Just Plain Awful! The MIA Exit Route is just awful - strenuous, steep, brushy, difficult to follow - but sometimes it has to be ascended as it is the quickest hiking exit from Boundary, Kolob and Oak Creek. Once you have learned where the route goes, it is considerably easier, but still, the cadre of people who have done it on back-to-back days is very small. With Kolob being closed most the summer, use of the trail has declined, making it even harder than usual to follow.
Resting UpWhile the MIA Exit is not hard to find, many a canyoneer has walked past it due to inattention. Noting the intersection of Boundary Canyon with Kolob Canyon is the key to finding the MIA Route. The MIA should not be attempted in the dark. The first time, most parties will require at least 2 hours for the MIA, plus another hour to hike back to the trailhead.The Boundary Intersection is marked by Boundary Canyon coming into Kolob Canyon on canyon right as a 50' wide, vegetated and not-steep canyon, and a steep, small, vegetated slot coming in across the way. There is a large flat rock right at the intersection that makes a great place to remove wetsuits and harnesses, and prepare for the ordeal ahead. Between Boundary and the MIA there are no rappels, and usually two places where wading deeper than waist deep is required.At the MIA ExitFrom Boundary, Kolob creek is rocky and wide for about 20 minutes, then enters a short (5 minute), tall, narrows section. Next, the canyon opens out again and proceeds as a rocky streambed for perhaps 20 minutes, then again enters a tall narrows section, which is considerably longer (15 minutes). Approximately 10 minutes after the second narrows section, MIA canyon comes in on canyon right, as a large, indisputable, lushly vegetated and steep (but climbable) sandy slope. There may be two big ol' logs in the streambed and cairns often mark the intersection. This is the only possible-looking exit since Boundary, due to tall, unbroken canyon walls.
steep and looseClimb the steep, wooded slope above Kolob Canyon, starting behind several large rocks in the streambed, up, then work left at the toe of a rock buttress. Traverse left, then down to the top of a short pourover. You are now in the main MIA canyon watercourse. Scramble upcanyon. A short wall is surmounted either directly, or by climbing a ramp on the right and stepping back left. At the next obstacle, climb a steep slope on the left to gain an exposed traverse ledge - or, climb a steep slope on the right, then traverse easily back into the main watercourse. The main watercourse soon ends at a 40-foot (12 m) dryfall with a wider-than-fists crack in the back. Stop 30 feet (10 m) back from the dryfall and ascend the noticeably smaller drainage on the right.Follow the drainage upward, to the base of a wall. Climb left along the base of the wall, then up again. Traverse left through brush to a wide pass that overlooks the upper basin of MIA Canyon (30 minutes to this point).From this viewpoint, carefully examine the complex terrain ahead. The upper basin is bounded on the left by cliffs and then a slinky little slot canyon (MIA Slot) dropping steeply into the basin (this is just above the "4WD" annotation on the map). To the right of this, is a complex, steep and tree-covered face that slides over into a deep slot canyon on the right. Take careful note of three snags (dead trees) at the canyon rim above the middle-left of the complex face – the three snags are where you are trying to go.Descend to the bottom of the upper basin, and head for the bottom of the MIA slot on the left. The slot is well worth a few minutes of exploration. Follow the main watercourse past automotive debris washed down from above. Follow this canyon five minutes along the basin floor, until it turns right and heads for the right-hand wall and slot. At this point, climb steep dirt directly up the fall line, following a shallow watercourse on a fairly good social trail.
To this point, the dreaded MIA Trail is not so bad. It gets worse.Almost UpFollow the trail steeply upward. It is important to "Follow The Trail". In the brush, the trail is easy to find, but there are several sections where the trail crosses open ground and several options all look pretty much the same. At one point, stay right and scramble steeply up rocks. At other points, walking a few feet to check out the options will reveal the correct trail.In general, when hunting for the trail, follow the watercourse. Explore, figure out which is the correct path, and follow it. Even the best trail is steep and difficult - persevere. Keep the three snags in sight.Near the top, the trail is less well-defined and climbs a few sections of steep, loose rock. Be careful of partner-generated rockfall. Ascend to the road.Back to the West Rim TrailheadFrom the top of the MIA Route, once on the logging road, turn left (south) and hike about 1000 feet (300 m) to a picnic area with water coming from a pipe. This is the Pipe Spring. Hike the road heading uphill behind the spring 365 feet, then turn 90 degrees right and charge up the hillside, following a somewhat overgrown two-track. Follow this up, then right to the actual source of the spring. Then follow the roads (generally north and west, but always up) to the West Rim Trailhead. Allow an hour for the MIA Route and an hour for the roadwalk back to the Trailhead. First time MIA'ers are likely to take longer.
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Zion: Kolob Terrace Area Map
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Kolob Canyon, Boundary Canyon, MIA Exit
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Zion: Kolob, Boundary and Oak