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Moab Canyoneering and Packrafting

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In business for more than 23 years, Desert Highlights began as Moab’s first and only canyoneering guide service. Most of the routes that they guide in the Moab area are Desert Highlights original routes. The team loves putting forth the work to discover a new route and explore the options of descending an unknown canyon. This can mean using unique tools such as packrafts, mountain bikes, and highly specialized canyoneering equipment.

As canyoneering has become more popular over the last 20 years, the team has remained passionate about finding new and remote canyons as a way to provide guests with a solitary experience.

The team at Desert Highlights is dedicated to helping guests experience canyoneering to the fullest – when they aren’t in a tour, they’re out finding new routes to discover. Each guide is knowledgeable about the area – ready to share bits of information along the way. This dedication to adventures makes Desert Highlights a top choice if you’re looking for a unique experience in exploring the canyons of Moab.

Tour Information

Moab Canyoneering

Tours from Desert Highlights will lead you to Moab’s stunning water carved canyons which you can only access through canyoneering. You will be taught the necessary skills to help you navigate Moab’s red canyons with confidence.

Tour options include half-day canyoneering, full-day canyoneering, and remote slot canyons adventures.

Moab Canyoneering (per person) 2-3 People 4-9 People
Medieval Chamber (Half-day) $105 $95
Entrajo Canyon (Half-day) $105 $95
Zigzag Canyon $160 $144
Granary Canyon $200 $180
Pleiades Canyon $180 $162
Medieval Chamber Canyoneering and Packrafting Combo $200 $180
Entrajo Canyon and Packrafting Combo $200 $180

 

Moab Remote Slot Canyoneering (per person) 2 People 3 Peope 4 People 5 People
Irish Canyons $240 $228 $216 $205
Poison Springs Canyon $240 $228 $216 $205
Cow Swim Canyon with Camping $240 $228 $216 $205

 

Moab Packrafting

Explore Moab on the water with Desert Highlights’ packrafting tours.  Packrafting adventures are one of the best ways to enjoy the infamous Colorado River as it carves it’s way through Moab’s red rock.

Packrafts are lightweight, one-person inflatable boats that can be rolled up and packed into a backpack, allowing us to steer away from standard “put-ins” and cherry pick sections of the river that best suit your floating desires! Whether you have zero boating experience or are a whitewater aficionado, you’re sure to have a blast in these versatile  boats. From relaxing flat-water to Class I, II and (sometimes) III rapids, we can cater to your idea of fun with these super fun boats on the Colorado River!

Moab Packrafting (per person) 2-3 People 4-9 People
Half-day Packrafting Colorado River $105 $95
Pedal, Paddle, Pedal $240 $216
Medieval Chamber Canyoneering and Packrafting Combo $200 $180
Entrajo Canyon and Packrafting Combo $200 $180

Moab Rock Climbing

Come check out what makes Moab rock climbing so unique! The sandstone landscapes surrounding the place have eroded into a virtual playground of walls, towers, ridges and canyons. Rock Climbing in Moab can be good any time of the year.

Moab Rock Climbing 1 Person 2-3 People 4-9 People
Half-day Rockclimbing $180 $105 $95
Full-day Rockclimbing $300 $200 $180

 

Looking for more outdoor adventure?  See all of our Moab activities – we feature the best local shops for mountain biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing and more!

Trail Info

Canyoneering

Medieval Chamber

The Medieval Chamber is a very pleasant adventure into one of the area’s finest canyons. The lower canyon is lush, with a clear running stream and a massive natural arch. The canyon’s upper reaches are bounded by an awesome array of petrified sand dunes. Connecting the two sections, well…..gets interesting. You see, situated halfway along the canyon’s journey to the Colorado River lie two of the most spectacular rappels found anywhere on Mother Earth. This trip is great for beginners who want a taste for our Moab canyon tours that will leave them begging for more!

After a short hike from the trailhead we reach the route’s namesake feature, a deep vertical shaft of sandstone creating the first drop. After a few minutes of discussing gear and technique you’ll clip into the rope and peer over the edge, the light of day obscures your view of what awaits at the bottom. You immerse yourself into its darkness. The overhanging walls and smooth sandy floor of this well-hidden grotto become apparent once your eyes adjust. At the bottom you’ll probably think you’re in a different world than the others still at the top. Behind you, the Keyhole, a subtle and narrow passageway, provides escape from the Chamber’s seemingly exitless confines.

