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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Waterholes Canyon, AZ

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Guide 40 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northeast > Hotevilla
4.6 of 5 by 11
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 2.5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,596 feet
Elevation Gain 2 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2.51
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2017-04-16 hikeaz
19  2016-05-21
Escalante National Monument Trip
36  2015-11-24 GrottoGirl
2  2015-08-18 azbackpackr
16  2015-08-18
Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry
37  2015-07-03 GrottoGirl
15  2014-05-10 knmurphy
6  2012-03-27 AZLOT69
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Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:06am - 6:37pm
0 Alternative
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Flora Nearby
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Easy hidden slot canyon
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
Waterholes Canyon is a slot canyon just south of Page. Its one of the last tributaries to lower Glen Canyon before the Colorado River emerges at Lee's Ferry to enter Marble Canyon. Waterholes is not as famous as nearby Antelope Canyon, nor is it as deep. It shares many characteristics with another nearby tributary to the lower Glen, Nine Mile Draw. There are actually two portions to Waterholes Canyon, and they are divided between Upper and Lower at the point where the highway bridge for US89 crosses the canyon. Recently the Navajo Nation has closed the lower section of Waterholes Canyon to hikers. Fortunately the upper section is still open to hiking. Since it is on Navajo land, you'll need to get a hiking permit.

The hike begins at the trailhead just north of the highway bridge over Waterholes Canyon, on the east side of the road. There is a gate and a hiker's maze that mark the highway right-of-way boundary. Once through the hiker's maze, there is a well-worn and obvious path leading towards the right and the canyon rim. This leads into a small draw that is easily descended. At one point you will reach a seeming impasse, with a cliff on the right and a boulder-jam on the right. Climb over the boulders, which is very easy, and the slope leads into another steep draw which will take you right to the floor of Waterholes Canyon. Downstream you can see the highway bridge, while upstream are alternating narrows and broader canyon bottoms.

The hike itself is not very hard or difficult to follow. The stream bed is the trail, though there are a few side canyons that are neat, narrow, and worth checking out. Hike upstream as far as you'd like, though the farther upstream you go, the narrower and more convoluted you'll find the canyon to be. After a rainstorm, there can be pools of water for several weeks afterwards. These can range from pretty distractions to major obstacles, especially in the upper canyon, so be prepared. NEVER enter a slot canyon when it may rain in the area - slot canyons can quickly become death traps with no place to escape.

Check out the Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2007-04-28 PaleoRob
    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 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Escalante National Monument Trip
    Friday: Drove up from the valley and met up with some Flagstaff friends at my "top secret" sandstone slab campsite, near the Glen Canyon dam for what I will describe as a craft beer festival... :lol:

    Saturday: The wind was crazy and we had to postpone our plans to paddle into Antelope Canyon. On short notice, we opted for Waterholes Canyon. This was my second time there. It's an easy and enjoyable slot canyon (on the non-technical, upper portion). One of the guys in our group is into canyoneering and has done the technical section. Sounds interesting to connect with the CR and pack-raft out. Next time ;)
    I noticed that there were new ladders in place since I first hiked this in 2014, when summer rains had flooded out the ladder system. It made scrambling a little more manageable.

    Stopped by Horseshoe on our way back into Page. The crowds make me frustrated and when I take friends there now, I leave my camera behind. Anyone know if it has only been crowded since the birth of social media? Or have there always been throngs of tour busses?

    Drove out to Alstrom Point. Stopped to checkout Wahweap Creek, which was flowing well, and Warm Creek, which was also flowing! (I was excited to see this intermittent stream going :D ). This drive is just incredible. And driving over the slickrock for the last two miles before the reaching the Point was the highlight. We spent the night here, overlooking the impaired and impounded Colorado River. The view from Alstrom is incredible. This is one of the more epic places I have camped. Definitely worth the long drive.

    Sunday: Left the Alstrom Point at 6 a.m., in time to make an early start from the Antelope Point boat ramp. This was my second time paddling into Antelope. Definitely a special place. There's a side canyon that heads to the east, about a mile's walk from the current shoreline. Have any of you HAZ'ers made it all the way to the end of this side canyon? Both times I have encountered some significant pools that I wasn't really in the mood to swim.

    Drove back Sunday afternoon with an absolutely mandatory stop at Diablo Burger in Flag.

    Good times!
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Third kayak trip to Glen Canyon this summer. (I also did a motorboat tour from the dam to Lees Ferry this summer.) After a night and a couple of meals at Marble Canyon Lodge, we launched in the early morning from Lees Ferry to paddle upstream to 6 Mile Camp. We stopped for a break at Waterholes Canyon, where I hiked up to the first box, but decided next time it will be easier to not be on that side of the river, for we lost ground trying to cross back over to where the current is milder. In fact, there were several places where there either was no eddy to follow upstream, or where we had to cross to where there is an eddy. It was not the easiest paddling.

    We finally reached 6 Mile Camp, which is on the west side of the river, in the late afternoon and set up camp. The tamarisk trees are pretty much dead at all these river camps, due to the tamarisk beetle. Although this may be environmentally correct, it makes for a lousy camp with little respite from the hot sun, so we were glad to arrive as the cliff shadows had begun to shade the camp. I hope that willows and cottonwoods will grow to take the place of the tammies.

