Behuinin Canyon – Zion National Park
|3A or 3B III|
|Spring or Fall. Much of Behunin is exposed to the sun, so it can be very hot in high summer.|
|About 6-8 hours.|
|165 feet (50m)|
|Dry bags recommended for sensitive gear; slings, harnesses, shoes – that kinda stuff.|
USGS 7.5′ Map:
|Temple of Sinawava . Navigation is EZ.|
|Many rappels to 165 feet. There may be swimming and wading if it has been wet. NEW!: One Pool to Swim|
|Route starts and ends at the Grotto Picnic area.|
|Required: available at Visitor Center . Group size limited to 12.|
Flash Flood Danger:
|High. Weather Report available at Visitor Center .|
In 1863, Utah Pioneer Isaac Behunin built a small cabin near the current location of Zion Lodge, across from the Emerald Pools cirque. Finally finding solace, he named the canyon Zion , the Old Testament place of refuge. A narrow canyon dropping into the cirque was named for him, and it makes a fine canyoneering adventure. Two hours of hiking up the West Rim trail takes the intrepid canyoneer to the head of the canyon. Eight rappels and a bunch of fun hiking lead to a final precipitous drop 160 feet (50 meters) into the Emerald Pool cirque. Behunin is a great backcountry canyon, with mostly fixed anchors and very little swimming required.
Behunin is one of the more straightforward of Zion ‘s backcountry canyons, and is therefore quite popular. Those with good anchor and rappelling skills will find it quite pleasant and easy; for those without, this is not a good choice. Its many rappels provide numerous opportunities to get the rope stuck, and the backcountry nature of Behunin means you are on your own. This is not a good canyon for groups larger than six.
The popularity of Behunin is also its curse, and makes it a good showcase of the impacts canyoneers can have in the fragile, narrow-canyon environment. These impacts can be avoided by staying IN THE WATERCOURSE. As you descend, note the eroded social trails in several places, cutting around drops and pools. These kinds of impacts must be avoided or the Park will further limit access to the canyons to protect the fragile environment.
By allowing yourself to be slightly inconvenienced, your descent can have almost zero impact. Besides, it’s more FUN!
STAY IN THE WATERCOURSE.
From the Grotto shuttle stop, head up the West Rim / Angels Landing Trail to the top of the Scout Lookout Ridge. Turn left (North) toward the West Rim. The trail follows the crest of the ridge with spectacular views, then cuts left and down to cross a branch of Telephone Canyon . Slabbing around the north end of Mount Majestic , the trail crosses slickrock and works its way into a steep-walled north-facing canyon, then up to a pass. The West Rim Trail continues to the right, switchbacking up the steep sandstone on cut steps to the top of the West Rim. The canyon over the other side of the pass is Behunin.
The approach is 3.8 miles (6.0 km) with 2000 feet (600m) of altitude gain. Allow at least 2 hours.
Drop over the pass and descend about 120′ (40m), then cut sharply right and traverse across the top of steep slabs to the base of a striped wall and the crease of the watercourse. Follow the bottom of the drainage, occasionally scrambling left to avoid the worst of the brush. After about 45 minutes, the canyon turns left and starts to descend. A short section of slickrock leads to some pools and the first drop.
R1: from the lip of the drop, follow a narrow ledge right 30 feet (10m) past a small tree to a larger ledge and a two-bolt anchor. Rappel 90 feet (30m) in two drops to a flat area.
(Var-1A: from the lip, look up and left – find a large ponderosa pine with slings around it. Climb up and traverse over (4th class, exposed) to the pine, possibly belaying off an intermediate tree. Rappel 165 feet (50m) off the large tree to a flat area.)
(Var-1B: this drop is fairly easily downclimbed next to the watercourse – 5.6ish. Be careful.)
R2: from a large ponderosa, rappel down slabs and a few short, steep walls 165 feet (50m) to a small tree and ledge at a rollover. Stay on rappel ALL THE WAY TO THE TREE, as the low-angle slab leading over to the tree can be very slippery with algae.
R3: from a small tree, rappel 150 feet (45m) down a steep slab, then steeper down a banded sandstone wall to a bowl/ledge. When wet, this rap can be difficult to retrieve.
R4: rappel 120 feet (40m) from a bolted anchor to the canyon floor.
Hike downcanyon 1/4 mile (400m).
R5: from a bolted anchor right of the watercourse about 50 feet (15m), rappel 80 feet (25m) to the edge of a pool.
Hike downcanyon 1/4 mile (.4km).
R6: From a large, rotten log, rappel 60 feet (20m) into a pool. Swim across the pool (10 feet, 3 m). Packs can be lowered on a zip line to avoid immersing them. For those with skills, a guided rappel can be set up to avoid the swim.
(Var-6: (Not recommended) Pass the drop and climb a small trail to the right into the woods. Follow a wooded ridge about 1/4 mile. The trail descends a steep, eroded gully, but you don’t. Instead, from the top of the ridge, rappel 120 feet (40m) off a tree into the canyon on the left.)
Hike downcanyon. A small drop is downclimbed directly – much easier than it looks. Continue downcanyon through some nice sections of narrows.
Rappel Number Seven: follow the watercourse and you get this really nice, two-stage rappel, rather then the really messy, dirty, unpleasant and erosion causing rappel to the side. You get your ankles wet – Big Deal?
R7: the canyon turns left in a complex series of short drops and pools. Rappel 80 feet (30m) from a tree following the watercourse. The first part raps to the edge of a pool. The second part raps into a knee-deep pool – take a few giant-steps left (canyon left) to avoid the deeper part of the pool, and to place the rope over a gentler edge.
Avoid a pool by traversing a narrow ledge on the right. Continue downcanyon. Very shortly, the end of the canyon appears. Scramble through large blocks to avoid pools, climbing to the top of a large boulder that blocks the end of the canyon. Climb carefully down either side of the boulder on large holds to a sloping, insecure stance under the boulder.
Large Group: the stance under the boulder is small and insecure. For larger groups, send folks down from the top of the boulder only when space is available. Less sure-footed climbers can be belayed down the climb, though there is no established anchor above.
R8: Rappel 150 feet (50m) from slings around an arch down a steep wall, over some large, slippery logs and down to a ledge above a slot on canyon left. (The final person down may want to pull the rope from the big ledge right of the slot, then downclimb into the slot).
R9: Climb down into the slot, then under a chockstone to the front. Clip your safety into a bolt anchor in the slot, then set your rope off a bolt anchor on the outside face. Rappel 160 feet (50m) mostly free to a wet nook in the talus below. (Note: for those with only 150 foot ropes (?), there is an old, climber, two-bolt anchor about 20 feet below the end of the canyon. The ledge for this anchor is quite small. Not recommended.)
Exit: Pack the gear and shoulder the packs. From the shallow pool or sand flat below the large rock, climb the left side of the canyon through blocks and brush across the ridgeline to a lower angle and more open face. Follow game trails down and left for about 15 minutes to the Emerald Pools trail. Turn left to return to The Grotto. Or turn left and take the Emerald Pools trail down and under the falls to Zion Lodge.