Once all down, we continue on and are soon presented with the massive Morning Glory Arch. Despite being the seventh longest arch in the world , it is discreetly shoehorned into the canyon and we quickly find ourselves level with the top of the 243′ long span. The canyon floor plummets 100 feet below.  As you begin your descent to the canyon bottom, the wall sweeps away and leaves you free-hanging. Be sure to look around and down into the lush green canyon below! While on rappel, you can turn to see the arch behind you – this is a view of the arch that you’re sure not to forget.

In the hotter months, the clear pools of water begat from this spring provide welcome relief and reward to those who overcome this route’s notorious roped descents. The hike out follows the Grandstaff Canyon (formerly known as Negro Bill Canyon) trail.

Entrajo Canyon

Entrajo Canyon is a playful canyon that is great for beginners and experienced canyoneers alike! This 2-mile loop hike offers amazing scenery, fun challenges and problem-solving, a couple of rappels and an exciting romp through pools of water. Your patient and experienced guide will teach you the techniques required to make your way through this classic desert slot canyon while teaching you about the surrounding environment and ensuring that you have a safe and enjoyable tour through the canyon!

In its short length, Entrajo runs the gamut of most everything that has come to define canyoneering: simple hiking through beautiful wide canyons, long mesatop views toward distant mountain ranges, struggling through tight narrow canyon walls and interlocking potholes of water – and, of course, climbing gear. A jaunt through Entrajo Canyon involves the use of ropes, carabiners, harnesses, helmets, spring loaded camming devices, retrievable Slick!® anchors and other nifty tools of the trade used to allow curious canyoneers access to the desert’s deep, dark – and beautiful – recesses.

This route is moderately challenging, yet supremely scenic and rewarding. One short rappel within a series of scoured out potholes is necessary to safely hike through the canyon. The finale of the technical section includes a swim through chilly water – refreshing during the summer months, though this quality prohibits us from comfortably visiting this canyon in all but the hottest months of the year. Pleasant hiking following the swim places us on a bench high above the trailhead. A second rappel here gently brings us to within a stone’s throw of the start – a fine finish to a wonderful morning of exploring one of Moab’s most unique canyons.

Zigzag Canyon

Zig Zag Canyon is a winding, circuitous loop hike that has us gaining and then losing several hundred feet of elevation spread out over three miles of exploration. Like most Desert Highlights trips, this is an original route that we have developed in response to the increasing difficulty of getting away from the crowds and immersing oneself in sandstone majesty. We travel through amazing terrain that has not been seen by many, and we end the day with a spectacular 220-foot rappel that is sure to leave you feeling proud, accomplished and full of bragging rights.

The day begins with a brief stroll out to a unique rock art panel. These petroglyphs were pecked and carved into the rock by ancestral native groups 700 to 1500 years ago. The unbroken slickrock walls surrounding us yield only the occasional weakness and we must seek one out to begin the climb to the top. Mostly third class, this section involves the use of our hands and feet to progress upwards. The occasional use of rope will be utilized in the more exposed sections to protect against a fall. We will set a slow pace and take plenty of breaks along this scrambling (easy climbing) section.

Finally, our first rappel is in sight! At 30 feet, this low angle ramp is a great place to learn how to rappel under the careful instruction of your knowledgeable guide. A short walk down canyon brings us to the next rappel. Another 30 foot drop twists down through a beautiful corkscrew. Occasionally, the corkscrew holds water, but with a little cunning it can be avoided. Finishing this twisty rap delivers us onto a small platform with a truly mega dry falls just beyond it. Not for the faint of heart, this 220 foot drop begins as a free-hanging rappel followed by a steep wall that brings us to the canyon floor.

With all of the excitement and hard work behind us, the bottom of this deep canyon is a wonderful place to stop, look around and eat a well deserved lunch.

