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Sundance Canyon, AZ

no permit
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Guide 45 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Clints Well W
4.8 of 5 by 12
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,563 feet
Elevation Gain 750 feet
Accumulated Gain 850 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.75
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
18  2015-09-11 outdoor_lover
20  2015-08-18 CoryTallman
25  2015-06-27 GrottoGirl
30  2014-08-23 outdoor_lover
50  2014-07-04 GrottoGirl
1  2013-08-10 markguycan
74  2013-07-06 GrottoGirl
12  2012-06-24 sbkelley
Page 1,  2
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 10 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Cassidy Canyon's neighbor
by nonot

Likely In-Season!
Overview: A short technical canyon that can be an easy romp or a deadly trap, depending on conditions.



Warning: This is a technical canyon with some semi-keeper and keeper potholes, you will need a full set of canyoneering gear (including helmet) and 400 ft of rope for the last 180 ft rappel. This is not a canyon to be taken lightly, if water levels are low this canyon can become a deadly trap. Bring proper gear and rehearse your exit techniques prior to committing. This canyon has some deep water and may be quite cold. A shorty might be fine for summer if you're warm blooded, but a full wetsuit or drysuit might be preferrable, especially if conditions are difficult and you spend alot of time in the water and/or potholes. I am not responsible if you end up trapped in this canyon, death by hypothermia. 2x200ft ropes and a 60 ft rope will make you well prepared rope-wise. Experienced canyoneers only, you are responsible for self-evaluating your abilities. Read those danger warnings again, read the legaleze at the bottom of the page. Are you sure you're ready for this? Are you a danger to yourself or others? Don't do this canyon alone! Don't do this canyon unprepared!

History: First descent: unknown. While filming a PBS series Anyplace Wild, Rich Carlson and group took a film crew and John Viehman through this canyon. Joking around with the theme they were "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", the name stuck. Later Rich showed it to Todd (of Todd's hiking guide). However the secret couldn't stay secret for long and this gem was revealed to the public.

Hike: From the Point TH try to find the old road that heads southeast, after awhile the road peters out and you bushwhack through some locust bush and some easy downclimbing to reach canyon bottom. Downstream you will encounter some shallow potholes and wading through gunk. After 20 minutes from the TH we reached a rappel, sign the register and then rappel 7 feet to a ledge and another 15 ft to the bottom. We pulled our rope and resumed a speedy descent. We cruised through several more potholes, did a steep downclimb, climbed down a slippery log, splashed some more until we reached a pothole at a bend in the canyon, one of the keepers. Past this is another rappel which you rig, then walk 10 feet to rappel 20 feet into a bowl. This bowl is a deep keeper and you will have to fight to get out of the pothole and into the precarious keyhole. Once in the keyhole downclimb a slick log 10 feet. Rig your final rappel, 180 ft, don't be HAD (Harness, Anchor, Device). Make sure you rig enough friction if going single strand! Packs should be hung from harnesses! Rope joining knots should be properly tied, blocks secure! Of course, you should know all this already, if not then should you even be thinking about attempting this canyon right now in your canyoneering career?

The last 130 ft of the rappel into the grotto is free hanging, enjoy it while you can. Send down an experienced canyoneer first to untwist any tangles and provide a fireman to any novices. Last person should check the rigging before committing, the pull is not bad, only time consuming. After pulling and coiling your rope greet any fans you made and hike left, downstream, through West Clear creek to the Point Trail. Head up the steep trail 750 ft to your car.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2009-09-08 nonot
    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.

    Most recent of 14 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    1st Canyon on the 1st Day of the recent Mogollon Rim Trip...