    Floating back downriver the next morning we reached Lees Ferry pretty quickly!

    Since this was in mid-August the weather was pretty hot but not as hot as July. As always, Glen Canyon provides one scenic amazement after another, and the camera is always at hand. I am hoping to be working here next tour season, and am looking forward to the experience.

    I just realized I didn't post the July trip. Will do that later.
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Paddled upriver from Lees Ferry. Stopped here at Waterholes for our lunch break. I took a stroll up to the first waterhole barrier. It was a hot day, and that was enough for me. I'm guessing I hiked about a mile up? And yes, I changed the type of activity from "Canyoneering" to "Hiking" for this post. No way was I canyoneering; I was hiking! And I guessed on the AEG.

    After lunch we continued upriver in the kayaks and made camp for the night at 6 Mile. But that will be a different triplog.
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Amazing canyon top to bottom. Spending some time clipped in at the "Edge of the World" was a real treat. Our group made pretty good time to the river and then the wind kicked up and made for a strong head wind that made progress difficult. Due to the wind and some other hiccups the paddle/hike out ended up taking much longer than expected and we didn't get back to the cars until 11:00pm. A repeat canyon for sure.
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Avoid the rope eating crack!

    A few tips:
    Don't toss any pull cord at the big rap.
    The rope eating crack will eat ropes, I observed no less than 12 ropes stuck in there of various ages.
    The graffiti is above the big rap sequence which are: 90 ft, 15 ft, 304 ft.
    Harness hang begins to set in at 45 minutes on rappel. However, the rope eating crack can be defeated in this amount of time!

    Wild horses do exist!

    Thanks to Todd for the idea and the invite.
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Ah, Waterholes, you stole my heart... and blew my mind! What an amazing canyon. Definitely a great challenge, both physically and mentally. We dropped in early Saturday morning to find the canyon dusted with snow, making it even more beautiful. With heavy packs and tons of gear, we made our way through the many amazing rappels, downclimbs and narrows. We leapfrogged through and quickly made it to the zipline spot where we got held up for a bit as we ran into another group going through. They were awesome and set up the zipline for us so no one had to brave the frigid pond (complete with a dead duck floating in it...).

    We continued on to the staging area for the "Big Drop", where we went over the rappel sequence one last time. Before I knew it, it was my turn to do the 3-stager, the part I was most nervous about. Focus, focus, focus. First came the super-awkward crack squeeze down to the first ledge. Here I stopped and took it all in, doing a reality check and asking myself "do you realize you are seriously standing here in a tiny nook partway down a 400' wall?!? I felt surprisingly calm at this realization. Then down to the Edge of the World anchor, switched ropes while an angel kept me calm, then continued on the rest of the 300' down. It was a peaceful ride down, it was unbelievable how far away the ground looked though. Made it down safe & sound, with tired hands and a huge smile... wahoooo!!!

    After a clean rope pull, some group shots and a few more rappels, we finally made it to the Colorado River. Rafting down a hypothermic river, at sunset, on a pool toy no less... this was the other part of the trip that I was anxious about. We were not there for more than a few minutes before some nice fishermen in a boat pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride back to Lee's Ferry. I couldn't believe this, as earlier in the day I had secretly made a wish that this exact thing would happen!! But alas, after hauling those packrafts around all day, we decided to take the adventurous route and float the river instead. With the bright moon to light the way, it took us 1.5 hours to paddle back to Lee's Ferry, where some friends awaited to help us load up gear and head back to camp.

    It was an unforgettable adventure with an incredible group of people, of which I feel very grateful for! Adding to the day, we also came upon the wall scribblings of the Swiss man who was rescued out of the canyon 2 weeks ago after spending 3 nights stranded in there. How he made it down with no gear and didn't fall/die is beyond me. He had etched all kinds of things into the wall, a lot of it sounded like he was losing his grip on his sanity (understandable, considering the spot he was stuck at). It felt to me like it was his last will and testament, both fascinating and sad to read. But of all the things we found scratched in the wall, the one that stuck out to me the most read: "Love is all one needs." That pretty much sums it all up, don't you think?
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Did Waterholes Canyon for the 2nd time this month! The AEG of 2 feet on this is hurting my YTD AEG stats! :tt:

    Managed to do the entire packraft in daylight! Very scenic and a lot less headwind this time. Used a Pirana for the first time on a big rappel and liked it., I probably had too much friction at the beginning when using braking position #3 on the 10mm rope, but was very smooth on the 2nd half of the drop.