Granary Canyon

Very few day hikes contain as many exquisite natural arches as the journey through Granary Canyon. And what a journey it is! Six fantastic rappels and a lot of tricky scrambling are encountered within the depths of this remote canyon, which houses at least seven major arches and scores of smaller ones. Over the course of this one-way hike we’ll descend over 2,000 feet! And despite the day’s numerous rappels, this hike is within reason for adventurous first-time rappellers.  One highlight unique to this trip is a serendipitous visit to one of the area’s best-preserved Anasazi granaries. This is a prehistoric rock structure (~900 AD) used to store harvested goodies.

Soon after leaving the trailhead, we’ll begin dropping into the canyon. The first rappel provides a great introduction to the day’s numerous roped descents. It is short, beautiful and into a fine bowl of slickrock which soon yields the canyon’s first spectacular arch.

Further down canyon, more obstacles present themselves and require us to do a bit of scrambling where ropes are occasionally used for quick belays or handlines. The climbing in this canyon is not too hard – just enough to be interesting! More incredible scenery and arches are passed (“Was that one the fifth or sixth?” someone asks…) before reaching the second rappel.

This rappel (called “The Snail”) along with the third (“The Onion”) and fourth rappels are in fairly quick succession. They place us deep into the heart of Granary Canyon; a place full of beauty! And, of course, more arches. Somewhere in this vicinity we’ll happen upon a scenic lunch spot and relax for a bit, admire the surroundings, revel in the remoteness and tally our arches.

A rather entertaining, arboreal rappel – in combination with a seemingly magnetic pothole traverse – keeps our hearts pounding, smiles widening and cameras flashing through this, the deepest recess of Granary Canyon.

Upon exiting the heart of the canyon, its streambed snakes across a fine meadow bordered by low cliffs with…alas, no arches. Ironically, the last and tallest of the canyon’s rappels occurs in its shallowest section. This in no way belittles the rappel, of course (we figure any 200 foot rappel demands respect!).

Pleiades Canyon

This beautiful and charming canyon provides a great adventure during the heat of the summer. With it’s clear flowing water and short (but very sweet) slot section, Pleiades Canyon is an excellent outing for adventurous beginners or experienced canyoneers that want something a little different. Situated at 9,000 feet above sea level, Pleiades Canyon offers a great escape from the hot, dry desert and offers views that can’t be seen from any other canyon around. We’ll don wetsuits and splash gear as a way to keep warm while we’re rappelling through several flowing waterfalls that are fed by snowmelt and natural springs in the beautiful La Sal Mountains!

Irish Canyon

For some folks, squeezing through narrow “slot canyons” is the ultimate in Canyoneering. Though typically dry with no flowing water, these canyons have been carved from several millions of years of infrequent flash floods. Blarney Canyon, and it’s nearby “big brother” Leprechaun Canyon, showcase some of the narrowest slots in the deserts of Utah.

The approach hike consists of easy walking over ancient sand dunes. As we work our way up to the top of the canyon, distant views towards Lake Powell and the Henry Mountains become more dramatic. We’ll talk about the interesting geology and history of the area, or just gaze in awe at the jaw-dropping scenery.

Upon reaching the head of our chosen canyon, we’ll don technical canyoneering gear and body armor (knee pads!) We’ll spend some time talking about rappelling, down-climbing technique and offering pro-tips for descending the canyon in style. Once we’ve made out way into the slot, chimney after chimney is encountered, all of which are great fun with plenty of problem solving. There are even a few rappels buried somewhere in the midst of this madness! Similar to – but much longer than – Entrajo Canyon, this is a fantastic slot for those wanting to get started on a lifetime of exploring technical slot canyons. At either one of the two spots in the slot where its wide enough to relax, a well-deserved lunch appears. We’ll then continue down canyon as more obstacles present themselves, finally arriving back at our vehicle with memories to last a lifetime.

Poison Springs Canyon

The Poison Springs Canyons offer some of the most dramatic and fun canyoneering that Southern Utah has to offer. These canyons are deep, dark, narrow and combine charming rappels with fun down-climbing to make a full day of canyon exploration that will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

We begin at the top of these canyons, but as we look out from the car park no canyons are in sight – nothing but endless rolling desert in every direction with a distant view of the Henry Mountains. After hiking in a seemingly random direction away from the vehicle, our canyon slowly comes into view below us. The flat world surrounding us begins to yield a minor drainage. After a rappel or two, it becomes apparent that the Poison Springs canyon system holds some of the deepest canyons around.