    My Friend from Colorado arrived a couple of hours after I did and after setting up Camp, we were off...I had not seen this Canyon since last Year, but I knew that last Year's Conditions would be hard to beat, as the Canyon was flowing very nicely with Waterfalls at that Time...The Chances of catching it like that again were going to be pretty slim, but this Trip would be good because I would be Descending it differently this Time. Most of the Waterfalls from last Year would be Downclimbable this Time around, where before, we actually had to Rappel them...I was also looking forward to the Big Drop, which I hadn't done so well the Year before... :y:

    And I knew it would be Fun to see my Friend Experience this Canyon for the 1st Time...She's an Enthusiastic Photographer like me, so I knew she would really enjoy it... :D

    Descent went like Clockwork and I really did the Big Drop well, and got to enjoy it much more this Time around... :y: Exited the Ampitheatre into WCC and made fairly quick Work of the Exit as well. Glad I got to see this Canyon again and was Happy to see that my Friend was really enjoying it as well...I knew by the End of that Canyon that she felt that it was worth the Drive and more...And we were just getting started.... :D
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A little over a Year Ago, Ken was generous and patient enough to offer to take me down Bear Canyon, a Technical Canyon, even though I had never done anything like that before in my Life...If that wasn't enough to get me hooked (and it was), we then bypassed the Exit and Scott, Mike and himself took me over to a Natural Amphitheatre, where the bottom of the last 180 Foot Rappel of Sundance Canyon is located...Looking up at that Rappel, a Sheer Cliff, where the last 100 Feet is Free Hanging, was an incredible Sight. I knew that someday, I was going to find a way, with a little more experience under my Belt, to see this Place from the Top and experience it fully...We tried several times this Summer to plan this Canyon but some obstacle or snafu always got in the way...Looking back now, I think Fate and Mother Nature teamed up on this one and wanted us to wait until the Canyon was at it's finest, so she could show us everything she had....

    It was finally time and we were going to do this...Ken kept saying it's a short Canyon and there will be no Rush and we can take our Time to get through this one...It was Music to my Ears... :y: I was able to fully relax and not have to worry about keeping up and this Canyon was begging to be Photographed too, so it was Perfect...As we descended down towards the Canyon, we came to an Overhang where you could look down...There was Water there and it was Flowing...Ken has done this Canyon several times already and it was enough to make him Comment and get Excited...When Ken gets visibly excited about a Canyon that he's already done, you know it's going to be even more Special than normal... :DANCE:

    Down at the Bottom, we bypassed a couple of spots initially before committing fully to the Water...The Water was flowing at a nice Rate and was mostly Clear although it was a Rust Color probably from the Mineral Content...Some of the Pools were still Silty, but the Water was Clean, Clear, and Fresh...It was slightly Cold, but not bad at all...I had brought my Wetsuit, but opted not to use it although in hindsight that was a Mistake, because even though the Water itself wasn't bad, being Wet in the Air Temperature sent you to shivering soon enough if you weren't moving... :sweat:

    There was "Green" as far as the Eye could see and Waterfalls around every Corner...As the Walls tightened up, the Lichen and Ferns that covered the Rocks, Soils and Crannies were joined by the Moss...The Walls and Rocks were covered in Vibrant Green Moss so thick and swollen with Water that it felt like an Expensive Carpet with a Memory Foam Backing...We were literally descending into the Garden of Eden...There was so much Water in the Canyon, there were still small Falls coming down the Walls from the Top and the Rocks were literally oozing Water...The Place was completely saturated and the Plants and Moss above you were shedding Water, making you feel like you were being Rained on, even though the Skies were Blue above...It was nothing short of Magical... 8)

    We hiked, scrambled, downclimbed, waded, swam, rappelled, and even jumped down this Canyon...Some of the Downclimbs were more interesting as they were now Waterfalls with Slick Rock and Moss and we opted to Rappel or Handline a couple of them for that reason...All of the Potholes were overflowing with Water and were deeper than Normal and because of the Waterfalls going into them, Downclimbing would have been more difficult, so we just jumped in... :GB: I never touched bottom on either Jump and the Potholes were easy to exit with the "Beached Whale" technique... :lol:

