Utah Canyoneering

Red Rocks: Utah Canyoneering

This venture is a full seven days of challenging adventures based in experiential education.  You will backpack through the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah, developing backcountry skills and leadership, deepening relationships with your fellow classmates, pushing yourself physically and mentally while having fun. The red rock canyons offer a unique and beautiful canyoneering location. This area is categorized by rugged terrain and delicate beauty, with red sandstone and green junipers adding color to the arid landscape.

The use of ropes, anchor systems, rappels, hands, feet, shoulders, elbows, hips, thighs, backsides, pack passes and often someone else’s support to move and navigate through slot canyons.

Wandering around in the desert is an incredible adventure and canyoneering is a technical sport with potential for serious consequences. It requires considerable improvisation and judgment. Rappels are often done using improvised anchors – trees, jammed rocks, stuck logs, and chunks of rock. And, they can be awkward – wet, through narrow slots, often muddy, with challenging starts, with a pack on, into a pool, and often with problems pulling the ropes. And, rope retrieval is essential for continued travel and exploration.

This particular route was chosen due to its remoteness, opportunity for solitude, technical challenge, and promise of sustained interest in the form of canyon narrows, scrambling, and technical canyoneering and has been used to train NASA crews.

The specific course area offers technical challenges requiring strategy, cooperation, and technical canyoneering skills. Elevation will range from 3,800 to 7,500 ft.

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Important Dates:

Apply here until  

Participant Application Open: Mid-September
Participants Accepted will be notified by: Mid-October
Info Session: Mid-September
Scholarship Recipients Notified: Mid-October
Deposit of $300 due for all expeditions: End October
Utah Final Payment due: Early November

Additional Costs for Participants Not Included in Land Costs:

Round-trip Flight to Salt Lake City, Utah: ~$250 – $400
Gear (renting and borrowing encouraged): ~$500
Meals During Travel (before and after expedition): ~$60


Key Information

Dates: March 3-10, 2018

Total Land Cost: $2,600 including backpacks, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags.

Number of Seats per Venture: 9

Location: Canyonlands, Utah

Venture Fellows: Benjamin Worsham and Michelle Lyu

Partner Organization


Activities & Risks

The climate can be dynamic and challenging this time of year. Days can vary from warm, sunny, and dry to cold and wet. Identifying and managing hazards – which could be falling rock, stormy weather, or steep terrain – will be a constant theme in our instruction. Throughout your course, you’ll be miles from the amenities of civilization. Telephones, ambulances, and hospitals may be several days away. Managing risks and assuming responsibility for yourself and your class mates will help make your expedition in this wild place healthy and fun.

NOLS teaches wilderness visitors to practice responsible habits that promote the health and well being of self and others. Each participant is expected to:

  • Demonstrate a developing knowledge of the hazards in a canyon environment and recognize their limitations.
  • Describe and consistently perform specific techniques to reduce or avoid hazards.
  • Develop experience and judgment to implement sound decisions and follow them through to completion.
  • Display sound judgment and an awareness of group and self-limits


The trip requires a moderate level of physical conditioning.  Venture Fellows will consult with participants about required training programs.

Costs & Equipment

The total land cost is $2,600 and includes transportation to and from the Salt Lake City, UT hotel and the road head, hotel the night of March 5th and March 12th (first and last day), all course food, instructor gear, group gear, and the following personal gear items: backpack, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and stuff sacks for both pad and bag, and climbing harnesses (if needed).

Expedition cost does not include: Gear for expedition other than gear provided by NOLS, flights to Salt Lake City, UT, extra nights of accommodations not specified in the itinerary, transfer from UT airport (in and out), and meals before and after the dates of the expedition.

Additional Costs for Participants Not Included in Land Costs:

Round-trip Flight to Salt Lake City, Utah: ~$250 – $400
Gear (renting and borrowing encouraged): ~$500
Meals During Travel (before and after expedition): ~$60