Admiring the smooth water polished walls, we continue downstream negotiating a few small downclimbs along the way. Depending on our chosen route, we may encounter a few more rappels or simply use a rope as a handline and practice our teamwork skills as we help each other navigate each drop.

Soon the canyon opens back up and we must make our way back up to the vehicle. Hiking up and over ancient sand dunes, we have a chance to look down into the canyon we’ve just spent the day descending.

Rock Climbing

Come check out what makes Moab rock climbing so unique! The sandstone landscapes surrounding us have eroded into a virtual playground of walls, towers, ridges and canyons. Rock Climbing in Moab can be good any time of the year. We chase shade in the summer and sun in the winter. With several different crags to choose from, we can cater to everyone’s abilities and goals. Since no one will ever be added to your group, our guides will truly give you their undivided attention and expert instruction.

We provide all the technical gear that you’ll need for your day of climbing with us, except climbing shoes. These can be rented at Pagan Mountaineering or Gearheads in Moab.

Combo Adventures

Medieval Chamber Canyoneering & Packrafting Combo

Combining one of our half-day canyoneering adventures with an afternoon of packrafting is an excellent way to spend a full day in Moab. We begin the morning with ropes and harnesses and we descend through some of the area’s most beautiful terrain. We’ll hike a mile to our first rappel and descend 100 feet into the depths of the Medieval Chamber. We’ll then enjoy a second rappel next to one of the largest natural arches around. After a gorgeous 2 mile hike out, we’ll hop in the van and take a scenic ride along the Colorado River where we’ll stop for a delicious lunch and learn about the wonders of packrafting and river safety. Here, we’ll launch at our chosen “put-in” and enjoy a relaxing and scenic float down the mighty Colorado!

This is one of the most enjoyable trips in the Moab area, especially in the hot summer months when being on the water in the afternoon is a real blessing. The day’s awesome technical challenges in the canyon and the fun whitewater on the river make it a very unique and memorable adventure.

Entrajo Canyon & Packrafting Combo

Entrajo Canyon is a playful canyon that is great for beginners and experienced canyoneers alike! This 2-mile loop hike offers amazing scenery, full challenges and problem-solving, a couple of rappels and an exciting romp through pools of water. Your patient and experienced guide will teach you the techniques required to make your way through this beautiful red rock slot canyon while teaching you about the surrounding environment and ensuring that you have a safe and enjoyable adventure!

Once we’ve had our fill of canyoneering, we’ll hop in the van and take a scenic ride along the Colorado River where we’ll stop for a delicious lunch and learn about the wonders of packrafting and river safety. Packrafts are one-person inflatable boats that are lightweight and pack down to the size of a tent. This allows us to walk a short distance to any non-standard put-in along the river, so we can choose a section that accommodates your group – choose anything from class II (sometimes III) rapids to an easy flat-water float. We want you to enjoy your time on the river, so the choice is yours!

Pedal Paddle Pedal

The “Pedal, Paddle, Pedal” is destined to become one of the most classic mountain biking and packrafting trips in the West. The legendary Green River and its beautiful side canyons provide both a peaceful and exciting venue for this unforgettable day of exploring some very remote backcountry.

Our day starts bright and early with a very enjoyable downhill mountain bike ride along the mesa top high above the Green River gorge. Easy, carefree pedaling soon leads to the rim of Spring Canyon, a very deep and rugged tributary of the Green. A spectacular dirt road carved into the sheer walls of Spring Canyon switchback down, down, down into the depths of one of the prettiest canyons around Moab.

This old road was blasted out over 50 years ago to access the rich deposits of uranium located in the lower end of the canyon. The mine sites have long since been abandoned and the dead-end road largely forgotten. Solitude, peace and quiet reign down here. The road rolls and weaves gently along the canyon floor amidst tall stands of cottonwood trees and sheer 500 foot high sandstone walls.

The exhilarating downhill ride quickly brings us to the lonely junction of Spring Canyon and the Green River. It’s here where we enter the magnificent Labyrinth Canyon carved by the Green River. The road veers to follow along the river’s edge downstream for another couple of miles.