    And then, we were there...The Top of the Big Rappel...And it was a Sight to behold...I should've taken a Photo there, but everyone was cold, including me, so it was time to go...There were only 3 of us and I had volunteered to go first so we could do this one Right and leave Ken to be last...There was Water going over the Edge so it made it even more interesting, knowing that you were actually going to be doing this with a light Waterfall pounding you a little from the Top...I added extra Friction and it was a Physical Fight to even move down the first 80 feet of Wall, but then...I was over the last Edge and hanging...I have done a few Free Hangs before, but never this long and it was much more Physically demanding than I thought it would be...I had thought about trying to tie off and get some Photos but when it actually came down to it, there was no way I was going to do that on this one... :sweat: And then, after a Serious Adrenalin Rush, I was down and into the shallow Pool at the bottom...What an Amazing Feeling.... :y:

    Melanie came down next with me belaying her at the bottom and then she belayed Ken...Ken got down and we pulled the Rope...Melanie took off to find some Sun, but Ken and I hung back as the Party of Two behind us was having some Trouble...They had thrown their Rope, but it didn't make the bottom, instead, it was a wadded mess about halfway down...We tried to signal them not to come down and to pull it back up, but with the Water, they couldn't hear us and one of them started down...He finally could hear us and realized the problem and stopped to fix it, but he ended up having to stop 3 times to finally get the Rope fixed and to the bottom...It was interesting and a little harrowing to watch...I actually Videotaped it and will be sending it to him so he can see how it looked to us.... :sweat: They both made it down and we all headed for some much needed Sun...

    West Clear Creek was flowing like I've never seen before...It wasn't Clear, it was a silty brown, and moving pretty high and fast...most of the Trail along the Creek to the Exit was completely underwater....We got to the Trail going up and started the Hike out...Ken and Melanie could smell the Beer of course, so they went ahead and I got there when I got there... :sweat: And then, it was done...We hung around for a bit, socializing with the other Canyoneers that had finished, including the two behind us, and then we were on our way home...

    I could take a Thousand Photos of this Canyon and write a Book about what I saw, but it still wouldn't do it Justice...I have descended a few Canyons now and they were all Beautiful in their own Way and I Loved them all, but this one, on this Day, was my Favorite Descent, Hands Down...I will do this Canyon again, but the chances of seeing it like this are probably slim unless Fate decides to Smile on me once again...To do this Canyon the way we did it, with the way it was, was absolutely Priceless...I will remember them all, but this one will always be Centerstage for me...

    Ken, you've Rocked my World and you have opened it up in a way that I thought I would only Dream about, and for that, you will always have my deepest Thanks and Gratitude...Thank you for being such a good Friend and I look forward to many more Descents with you.... : app :
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Finally got to do this canyon again this season! West Clear Creek area has been closed because of the Egypt forest fire. Canyon has changed a little bit since our last trip in the summer - a lot more downed trees and debris (maybe because of monsoons?). We were able to slide into two of the pools and did the whole canyon with only 3 rappels. The two keeper potholes were full and easy to get out of. The water was VERY chilly throughout the canyon. We had shorty wet suits that were not quite enough to stave off shivering.

    The last 180' rappel was fantastic but we did not linger long because of how cold we all were. We brought gear to camp and made use of an awesome campsite west (left) of the last rappel. This site had a nice stone hearth, stone table, and stone chairs that someone spent a lot of time fashioning out of found materials. The site is about 10 feet above the river. We stayed the night (very cold!) and hiked out the next morning. The leaves were gorgeous!

    A great fall adventure. Chilly but fun!
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Venison Soup Canyon
    2nd time down Sundance.
    Alzheimers must be setting in.
    I incorrectly remembered the last rap as 150ft.

    Also important for near future canyoneers:
    we discovered a rotting deer carcass about two pools before the last rap.
    I managed to manuever it out of the flow of water to the side using a small log.
    I would wait at least a few good rains to flush out the rest.
    We managed to get past the following pools by careful climbing and two tyrolean traverses, only getting wet to the waist. You really don't want to get your face in that Venison Soup!

    So, the last rap has my ropes.
    We had descended the purple line, planning to pull the green and yellow ropes but came up short. I tried to prussik back up the purple line but with the rope being wet and very spongey it just wasn't happening any time soon. It's not a high value rope,
    I'd retired it from climbing and was using it as a dedicated rap line.
    If anyone finds these ropes I would be happy to send you $20 for your trouble plus postage to return it to me.

    thanks, be safe!
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What a beautiful canyon!

