Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Misery loves company
Overview: This is an all day technical canyoneering trip (class 3BIV) located just outside Zion park boundaries (although you start hiking from inside the park).
Warning: This trip involves rappelling slot canyons, do not attempt this if there is rain predicted as you don't want to be in this place during a flash flood. This is a technical canyon, so you will need a full set of canyoneering gear including a helmet, harness, rappelling device, biners, extra webbing, and some canyoneering smarts including downclimbing and stemming skills. A wetsuit will be useful to those that get cold easily, depending on temperature (80 degree day, we brought shorties and were hot until the east fork part). You will need 2x60 ft ropes, a 60 ft rope and a 60 ft pullcord, or 1x120ft rope. A 60 foot rope is good for all rappel heights, except the drop into east fork, which you can downclimb if you have mountain goat tendencies, else you will need to extend your rope another 30-40 feet. Many will bring a 120ft rope and a shorter working rope. There are some mildly challenging downclimbs and you will have to be creative with at least one anchor. Do NOT jump the rappels, no one will be there to help carry you out when you break your legs. Finally, this is a long, vigorous day trip, eat a good hearty breakfast after a good night's sleep. Start early and bring a headlamp. Because of the length of this trip, this shouldn't be considered a starter canyon, your group will need to move fairly quickly and fluidly throughout the entire day to finish the canyon before dark.
History: Parunuweap Canyon was explored by John Wesley Powell in 1872. This will mark the approximate halfway point of this loop. A plaque was placed near the exit 200 years after the anniversary of his exploration.
Misery Canyon's full name is "Fat Man's Misery" due to a narrow part of the canyon no longer in existence. However there are still a few tight spots on the way. The only misery nowadays is the long hike in and out.
Hike: Ascend south through the gap in between checkerboard mesa and the unnamed mesa to the west. After the invigorating climb to wake you up in the morning, follow the use trails as they contour east. There are a myriad of trails throughout the slickrock and sand, so there is more than one way to go.
Descend east into Misery somewhere in the vicinity of 37.20 N 112.867 W. There is no distinct trail down the slickrock.
Once in the canyon, follow it downstream. It will narrow up and you will reach your first rappel after about 3 hours total hiking. From here, you alternate in narrow slots and sandy washes, pound out a few rappels and fun downclimbs, avoid a few of the easy walkaround. Eventually you reach the east fork of misery. Find the best way down into east fork Misery at 37.188 N -112.858 W, avoiding some or all of the rappels. If you must rappel into east fork (there is a difficult downclimb you may not be comfortable with) then you may need longer than a 60 foot rope.
Once in east fork, continue another mile or so down in the canyon which gets narrower and more beautiful. You will encounter some fun downclimbs and several rappels. Right before the end you reach the grotto with hot and cold running water. Enjoy this oasis and when done, exit out into Parunuweap Canyon.
Enjoy the lush beauty of this canyon and work your way downstream about a half mile. The first and only real exit downstream is near a plaque commemorating Powell's exploration of the Parunuweap. Exit here and hike amongst the myriad of trails until you reach the trail you hiked in on.
We did not find the best way back so I cannot offer much advice other than to possibly try to go more west than east after exiting Parunuweap. We actually followed cairns and trails until they deposited us back into Misery canyon 2 miles to the north, where we were forced to climb around the first rappels we did in the day. This added some time and effort onto the already long and difficult day.
Note: while in the Parunuweap you can take some extra time and hike down to Labyrinth falls, which is a 12 foot or so waterfall that is not that impressive, although the beauty of the Parunuweap makes for a wonderful trip. This adds a mile and about 45 minutes to the trip which I have included in the figures above. If you are running late you can skip this part to make up some time.
Fees: No canyoneering permit, but you need to buy a Zion entry permit for each vehicle.
Water: Some recommend to filter either from the grotto springs or the parunuweap. I did neither and packed in 2 gallons of water for the day and drank 2/3rds of it.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.