Within those miles is some of the most incredible, true wilderness scenery Labyrinth Canyon has to offer. There are no roads to be found, no noisy vehicles or crowds. Just quiet wilderness. Several beautiful side canyons flow into the Green, including Two Mile and Horseshoe. Precarious towers of sandstone soar high above us on either side.

FAQs

Q What is canyoneering?

The term "canyoneering" basically refers to exploring canyons, though it is most commonly used to describe canyon hikes in which ropes and basic climbing skills are occasionally required to completely get through the canyon. These canyons are called "technical canyons" due to the special skills and equipment required. The canyon country of southern Utah contains many breathtakingly beautiful canyons which are very rugged and often require the use of ropes to fully explore. Typically, canyoneers will hike down, or "descend" a canyon since it's often easier to rappel down the canyon's steep drops than to climb up them. Once we've negotiated the canyon's technical challenges, an easier side canyon - sometimes with its own unique set of obstacles - is then hiked up in order to get back to the start. Rappelling is necessary in every canyon that Desert Highlights visits.

The beauty of all this is that canyoneering skills allow people to venture into places out of reach from regularly equipped hikers. As a result, canyoneers frequently find themselves in the lesser visited - and oftentimes more beautiful - parts of a canyon.

Q What climbing or rappelling experience do I need to join a trip?

For the most part, no previous climbing or rappelling experience is required to go on a trip when accompanied by an experienced guide from Desert Highlights who can offer you proper instructions. Rappelling is the obvious source of apprehension among folks who contemplate our trips. And that's a good thing because rappelling is not for everyone. It is, however, a very easy skill to perform for those who are interested in learning. We have safely guided many folks who have never rappelled before into very technical canyons and we are always eager to show beginners the necessary techniques. What a treat it is for us to share the excitement of an exhilarating new experience for people - Never a dull moment! Keep in mind, however, that we view rappelling as more of a "means to an end" rather than an end in itself. By that we mean that ropes are used here as a tool for exploration rather than merely a tool for amusement. Though we're sure you'll be amused, too!

Also understand that these trips are not designed to teach you all the canyoneering skills required to go out on your own and safely descend a canyon requiring rappels. The trips offered by Desert Highlights are suitable for beginners because they are led by very experienced, safety conscious guides who do all the rope rigging.

Throughout the trip descriptions on our One Day Adventures page you'll see references to "fourth class" and "fifth class" climbing. This classification of climbing difficulty is called the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS; not to be confused with your library's Dewey Decimal System!). The YDS categorizes the various challenges of traveling over terrain into five classes:

First Class: Easy walking on smooth terrain, like strolling along a paved path. A walk in the park, so to speak. Obviously, first class stuff entails the most casual travels, especially if it's describing your airline flight to Utah.



Second Class: Hiking over rough, but easy terrain. Most of the designated trails in the National Parks are in this category, as is our Medieval Chamber half day trip.



Third Class: This is where things start to get fun. Third class terrian is often referred to as "scrambling". This inclused steep, rocky slopes. Typified by the occassional use of our hands, the terrain becomes more engaging and requires some focus on our hand and foot placements. Entrajo Canyon, Granary Canyon and Dipper Creek involve moving through third class terrain.



Fourth Class: This is where things start to get really fun! A fourth class obstacle is steep, requiring you to use your hands to pull yourself up. Ropes are generally not used when overcoming fourth class obstacles - especially short ones - despite the fact that a fall could really hurt. Beginners or those terrified of heights may want a rope and we, without question, gladly cater to such requests. Climbing up or down a ladder propped against a roof is a good example of a fourth class challenge and we encounter a few of these obstacles in Zig Zag Canyon, Plieades Canyon, Blarney Canyon, Shimrock Canyon and Constrychnine Canyon.



