Short & Sweet. Pipe Spring is an interesting little canyon in an unusual location, down from Lava Point, next to the MIA Route. It is at a higher altitude than most canyons, thus might be good when it is too hot elsewhere. Though admittedly, the 2-mile, 900-foot of gain will discourage many people.
We had admired the slot from the bottom for many years, and I finally decided to drop it from the top in October 2009. Not every day does one get to do a 'new' canyon in Zion, but that was one of those days. Pipe Spring is near the top of the MIA Exit, a rugged, backcountry route which can be used to exit Kolob Canyon after descents of Kolob, Oak Creek and Boundary Canyon. The exit include the top half of the MIA, then the hike back up to the West Rim Trailhead.
Description Note: Since this canyon has been descended by the author only once, the description is not all-inclusive; and the canyon itself is pretty much in a pristine state. When descending this canyon, canyoneers should be comfortable with canyon exploration and building anchors.
To get to the "Pipe Spring", you must follow the MIA Exit road-walk section backwards. It is very helpful to have done the MIA Exit BEFORE attempting this canyon.
Park at the West Rim Trailhead and head down the MIA Road -- the gated road on the north side of the parking area. There is a maze of roads in this area, and some details on the USGS topographic map are out of date. Follow my approach map carefully to reach the Pipe Spring 'picnic area'.
Follow the watercourse of the pipe spring, first along the road, then along the rim and then pushing through intermittant brush at the bottom. Pass some rock steps constructed by the MIA camp to control erosion at a crag they use for rappelling. The bottom soon drops out of the wash, with twists and turns down below. Looks like fun!
Even more than other canyons, for this canyon, all rap lengths are
ESTIMATES rather than carefully measured lengths. Anchors are mostly
off tree debris in the canyon, so they will change and wash-out more
than if they were rock-based anchors. Be certain that the logs you use
are not rotten.
R1 - Pick a stout tree on the left and rap in, about 80 feet. This is
a good one to rap with the ropebag clipped to your harness to avoid
tangling the rope with the trees.
R2 - About 100 feet down a flute, off logs and rocks in the streambed.
R3 - 80 foot rap from a natural anchor.
The canyon opens up for a bit, and a class 3 exit can be made up the edge to the left.
R4 - 20 foot downclimb or rappel.
R5 - 165 foot rappel off large but insecure chockstone to a hidden
ledge with a large tree. (Might have to work hard to get a good anchor
at the top. The pull from the large tree is fairly difficult, be sure
to rig your rappel carefully.)
R6 - 110 foot rap to the ground. Might be better to bring a 300' rope
and do R5 and R6 as one rap.
A wonderful, narrow slot and a couple short raps and fun downclimbs
complete the technical part of the canyon.
From the bottom of Pipe Spring Canyon, called the "MIA Slot" in the MIA Exit Description, you "get" to "enjoy" the top half of the MIA Exit, a steep backcountry route that some have mistakenly labelled a "trail". The route is sometimes difficult to follow - but finding and following the easiest route is quite important, as off-route, the terrain is even steeper and more hazardous. In many places, the route follows a shallow watercourse where signs of canyoneer passage might not be conspicuous.
Three snags mark the very top of the route, and can be helpful for navigation at several points.
Follow the main watercourse upcanyon 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 on the left directly up the fall line, soon moving right into and following a shallow watercourse on a fairly good social trail.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 rock slabs. At other points, walking a few feet to check out the options will reveal the correct route.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 that indicate the top of the route in sight.A debris-flow from a side-drainage in the winter of 2010 changed things around a bit. Climb up, the cross the debris-flow and continue up the main watercourse.Near the top, the trail is less well-defined and climbs a few sections of steep, loose rock. Be careful of partner-generated rockfall. In the last few years, a few sections of fixed ropes has made the final, steep section faster and less-scary. Ascend to the road.Back to the West Rim TrailheadAt the top of the MIA Route is a 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 a half-hour for the top half of the MIA Route and an hour for the roadwalk back to the Trailhead. First time MIA'ers are likely to take longer.
A printable canyon descriptionand map you can take with you.
Have all Zion's classic canyonsin one convenient book.But not this canyon.
Zion: Kolob Terrace Area Map
Click on any map to browse a larger view,then right-click to save and print.
Kolob Canyon, Boundary Canyon, MIA Exit
Deluxe maps are available in two formats:
• 1 Mb files in the Map Download Center, designed for printing on 11" x 17" paper • Canyoneering Maps for Purchase in the Canyoneering USA Store. Printed maps are 13" x 19", nicely presented on 24 lb. white paper.
Zion: Kolob, Boundary and Oak
As of this writing, I have only descended this canyon once, in October 2009 with Cory and Rob.
Pipe Spring Canyon, 10/23/09 - Tom gets to descend a "new" canyon in Zion with Cory and Rob.