Fluted and Fun. Birch is a technical sidecanyon of Orderville Canyon, and makes a nice day out with family or friends. It is generally beginner-friendly. Birch was a showcase of natural anchor technique, at least it was before some ass bolted it up. Contemplate how YOU would get anchors at each of the many drops, if the bolts were not there.
Descending Birch Hollow and exiting UP Orderville is entirely outside the park and does not require a permit. This has become popular as a straightforward, reasonably short technical day for beginners, and is not uncommon to see guided groups and large self-guided groups in the canyon.
While outside the stringent National Park permit system, the BLM has concerns about disturbance of the endangered Mexican Spotted Owls that reside in the canyon, and a voluntary group size limit of 12 is in place, with a 20 minute gap between groups. Please respect these guidelines.Birch Hollow enters Orderville Canyon near the top of the Orderville hike, therefore descending Birch and going DOWN Orderville makes for a long day. Most parties will be sated with the lovely rappels of Birch Hollow, and exit up Orderville Canyon, either to fully-capable vehicles at the road end, or with a bit longer hike up to the Orderville Corral next to the North Fork road. Plan on 3-6 hours for Birch, then either 1-1/2 hours to ascend Orderville Canyon, or 6 hours to descend out to the Temple of Sinawava via The Narrows.
Scott Williams beneath Birch Hollow's enormous iconic chockstone
Fall - The preferred season, with nice temperatures and great fall photography.
Winter - Roads and canyon trailheads are at a high elevation and are often inaccessible due to snow or mud. Driving down past the Orderville Corral requires dry conditions.
Spring - Can be quite wet in the spring. The Virgin River must be less than 120 CFS to descend out Orderville Canyon. Snow or mud limits access to the start.
Summer - HOT! Get an early start. Once in the canyon, the temperatures tend to be very pleasant. Bring plenty of water for the full-sun hike in upper Orderville.
If walking out the top of Orderville Canyon, spot a car at the well-signed Orderville Trailhead - the Orderville Corral -- 11.4 miles up the North Fork Road. A real 4WD road descends from the Orderville Canyon TH 2.5 miles and, when dry, is driveable by high clearance 4WD vehicles only.
There are two approaches to Birch Hollow: A. down the watercourse, and B. to the side, along old logging roads, then down a steep slope into the canyon between the first and second rappels.
You CAN cut down into the watercourse right away, and many people do. However, I think following the ridge to the right is significantly better.
Drive north on the North Fork Road 5.4 miles to the entrance of the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Continue on the North Fork Road 3.2 miles to where Birch Hollow crosses the road, and a bit of a parking area on the left. This is also often where the first big mud puddle on the North Fork Road occurs, and there is a BLM signboard here. Park.
Walk further north out the North Fork road to the crest of the hill. A small dirt road leaves the main road here, continuing in a northeast direction. Take this, being careful of barbed wire hidden in the dirt. This road soon changes into a trail along the crest of the ridge. After about 10 minutes, drop left over the side and bushwhack steeply downhill into Birch Hollow. There is no specific, established path. Walk the watercourse. An hour of interesting canyon hiking with just a bit of brush leads to a 120-foot drop. Rappel this using a block or tree. (Do not add to the erosion by taking the nasty trail around the side). Be very careful of loose rock on this rappel - might be best to set up a guided rappel.
Logging Road Alternative Approach
Birch Hollow can be approached using an old logging road off the North Fork Road. Drive north on the North Fork Road 5.4 miles to the entrance of the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Continue on the North Fork Road 2.8 miles to a small dirt road on the left (west), between two fenced ranches, the Gifford and EZ Acres. Park here. Access to the canyon is a courtesy provided by the families -- please respect their private property rights and move through the area expeditiously.
Follow the old road down through the scrub. After 15 minutes, an ATV trail branches right toward Birch Hollow. This branch can be obscured by brush and hard to see. Turn right. Follow this around the head of a wash, through a meadow and up a hill. At a fork in the road, go right and follow the road out to the edge of a canyon. Follow the best of several social trails steeply down the hillside into the canyon, and walk downcanyon one minute to find the top of a rappel, the second rappel in the canyon. Allow one hour to get to the second rappel.
Driving Times -
Drive Time one way
turn onto N Fork Road
30 mins (plus tunnel time)
N Fork Turn
Road crosses Birch
Road crosses Birch
The drive down into Orderville is highly variable, allow 20-30 mins each way.
The first two rappels are past blocky limestone layers, with awkward starts and loose rock at the bottom. Thankfully, they are also overhanging for much of their length.
R1: Rappel 120 feet (40 m) off a block or tree. Be careful of loose rock, and of the sharp, unstable talus at the bottom of the rappel.
Hike downcanyon. In a few minutes, the logging road approach joins the canyon, and the second big drop becomes apparent.
R2: Rappel 90 feet (30m) off a block or tree. Be careful of loose rock, and of the sharp, unstable talus at the bottom of the rappel.
Continue hiking downcanyon. The main narrows section is soon reached.
The canyon narrows up and a few small drops are encountered. These can be rappelled or carefully downclimbed -- some combination often works best. Soon, the first of a series of "real" rappels is encountered.
R3: Rappel 80 feet (25 m) from one of the trees to the side into the slot.
R4: Walk down-slot 30 feet (10m) and rappel 80 feet (25 m) off bolts to the canyon floor.
R5: Slide down to a pothole ledge and set a short rappel off a bolt anchor.
R6: After a short downclimb, a drop starts by climbing under a boulder. The bolt anchor is well-placed for belaying this drop as a downclimb, or it can be simply rappelled.
R7: A lovely rappel drops into an awesome chamber. Click click click go the cameras.
R8: A wonderful rappel down a double flute ends at the ground. Fifty feet downcanyon is Orderville Canyon.
Turn right to exit up Orderville Gulch and back to the North Fork Road. Well established trails lead up to the end of the jeep trail with a couple of steep steps. Keep your eye out for the trail that cuts right up the steep slope. From the end of the jeep road, hike up the flat Orderville Canyon, then steeper up the side to the Orderville Corral.Times: about 45 minutes to the end of the jeep road; an additional 45 minutes up to the Corral.OR: turn left to descend Orderville Canyon to The Zion Narrows.
A printable canyon descriptionand map you can take with you.
Have all Zion's classic canyonsin one convenient book.
Zion: Main Canyon and East Side
Click on any map to browse a larger view,then right-click to save and print.
Orderville, Birch Hollow, Englestead
I first descended Birch Hollow in the spring of 2003, using all natural anchors before it was bolted. I have done Birch about once a year since then.
Zion Summer Camp, September 2003 - A Latest Rave from Tom.
Birch Descent, 4/19/08 - Christian "Beefcake" Nelson descends Birch after looking into Englestead.Birch Canyon, June 2009 - Felicia Bicknell and family descend Birch with Tom.Birch Hollow, 5/15/11 - Death Cricket and Deeps take the kids through in wet conditions.
Skunk Rescue, November 2003 - Mike Putiak rescues a skunk from Birch Hollow.
Birch Hollow at Todd 's Hiking Guide