Fifth Class: Fifth class infers steep terrain - though not necessarity vertical - in which ropes are almost always used for safety. Hands are frequently used for holding your body to the rock, rather than just for balance. You may hear rock climbers talk of a climbing route being "5.9" (say "five nine", not "five point nine", lest you might sound like a complete flatlander!) They are referring to the YDS' fifth class level which is broken down into sub-levels ranging from 5.0 to 5.15:

5.0 to 5.6 - This is considered easy fifth class climbing. Nearly anyone on the planet with a bit of adventurous soul can overcome easy fifth class obstacles. Being able to pull up your bodyweight is not required on climbs in this range. Climbing a vertical ladder, as opposed to the one propped at a steep angle against your house's roof, is similar to an easy fifth class climb. All of the trips offered by Desert Highlights which have fifth class climbing would, ahem...fall into this category.
5.7 to 5.10 - This range includes challenging climbs which appeal only to rock climbers using special equipment. Though this level of difficulty is within the limits of some fit beginners, none of the trips offered by Desert Highlights have climbing of this level.
5.11 to 5.15 - Climbs in this range are way gnarly heinous difficult. Typically reserved for various reptile species and a handful of humans half your age. Thankfully, none of the trips offered by Desert Highlights have climbing that even comes close to this degree of difficulty.

Q What kind of physical condition do I need to be in?

If you are visiting the area with the intent to hike, not just sightsee, in the national parks, you're probably in good enough shape. However, the canyoneering trips offered by Desert Highlights are often a bit more difficult than the designated trails in the parks. Greater elevation gain and loss, uneven trails, deep sand and more are all to blame. Some trips, such as Medieval Chamber, are rated easy because the trail surface is fairly level with no significant elevation gain.

Q Is there an age limit for your trips?

We do not have an age limit for most of our trips. We can recommend different trips based on age and ability, and we can certainly accommodate everyone in the family. Canyoneering is a great family adventure and we don't think that anyone should be left out.

Our only requirement for kids (and adults!) is that they have a sense of adventure. We love getting kids excited about climbing and canyoneering, and we believe that with a little extra patience and attention, we can guide anyone of any age safely through our routes.

Q Is canyoneering safe?

All outdoor activities involve some degree of risk, especially when ropes are involved. Steps can be taken, however, to manage the risks and to create a safe environment for an enjoyable trip. None of the information below is meant to scare you or lessen your enthusiasm for these trips. We're offering this info because we want you to know that our guides are well aware of these risks and know how to recognize and avoid them.

The primary hazards of canyoneering which can be a threat to life - inadequate rigging for rappel anchors, flash floods, and dehydration - can all be avoided if you are accompanied by an experienced guide who can recognize and prevent potential dangers.

Inadequate rigging for rappel anchors: There are many ways to rig ropes for rappels and many different types of anchors from which to rig. Our guides enjoy explaining how the ropes are rigged at each rappel and, more importantly, why they are rigged that certain way. Going over the anchors with our guests offers both confidence to the first time rappeller and is a fun way for the guides to double check the anchor systems.

Q When is the best time of year to go on a trip?

A lot depends on the trip. The following paragraphs will give you an idea of what trips are possible, and more importantly enjoyable, at various times of the year.

The spring and fall months of March through May and September through November are typically the most pleasant temperature-wise. The spring brings blooming flowers and longer days which are always a treat. The fall sees stable weather and the cottonwood trees speckle the redrock canyons with brilliant yellow leaves. These two seasons are, in general, the best times of the year for canyoneering.

In the hot summer months of June through August, Entrajo, Medieval Chamber and Pleiades canyons are fine trips due to the shortness of the first two and the abundance of water in Entrajo and Pleiades. Afternoon trips into Entrajo Canyon in the summertime are really quite pleasant, since the sun goes behind the canyons' walls at that time. As a result, we're in the shade for most of the time. Pleiades Canyon is of course a great trip due to the abundance of cool flowing water. Dipper Creek Canyon is refreshing, indeed, and can be a great place in the summer. Granary Canyon is definitely unbearable during the summer months.

Oh boy, the secret's out! The winter months of December through February can be a fantastic time to explore Utah's backcountry. As a bonus, lodging rates in Moab this time of year are extremely low. And though it's true many eating establishments are closed during the winter, the one's you want to eat at anyway, such as the Moab Brewery, are open year round!

Q What is your cancellation/refund policy?

All of your money (including your $20/person deposit and all other payments) will be refunded if you cancel prior to two weeks before your trip date. If you cancel within two weeks of your trip (and have a note from your mother) all of your money will be refunded less the $20/person deposit, except for cancellations made within 48 hours of the trip. If you cancel within 48 hours of your trip, no money will be refunded (regardless of note from mom).

