A Steep Beauty.
Water Canyon is a wonderful half-day hike, located an hour south of Zion in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness. Named for its year-round water supply via a number of reliable springs, the Water Canyon Trail follows Water Creek up and into a lush finger canyon, arriving at some nice, deep narrows. From there, the trail climbs up, up, up along rocky and sandy shelves on the canyon's western wall, gaining increasingly beautiful vistas.
Most folks who reach the top of the trail stop there, but those eager who have more juice in their legs can work their way north up dry washes to White Domes, where you can see over Canaan Mountain and into Zion Canyon.
Canyoneer's note: This is a description for the hike up the side of the Water Canyon. Water Canyon's watercourse may also be descended directly, using ropes, technical equipment, and canyoneering techniques.
Moderately strenuous hike
3 to 7 hours
Spring, summer, fall
5 rugged miles (8.5 km) each way
1200 feet (360 m)
Starts and finishes at Water Canyon Trailhead, just north of Hilldale, Utah.
Most of the hike is in the full sun.
No. Dogs and backpacking allowed.
Sturdy hiking shoes, ample water and food for a full-day hike.
Water is available to purify up to the springs. Past that point, you'll find only stagnant pools.
FLASH FLOOD RISK
Low - While the Water Canyon drainage has a moderate flooding risk, the trail is in the water course for only a short section.
Spring - Expect the creek to be higher and colder than usual, due to snowmelt atop the mountain. This is a nice time to hike, as you may see a number of waterfalls (as tall as 165'!)along the upper reaches of the hike.
Summer - HOT! Leave early to avoid the heat and be aware the hike out is in the full sun. The upper section of the hike is extremely exposed and has no water to purify. AVOID a summer afternoon hike here.
Fall - A great time to hike Water Canyon. The occasional maple shows off nice fall colors, and trail conditions are good.
Winter - Usually cold, snowy, and icy. Not recommended unless conditions are unseasonably warm and dry.
The trailhead is about an hour from Springdale. If you have a high clearance vehicle, you can short-cut via Smithsonian Butte Road, which you can pick up by taking a left on Bridge Road in Rockville. Otherwise, drive Hwy 9 west to LaVerkin/Hurricane to pick up Hwy 59, which takes you toward Hildale/Colorado City. Approaching the sister cities, turn left onto Utah Avenue, which heads east, then turns north after approximately 1.5 miles. Water Canyon Road is a dirt road on your right. Turn right and follow the road to the reservoir, parking just past it.
At the end of the parking lot, follow the wide, clear, sandy path into Water Canyon. The trail gradually gains elevation and after a mile or so, the walls close in. When you reach the large alcove with concave walls, climb up the small cascade to go further up-canyon. In the back wall past the cascade, you'll find the main spring, the source of most of the canyon's flow. This is usually the last spot on the hike with clean, flowing water, so fill up. The trail appears to dead end here, but look around the left side of the rock overhang to find the trail again. Generally the trail heads up and traverses back and forth on the left side of the canyon wall.
After 20 - 30 switchbacks, some confusing trail turns, and a lot of elevation gain, you arrive at a spectacular vista with a flat area and rock to rest on. From here, you can view the slickrock tops of the surrounding plateaus.
Return the way you came, being careful around the sandy, exposed ledges enroute.