Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Steep hike to hidden slot
Hidden Canyon is a slot canyon located in Zion National Park.
Zion Canyon is a beautiful, unparalleled declivity in the earth's surface at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. Here the vast amount of sediment, laid down over millions of years, is exposed in one steep-walled gorge, cut by the Virgin River as it heads down to the lower elevations of the Great Basin, and eventually Lake Mead. In order to become so deep and steep, the Virgin River has to cut down through lots of sedimentary layers very fast. Represented within the park, being cut by the river, are the Navajo, Kayenta, Moenave, and Chinle Formations. Because this cutting happened so rapidly, many small tributary streams were literally left hanging as the Virgin sliced through the rocks at rocket (for a geological event) speeds. Hidden Canyon is one of these tributaries. From the parking area for Dripping Springs, the trail takes off to the south. To the east, against the cliff face, the alcove of Dripping Springs can be easily seen. Hike south, and cross the bridge spanning the creek flowing from the springs. The trail to Dripping Springs branches to the left, and the Hidden Canyon/Overlook/East Rim trail continues straight on.
Not too far past the creek and bridge (~50 yards), there is a mound of dirt on the east side of the trail with an interpretive sign. Back in the early days of settlement around Zion Canyon, it seems logs were in short supply. Some enterprising (and slightly mad) person came up with the idea of a cable lift from the floor of the canyon to the rim, and back, to harvest the Ponderosa Pines that live along the rim. There are some harrowing pictures of the lift in operation on the sign, and apparently the lower terminus for the cable was there on that mound of dirt. Looking up towards the rim, the remains of the towers at the upper end are still visible.
The switchbacks begin shortly after the sign. The trail ascends 586 feet up the side of Zion Canyon in the space of about a mile, so the switchbacks come pretty fast. they start out close together and shallow, then become steeper, and then get placed further and further apart. The views into the canyon at the Big Bend of the Virgin are pretty neat. After climbing about 2/3 of the height, the trail branches. To the left the East Rim/Overlook trails take off. The East Rim trail is a popular backpacking trail, and runs most of the length of the east rim of Zion Canyon. To the right the Hidden Canyon trail heads up a vertical wall with a tightly spaced series of switchbacks. Once on top, there is another nice view into the valley on the right, on a spur. The trail leads to the left, down into a shallow canyon. There are chains from this point onward, to help with the ascent/decent into and out of this canyon. Crossing the draw, you climb again, for the last time, along a thin slickrock ledge. Using the chains are advisable. This rounds a point, and drops you into the mouth of Hidden Canyon, where Hidden Canyon Creek flows into potholes and drops away into a 600 foot trickling waterfall to the valley floor. If you need water, this would be a reliable place to fill (don't forget to treat), and at some of the seeps up the canyon a ways, but this hike is so short you should just planning bringing a liter or two. The mouth of Hidden Canyon is where trail maintenance ends, and where the 2-mile round trip distance comes from for this trip. Upcanyon, the sign at the mouth says, there are even narrower walls, fern covered alcoves, and a free-standing arch. I'll leave them for you to explore - getting there is half the journey, after all. Once you've completed exploring into Hidden Canyon, make your way back down to your vehicle the way you came. Take the quick hike to Dripping Springs while you're there, or if you're backpacking, continue on out the East Rim trail.
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