A student stemming while canyoneering in Utah.
Camera Jamie O'Donnell

Technical Canyoneering in Utah - Alumni


6 days


18+ yrs



See Dates

The southern Utah canyons have been a NOLS classroom for decades. This trip takes a group of NOLS alumni and guests to some of NOLS’s favorite spots in the greater Cedar Mesa region to explore stunning desert canyon environments and develop technical canyoneering skills. 

Photo Credit: Bryan Sarg

Erosion has exposed the layer cake of Utah’s canyon country. This geology has resulted in diverse terrain ranging from vast mesas to flat bottomed washes to thickly vegetated riparian zones to narrow passages and slot canyons with deep pools. We will explore it all on this trip combining technical travel with more straightforward hiking when terrain opens up and flattens out.

Photo credit: Tony Jewell

On this trip, we will travel through 4th and 5th class terrain (commonly meaning steep grades that require us to use our hands and feet to “scramble” short distances and vertical walls) as well as narrow and exposed terrain. To access this terrain, instructors will introduce participants to some classic canyoneering moves like the “butt scoot” and the “canyon shimmy.” Other times, they will coach participants in the use of ropes, harnesses, and other climbing gear to execute technical canyoneering systems such as building anchors to support rappels, hand lines, pack lowers and raises, “dropping” slot canyons, and possibly some wading through pools. By the end of the trip, participants will develop a heightened understanding of risk management in this terrain and will take part in the planning of the day’s activities. Our goal is to set you up for future trips with friends on your own!

Photo credit: Tony Jewell

Maneuvering through the canyons is a full body endeavor. It can be hard, but equally rewarding and fun. To balance the difficulty of challenging days with rest and recovery, we will set up a base camp which you'll venture out from on a daily basis. This is the NOLS equivalent of car camping and is an excellent way to optimize learning, share camaraderie, and sprinkle in comfort. You can bring along a few more luxury items and don't have to spend as much time moving camps. Evenings in camp are a relaxed atmosphere. Time is often spent socializing, honing backcountry cooking skills, practicing rope systems, and kicking back to admire beautiful sunsets. 

Expect comfortably mild temperatures in the canyons in spring and fall allowing, for those interested, frequent opportunities to sleep out under star filled skies.

Photo credit: Tony Jewell

Throughout the trip, participants will also have the chance to explore the surprisingly extensive flora and fauna that call the canyons home. Eye catching cactus blooms can be little bursts of color in the sandy landscape, and Pinyon Pine trees can tell us a story about the mysterious history of the area’s ancient inhabitants. Keep an eye out, and you may spot rock art and cliff dwellings from as far back as the Anasazi and Fremont cultures while wandering through the canyons.  

 Photo credit: Kristin London

This trip is a fantastic opportunity to explore one of North America’s most unique landscapes making it a great one to share with non-grad guests, friends or family.

Photo credit: Tony Jewell


Overall Activity*:

*Days are warm, but long days, steep terrain, loose footing, and sleeping on the ground increases this trip's challenge.

Course Dates

2 courses

Oct 6 - 12, 2024

Pre- and Post trip lodging provided in Grand Junction


Mar 23 - 29, 2025

Pre and Post trip lodging in Grand Junction included



If you have questions about enrollment or including families/guests on a particular alumni trip, then contact:

NOLS Alumni Department

Other Alumni Courses