    Started late and did the last rappel in the dark (not recommended!). Pothole was in semi-keeper mode. An old branch gave us something to climb out of it on. Water was cold and stagnant throughout the canyon.

    Give yourself plenty of time to do this canyon. The hike out is longer than you'd think. Once you get to the bottom of the 180' rappel, you have to cross the river to the left multiple times and find your way out up the drainage which is very steep. After a long day in Sundance Canyon, this trail is pretty tough.
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After finishing Bear the day before, Ken took our group over to the base of Sundance to get a preview. I was salivating over the storied rappel. THE rappel. So many stories and reverence are paid in the Arizona outdoors community to that big drop. Upon review, it deserves all the attention it gets.

    Things aren't very dramatic at first, but as the canyon narrows up, that changes. When setting our rappel across the first pool, a couple came up behind us. Our group all swam and rappelled through, and we offered them the opportunity to move ahead of us since they were moving faster. The warm sun in the canyon bottom was great after the cold water.

    The group was silent as the end drew closer and we knew what awaited.

    The next swimmer wasn't bad, and then a new challenge appeared. Having to rappel into a pool where you can not touch bottom and get off rappel while swimming proved interesting. Ken, Mike, and Tanya went first and got out with ease. My job was to clean: having to pull the rope in the middle of the pool was not fun. After freeing myself, I grabbed an end of the rope and started swimming with all my might...and got nowhere fast, no matter how hard I pulled. Ken had been through this before, and bailed me out, jumping in and pulling the rope himself.

    Shivering now, we set up the rappel into the keeper pothole, but a log ran from the entrance to the keyhole, so no swimming was required. So that left only one hurdle: in the small hallway before the end of the world, we set up a double-rope rappel, looked at each other and thought "no going back now!" We'd discussed earlier that I would take the plunge first and Ken would go last, putting Mike and Tanya in the middle, so they'd have a belay below and a safety check above. Pulling the heavy rope to my ATC and into the system, and running through the safety checks, I breathed deep and inched over...and looked down. Goodness gracious, that's a long way down!!!! :o :)

    The ride turned into a free rappel before long and the views are unbelievable. The couple ahead of us waited at the bottom, taking pictures of us and moving our rope out of the pool at the base (thanks!) Everyone made their way down with a similar post-adrenaline rush look on their face. What a canyon!
    Sundance Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    My first technical canyon!

    Ben got a bunch of people together for his birthday, and took us down Sundance. Everything about it sounded like fun -- particularly the final rappel. I geared up in a wetsuit and brought some rappel gloves. Wish I'd known about booties and gloves for the water! I never thought about how cold it could get since I've never done this before.

    The canyon itself was pretty cool. I attacked each pool with total absence of grace and just jumped on in. It would probably help if I trusted my shoes more, but couldn't see myself successfully stemming with wet shoes on the slick wet rock. Swam each pool and then waited for the last rappel.. finally!

    I've only once gone rappelling for the sake of rappelling, so was looking forward to another opportunity. The bonus was that it was a free hanging rappel! It was pretty cool lowering down through the empty space while slowly turning 360 degrees on the rope. Reached the bottom, and as soon as I was able, got into the sunlight to warm up. Cold wet canyons are fun, but it's also nice to be warm. :)