Full refunds are given if your trip is cancelled due to bad weather. Our guides will make the final "go/no go"decision based on the weather. We'll often go ahead with a trip even if it's raining lightly in the morning since most canyons we go into have little flash flood risk. Also, weather around here changes quickly and more often than not the day's weather turns out great despite a dreary morning. We assume that you'll arrive with rain gear that makes light rain and winds tolerable. If you decide not to go on a trip even if the guides make a "go" decision, you will not receive a refund. If it's raining cats and dogs when you show up in the morning and the weather does not appear to become tolerable or safe that day, we'll probably cancel the trip in which case you'll receive a full refund. If your trip does go out the door, yet gets cancelled or modified in some way mid-trip due to a change in weather, we will negotiate a fair refund with you.

Please realize that safety is our primary concern in regards to the weather (remember, we're in the canyon with you, too!). We're not even remotely interested in taking a chance with bad weather if our safety will be in question. Do realize, however, that we make "go/no go" decisions based on whether or not it's safe to go, not necessarily based on whether or not it will be the most pleasant to go. If the weather is so-so, yet safe enough to go, just be sure to bring rain gear and we'll have a fun trip regardless.

Q Should I tip my guide?

A tip can be a very nice way to show your guide how much you've enjoyed a fun day out in the canyons. Though not required, gratuities are very much appreciated. The amount is at your discretion, but 15 - 20% of the trip cost is common.

Q How many people are usually on a trip?

Technical canyoneering trips demand a very low guest to guide ratio. We typically go out with three to six guests and one guide per trip. In fact, most of our trips are essentially private trips where it's just your group and the guide. Some of the more demanding trips, such as Pleiades and Granary canyons, are limited to three to four guests per guide because time constraints and even space constraints in some of the narrow passages and ledges just don't allow for large groups.

Q What do I need to wear and bring?

Fortunately, you don't need to bring much on these trips. Some clothing recommendations are listed below depending on the season. These are only recommendations! Bring all types of clothing with you on your vacation (rain gear, warm clothes, hat, gloves, etc.) regardless of the season. Weather in the desert can change drastically from day to day. You can always leave clothes in your car or room if it doesn't look like you'll need them that day. Following the clothing recommendations is a list of items you may want to bring.

During the spring and fall months of March through May and September through November the daytime temperatures are generally very comfortable and a pair of shorts and a T-shirt are all that's needed. The mornings and early evenings can be chilly, so a fuzzy pullover or sweatshirt is nice to have. Maybe even a warm hat during March and November. Pants are fine as long as they do not restrict your movement. Some people like pants because they offer some abrasion resistance while rappelling and shimmying on, around and under rocks. The spring months can be very windy, so a windbreaker type jacket is nice.

We'll be honest here, the summer months of June through August can be brutally hot. That's not to say that it isn't a good time of year to visit Moab, but you'll have to adjust your clothing accordingly. A loose, light colored, long sleeve cotton shirt will help keep you cool during these months. Pants are great only if they are loose-fitting and light colored, otherwise they will restrict your movement when it comes time to scramble on the rocks. Dressing with loose-fitting, full coverage clothing will keep direct sunlight off your skin. Whatever you do, dress in light colors to avoid absorbing heat. If you're planning to hike Dipper Creek Canyon or Entrajo Canyon, wear shoes and clothing that you do not mind getting soaked! Without a doubt the absolute best canyon to be in during the summer months is Pleiades Canyon.

That said, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt are OK if you're not sensitive to the sun, but bring plenty of sunblock rated SPF 15 or higher if you choose to wear these items. Keep in mind that many of these trips are more than a mile above sea level and the UV rays here are more intense than in your hometown. We also recommend a brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck.

Important: Afternoon thunderstorms in the late summer can be so common that you can sometimes set your watch by them. They only last an hour or two but can be very fierce! If you are traveling into the canyon country during this time, bring good rain gear. At least a good rain top. These storms will quickly make a joke out of those cheap, discount store ponchos. Decent rubbery-type jackets can be had inexpensively at most sporting goods stores. The brief duration of these showers and the short amount of time we may spend in our rain gear doesn't warrant the need to buy expensive, "breathable" outerwear. If prepared, being in canyon country during these storms is magnificent! The waterfalls from accumulated runoff are spectacular!

