulating sculptured sandstone on opposing sides of the canyon walls always beckon me in, like being absorbed into the mouth of Mother Earth. It’s not long until I come to the first ladder, which is a series of aluminum “steps” bolted onto a tree log. The log is sturdy, and the climb is relatively easy with a rope bolted into the wall for balance. So I decide to continue.

The canyon has some bizarre caves and formations.

The canyon has some bizarre caves and formations.

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The second waterfall, which is more like a cascade...no ladders.

The second waterfall, which is more like a cascade…no ladders.

Kevin has recommended that I go beyond the second waterfall, taking time to descend down from the main path to view the cascades. Then continue on through yet another slot canyon to what he calls “the third waterfall,” which is the more scenic of the two ladder falls. But this one appears to be missing a few rungs. And some are wooden, not aluminum, pivoting on only one nail. I decide to brave it anyway, despite the fact that it is less secure, more water gushing over, and the rungs are spaced impossibly far apart without a serious hamstring stretch. I make it to the top of the second ladder, feeling pretty good about my conquest until I look on the internet afterward to see the more primitive ladders used 3 to 4 years ago, barely more than a bent tree limb. By comparison, this one looks like a Home Depot Deluxe model.

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I continue on up the canyon as the scenery continues to unfold beneath the tall walls now glowing from the afternoon sun, reflecting back copper light on the creek. But in all honesty, getting back down that second ladder is really nagging at me. And having gotten a late start due to my trying to get up my nerve, I have approached my turn time. I’ve been hiking for 3 miles now, at least half of that through frigid water with toes so numb, I am starting to lose feeling and agility. I am surprised my cold feet have carried me this far!

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Once out of the water, I pick up the pace, and it doesn’t take long for my Popsicle Toes to thaw. I make it back to the outskirts of town within signal range to check in with Kevin just as he’s closing up shop. I tell him “I’ve made it back to the water tanks at the top of the hill, and I’m on my way back, soon to be safe and sound!”

Finally, the second ladder comes into view. The glow of sunlight in the canyon takes my breath away!

Finally, the second ladder comes into view. The glow of sunlight in the canyon takes my breath away!

The second ladder is a lot more rickety.

The second ladder is a lot more rickety. That wooden rung in the center is a killer.

Second ladder has a more "user friendly" rope, otherwise I would have never made it between those widely spaced rungs!

Second ladder has a more “user friendly” rope, otherwise I would have never made it between those widely spaced rungs!

And just in case you are wondering…If my friends were to change their minds and decide to brave the cold, wet feet, would I ever go back? Well, let’s just say this is not where the story “ends.” 😉

The "Ends"

“The End”

23 thoughts on “Cold Feet in Kanarraville

    • Thanks, Dave. I did return to the falls a week later with Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie and their friends Susan and Maikel. Bobbie and I found some used neoprene socks on sale for $5 a pair at one of the Zion outfitters. They made a huge difference. Though that merino wool lining sure sounds nice…I’ll check them out. Thanks!

  1. Why mothers get gray!!!! You’re crazy, girl! If I had known all this before hand I would have been in my grave! The scenery is spectacular, though, so I guess I don’t blame you…..much!! Love the pictures! Keep on keeping on!!!!!

  2. Seal skin? Those big dark seal pup eyes? Hmmm. I guess it’s no different than leather, and I do like a good steak. But… maybe they wait till the seals die of natural causes.
    A bold hike, Suzanne… foolish, with no one there to rescue if that ladder broke, but bold. :)

    • >>> A bold hike…..

      True that. Even if the walk isn’t far, it is remote and the potential for an incident significant. Attentiveness and precision are rewarded with a spectacular discovery.

  3. Now that’s an awesome trek! As Mark mentions this is a bit bolder adventure, than a typical hike. Awesome pictures of the colorful sandstone and sunlight in the slot canyon.

  4. Yes, I’m sure I would have stopped at the second ladder!
    When we were in that area we hiked adjacent Spring Creek Canyon, a similar, beautiful slot canyon without the water. Nobody else there, since everyone gravitates to Kanarra. It’s all good in that part of Utah!

  5. I’m in awe. I once hiked Negro Bill Canyon in Southeastern Utah on Thanksgiving weekend. I was in my early 60s then. It was a five mile round trip. I was with my late husband, Bill, who pushed me across creeks frozen around the edges to reach the Morning Glory Arch. I thought I was hot stuff till now. When I finally get on the road in the spring, I hope to have some tamer adventures. You inspire me.

  6. Suzanne, you are indeed an inspiration. I recently bought a used (2010) View and am loving it after a 2000 mile inaugural trip back to OR from TX where I bought it. I planned that drive to take me through southern UT and spent a couple days at Zion. I didn’t have a lot of time on that trip but your hike sounds amazing and I’ve added Kanaraville Falls to my list! I hope to be on the road in a month or so to head to warm weather for the winter. Do you have a winter destination? Maybe our paths will cross sometime…it would be fun to do a hike together and share some stories.
    Kat

  7. Amazing pictures and prose, as usual! I am so jealous of all your adventures.! Places I want to explore before they are no longer available. Thank you girl!!

  8. So very crazy to go this alone!! But after reading your mom’s comment and your response, I see where you get it:) What a great hike! The slots are spectacular:) But those ladders look scary. Thank goodness for the ropes. Nice to have a camp host with hiking knowledge and to be checking on your return:)

  9. Oh my! We did not do this hike when in Kville! I am sure wet feet and cold temps kept us from it. There is another canyon hike there that is beautiful and dry and free, but no dramatic slots. This looks like fun, especially without thousands of other people!

  10. While pausing to enjoy the beauty of each photo from the Kanarraville Falls hike, two songs wove through my mind. The first was hinted in your post: Michael Frank’s “Popsicle Toes”…”You’re so brave to expose all those popsicle toes…” Brave, indeed! The second, as the golden rust of the canyon walls were reflected upon the glistening water of the creek…Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust”…”we both know what memories can bring, they bring diamonds and rust…” This lovely post brought back lovely memories associated with each of those songs…thanks! :-)

    • Oh, my, Rhonda…we do have the same music collection! Yes, Michael Franks is on my “Top 10 Playlist!” But Diamonds and Rust had faded to the back a bit…until now. Thanks for the refresher. “As I recall your eyes were bluer than robin’s eggs.”

      • “…my poetry was lousy you said…” You and I are of the same era and I think we have an exceptional appreciation for good lyrics and sounds. Diamonds and Rust is an all time fav…

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