A Remarkable Journey. The Right Fork traverses across the Zion backcountry-scape to access a delightful canyon with a few raps and swims. For many people, finding the correct route is the crux. The first descent by Victor A Schmidt and company, June 29 – July 2, 1966 pioneered the intricate route still used today to avoid a long string of linked potholes in the Upper Right Fork (Right Fork Direct). They carefully studied aerial photographs and saw a series of potholes they thought would be beyond their limited technical experience. Many a modern adventurer, paying insufficient attention to the map and the route, has found themselves unexpectedly in technical terrain beyond their skills. Follow the route carefully. If you do not read and understand topographic maps, pick a different adventure.
The middle section of the canyon (between the turn southwest and double falls) is where the "goodies" are. The Grand Alcove and several lovely waterfalls are often the highlight of the trip, though many will also enjoy The Black Pool. Many parties bivy at the Grand Alcove where the first springs appear, offering high-quality water.
Two variations are available that add more technicality and more spice to the trip. The Hammerhead has six rappels that connect the West Rim trail with the Right Fork, and is the true start of the Right Fork drainage. The Upper Right Fork Direct goes directly through the series of potholes previously avoided so carefully – they turn out to be very fun, a bit wet and a bit technical. It is possible to bivy at the start of the Right Fork Direct in all but the driest conditions by pumping water from any of several large and persistent potholes.
There are several different ways of doing the Right Fork. Speed demons will get an early start and can run it in one day. A two-day trip requires an early start and only a quite-long first day gets you to the Grand Alcove; then the second day is rather casual. A three-day trip starting at the West Rim, taking the Direct Right Fork and bivying on ledges near the start of the Direct section, then bivying again at the Grand Alcove, makes for a delightful, relaxed trip. For small, competent parties, the Hammerhead entrance does not add time, but for large or inexperienced parties, working largish packs through numerous downclimbs and rappels can add two or three or four hours to your descent. The Direct section adds one or two hours to a Right Fork Trip, even for experienced canyoneers.
In all cases, the terrain traversed is rugged, and smaller packs will result in a faster trip. Pack light.