December through February can be a wonderful time to visit Moab if you're properly dressed. Daytime temperatures are usually perfect for hiking. Shorts and a t-shirt aren't out of the question when we're moving in the sun, but loose pants and a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt are preferred. During the wintertime, our trips often begin the day in near freezing temperatures, so a fuzzy warm jacket, hat and gloves are mandatory till the sun warms us up. Keep in mind that a fair bit of time is spent in shady canyons with little body movement (rappelling). You'll want something warm to wear while you wait for your buddies to come down the ropes. And finally, those who bring a thermos seem to be the happiest - and most popular.

Q What does Desert Highlights provide for each trip?

A generous lunch is provided on all full day trips. You will be building up quite an appetite out there in the canyons and we do eat very well! Lunch typically consists of deli meats, cheeses, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, hummus, wraps for making sandwiches to satisfy both meat lovers and vegetarians. Apples and granola bars round out our wilderness lunch hour and for snacks while on the move. Different lunch items may be requested...within reason. Plenty of bottled spring water is provided. Anti-bacterial wet-wipes are brought and used assiduously 'cause your hands will be dirty by lunchtime. Our lunches have received very high marks over the years!

Durable daypacks made by Metolious Climbing (Sentinel haulbags and haulpacks) are provided for everyone. These bombproof packs are made of heavy-duty urethane to withstand the rigors of technical canyoneering. Everyone will be carrying a pack. One or two other people besides the guide will need to carry a rope in their pack. Ropes are generally the heaviest items. Everyone else will be carrying lunch supplies, personal water, etc. Packs usually end up weighing around fifteen to twenty pounds, depending if you're carrying one of the ropes or not. All technical equipment is provided, including ropes, harnesses, locking carabiners, rappel devices, helmets, gloves, drysuits, wetsuits, etc. You may bring your own harness or helmet if you like, though we may ask that you use our equipment. We also carry an extensive first aid kit for basic mishaps. All entrance fees for trips going into fee areas are included. Last but not least, Desert Highlights provides very experienced and knowledgeable guides.

Q What's the best way to get to Moab?

Flying into Salt Lake City, UT is likely your cheapest option. This is about 4 hours of beautiful driving to get to Moab. Grand Junction, CO also has an airport that is only about 1.5 hours from Moab, but this can often be more expensive. The Moab airport offers direct flights to and from Denver, CO. This is the most expensive option, but lands you about 30 minutes from downtown Moab. For information about parking at larger airports, you can visit ParkFellows.

Q How long have you been in business and are permits required?

Desert Highlights has been in business since 1997. Canyoneering has only recently become popular in the United States and we have been at the forefront of guiding technical trips in the desert southwest.

Permits are required to conduct guided trips in the National Parks and backcountry surrounding Moab. We have permits with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS) and the State of Utah (SITLA), all of which require their permittees to be insured.

Q What does it take to develop and guide a new canyon?

As Moab's oldest Canyoneering Guide Service, we at Desert Highlights have established the vast majority of the Moab area canyons that are considered “canyoneering” routes. If you go out with a different company, chances are you will be running through a Desert Highlights original! Developing new routes is time consuming and takes a lot of passion and commitment to explore Utah’s rugged canyon country with little to no information. The fun part is seeking out exciting new routes via foot, bike, packraft and sometimes even from an airplane! Once we’ve found a new route, the real work begins. To add a new canyon to our roster, we must first submit a written request to the land management agency in charge of the area we hope to visit. This includes submitting a map highlighting our intended route. What if the canyon crosses land managed by multiple agencies? Well, the work load just doubled. We must take the Bureau of Land Management (and/or other land managers) through the canyon to ensure there will be no resource damage. This often includes an archeologist as we occasionally travel past archaeological sites. An Environmental Assessment must also be completed in order to evaluate the human impact on the proposed environment. Finally, the route can be approved! Lucky for other companies in town, once all this work is completed they can simply request that the same route be added to their roster without any extra work on their part.

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