    Followed the creek to the path out (up, up, up... we're still going up?) and grabbed some refreshments at the car. Then on to the next thing -- climbing at Blue Ridge.
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    WOW! That is all I can say about this little adventure. After getting down with Bear Canyon and back at camp, our group decided to do Sundance Canyon. We were a bit worried with getting started at 2pm and a chance of rain, but we had a good experienced group to get it done. We started down the old jeep road and set up a 40ft rappel to save time to get into the canyon. The thick brush to start isn't great, but that goes away quickly and the fun starts. The pools of water were cold and not the best to be going through in my mind, but it is what it is. The worst part was a dead skunk in a shallow pool, imagine the odor. Can you smell it now? :yuck: We got to the spots where the short rappels were needed and a light rain started. We were a little worried, but knew if any thing was going to happen, it wasn't from the rain here now, but it was on its way. We decided to keep moving. The worst part was the rappel before the double rappel, before the last rappel. Did that make sense? It was bad because I cleaned it up, which consisted of getting down in the pool where you couldn't stand and bringing the rope across the pool while swimming. Needless to say it felt like it took me 5 minutes to swim 15ft. It didn't help everyone was telling me to grab the ledge while not giving me a hand. :-k We got to the double pool rappel and were all cold and wanting to get done. Going one by one to the last rappel was slow going and I had to run in place to stay warm. It was my time to go and this was the worst rappel. Going down a log and then to the last pool before the huge drop. I got it done and then it was my time for the last 180ft rappel. I tried to enjoy it, but who can you kid. It was a rush. Halfway down I think I just wanted to be done and started to go faster. Got down and everything came out. WOW!!!! Just AWESOME. The last guys got down and we were just stoked as we went back to the trail in WCC. What a great day. Would love to have had a wetsuit. :lol:
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Beautiful verdant canyon. Party of Two. We carried 80ft, 160ft and 175ft climbing ropes; used the short one for the inital drops (I lost count how many, but we did downclimb past two anchors which seemed unneccesary) The longer ropes were adequate with rope stretch and advancing the knot down on the shorter rope such that the combined length was perfect. I would definitely reccommend this canyon and look forward to doing it again. Once in West Clear Creek we styed the rest of the day and climbed a few pitches recently developed there, hence our trip time does not count the 40 or so minutes to hike out.
    Sundance Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After doing Bear Canyon that morning, we stopped at the vehicles for lunch, and then headed off the eastside of 142E down into Sundance Canyon. It starts off very similar to Bear with plenty of bushwhacking & rock hopping in similar geology & terrain but there's definitely more playing to be had in the upper narrows. :sweat: After building our stemming skills a bit we geared up at the first rappel and continued thru some more log traverses, down climbs and chutes into chilly swimmers. :D After a log down climb into a sticky wader, we rounded the corner on another normal slick chute that is normally rappeled but since the rock & canyon are SO dry we can down climb most of the chute and drop the remaining few feet into another chilly swimmer that requires a beached whale move to exit out of. Looking ahead you can tell that the BIG drop is just 50ft down canyon and that room is a good place to do any planning or checking beforehand. I did the 50ft double rappel first in case there was a nasty log jam in the pool below. I pushed some logs to the side but it wasn't too bad and a proped up branched help for the climb thru the keyhole and into the alcove for the final rappel. Eventually all 4 of us worked thru the double drop rappel and I was setting up the final super sweet 180ft; electing to go last so that I could use a rope protecter for the other 3 and be careful on my rope placement when I started the rappel. After they were safely down, I slowly made my way down so that I could more fully soak in this amAZingly beautiful rappel into the cathedral. :y: It helps to not be nervous on these BIG drop to enjoy them more. :) From there, it was a matter of pulling ropes, dropping gear, walking briefly along the beautiful WCC, and again making the steep climb back up the Point trail with packs full of heavy wet gear. :sweat:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To 142E Trailhead
    From Phx, take I-17 N to exit 287/HWY 260. Take 260 E and just before milepost 249, turn left/N onto FR 144. Take FR 144 1.8 miles and turn left onto FR 149. Follow FR 149 1.1 miles to a T junction with FR 142. Turn right onto FR 142 and follow it .8 mile to FR 142E on the left (there was a sign for 142D and on the other side of the same road was a rock painted with 142E). Stay straight on FR142 another 0.8 miles until it dips down and crosses Tom's Creek. There are parking options in this area off the road.

    2016-07 LindaAnn writes: The last 1/3 mile or so on 142E is the only rough part, maybe not great for low clearance, but easy enough to park there and walk a little extra to the trailhead.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 132 mi - about 2 hours 30 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 237 mi - about 3 hours 59 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 90.2 mi - about 1 hour 51 mins
    page created by nonot on Sep 08 2009 8:24 pm
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