    A lot less water this time in the canyon. Two places where you had to get your feet muddy and wet up to your ankles. Thanks to Vaporman for doing the swim over the large pool so we could zip line over this pool.
    Waterholes Canyon
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    So we stuck my buddies BIG rope on the BIG rappel a few weeks back and had been itching to throw another trip together to go retrieve it. :whistle: With a canyon with the reputation of Waterholes, it doesn't take much prodding to get yearning canyoneers to join ya. :GB:

    The canyon was just as amAZingly beaUTiful as ever while being just as pumpkin difficult. Strong canyoneers shouldn't have any major problems, but lesser canyoneers would be seriously spanked and/or spending the night... Loads of down climbing, stemming, tight narrows and short rappels thru most of the middle canyon. All the upper drops can be done with two 100ft ropes while the stemming & climbing gets ever so more difficult the further down canyon you go. :sweat: After the middle exit, is the sweetest stretch of tight narrows by far. Reminds me much more of a Utah canyon than most of the other AZ canyons. The BIG rappel sequence of 3 drops totaling 400ft was just as sweet as ever, but having done it a few times not it's nowhere near as intimidating as it was in the past. :) It was nice to see my buddies rope still there from a few weeks ago and we used it again and used my skinnier 400ft rope as the pullside. It was def a great feeling when all of us were down safely and the ropes pulled with no issues. :y: A couple more rappels and it was an easy stroll down canyon to the Colorado River. Pumped up our pool toys and made the 4 mile float down river and rolled into Lee's Ferry just as the sun was setting. So much nicer to be doing that during the later afternoon as opposed to after dusk. Hope you guys don't mind another Waterholes photo bomb; such a long, scenic & technical canyon that it's tough to narrow down the pics. :lol:
    Waterholes Canyon
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    Well a few of us had been itching to hit this beast of a canyon and the conditions looked to be aligning in our favor with it not raining in a few weeks and the warm spell that hit the region. So off to Waterholes we went! :y: Such an amAZingly beautiful & challenging canyon that did not disappoint at all and presented even more challenges and stemming than usual due to there being much more mud & water than you'll find during a traditional late spring descent. :sweat: We handlined down that first significant drop while enjoying all the early narrows below the bridge. The next major drop was into a chilly swimmer so we opted for one of the bypass rappels off to the right. While the next rappel took us into knee deep mud bog. :roll: A little further down we dropped into the lower narrows which involved loads & loads of stemming the tight spots, crawling thru holes, avoiding keeper potholes, and down climbing the many drops. : rambo : Near the end, a few rappels & slippery stemming over deep pools are encountered before the canyon starts to open up with that mandatory swimmer. I take my pack & shirt off and volunteer to be the sacrificial lamb to swim thru that surprisingly clean looking pool and setup a zipline on the other side for the others and our packs. :GB: Here you can see the canyon open up and drop dramatically... A 80ft drop takes us down to the staging area for the BIG 3-stage 400ft rappel sequence. I volunteer to go first since I have the most 300ft rappels under my belt and heights don't seem to phase me anymore. The first 80ft drop can be tricky for rope pulls but a previous group had left a rope in place, so after inspection we opt to use than instead of risking our own. I make my way down that tight crack rappel, to that tight hallway, setup a 20ft rappel to the edge of the world anchors, carefully rappel down to those exposed anchors, and setup the final 300ft rappel. : rambo : Some advocate not tossing the rappel-side rope, but IMO if you aim away from the rope eating crack the rope will bounce off the wall and make it nicely to the bottom. So that's what I did and had no issues. Once down, I took turn giving fireman belays to others and taking many pics. Unfortunately I told the caboose to throw the pullcord ropes and one of the knots got power wedged into that infamous crack, causing us to have some serious ropepull issues. :roll: So I'd def recommend, rappelling with the pullside attached to your harness since there's not much added bonus to throwing it other than it being out of the way and you know it's long enough... A couple more short rappels (20 & 80ft) to go and then you're walking the relatively flat lower canyon towards the river. There's a great ledge to drop the rappelling gear while putting on our wetsuits & headlamps while inflating our packrafts for the 4-mile float down the beautiful Colorado River to Lee's Ferry. Such a great canyon that I'm glad to share with a couple new friends and can't wait to come back again. :D
    Waterholes Canyon
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    First trip of 2012! What an awesome canyon. Best canyon that I have been on. Awesome rappels, narrows, views, and packraft back to Lee's Ferry. There were several pools that we bypassed by stemming, which was sometimes difficult due to the slimy mud! I managed to avoid a chest deep pool even though I started to slip while stemming. Somehow I managed to stop myself with my forearms. Got to do a zipline over one of the bigger pools and had fun doing that.

    The three stage rappel was awesome. This is my second 300 foot rappel, but this canyon adds the difficulty of changing ropes on the Edge of the World anchor, which has a ledge about 3 inches wide to place your left foot. Once I was on the 300 foot drop, I felt fairly comfortable and looked down several times to enjoy the scenary.

    Finished a little late and had to packraft out in the dark with our Explorer 200s!!!! Those boats are fun. Actually was hoping for a little less wind or more current on the packraft. There were a few sections where we were pratically getting blown upcurrent by the wind!

    Thanks to Vaporman for leading this trip.

    Permit $$

    Navajo Nation Reservation
    Navajo Permits & Services

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Page, drive several miles south to the Waterholes Canyon bridge (signed). Pull off on the east side of the highway by a signed gate warning against hiking without a valid permit. The hiker's maze and trailhead are just south of the gate on the fenceline.
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