Zig Zag Canyon – Moab Canyoneering

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A DH exclusive! A maze of sandstone fins with unparalleled views and a huge rappel!

During this canyon tour, we enjoy easy climbing, big views and a 220-foot rappel – the longest guided rappel in Moab!

This adventure is a winding, circuitous loop hike that has us gaining and losing several hundred feet of elevation over three miles of exploration. Like most DH routes, this is an original Moab canyoneering route that we have developed in response to the increasing difficulty of getting off the beaten path and immersing oneself into solitude and sandstone majesty. We travel through beautiful 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!

 

  • Reviews 3 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
  • Activity Level Moderate
    5/8
All about the Zig Zag Canyon – Moab Canyoneering.
  • Duration: 5-7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Total Hiking Distance: 3 miles
  • Rappels: 3 (​30ft/9m, 40ft/12m, 220ft/67m​)
  • Distance from Moab: 10 minutes one-way
  • Season: All Year
  • All tours are private – just your group and your guide!
    • 1 Person – $400
    • Group of 2 – $200/person
    • Group of 3 – $194/person
    • Group of 4 or more – $170/person
    • Please call for availability if your group has 14 or more people in it

Are you ready to get lost in a maze of sandstone canyons, fins, walls and wash bottoms? 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. From here, it’s time to get physical! 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.

Eventually, the hard work pays off when we reach a high point and are rewarded with incredible views in every direction. It is nice to know that this view can only be obtained through the hiking and scrambling we just completed. Now we must wander through some confusing terrain and do more scrambling to reach yet another high point. Along the way, a second rock art panel located 40 feet above the wash bottom can be observed. Why is it located so high on that cliff? What were they doing way up here? These questions are typical as we marvel at the work of artists completed centuries ago. Finally, we get our first glimpse into the canyon we must descend.

​Careful downclimbing leads to another wash bottom. The trip changes nature slightly as we stroll down the unassuming dry stream bed. Confronted with the occasional small pour off, we must do some problem solving to reach our first rappel. This includes the introduction of new canyoneering techniques like chimneying.

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. Looking all the way back up to the top of the final rappel, it is difficult to believe we just descended from that distant rim!

At some point, we must pull ourselves away and begin the hike out and back to our shuttle vehicle. With big rappels, unrivaled views, and gorgeous sandstone formations, Desert Highlights’ newest offering is not to be missed!

*** Does this not sound demanding enough for you? Ask about the extra long version of Zig Zag, ‘The Desert Wanderer!’ This trip covers three times as much ground, has additional rappels and involves roped rock climbing up to 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System (check out our FAQ’s for a description of the YDS). This option is our most challenging offering in the immediate Moab area. Because of length and overall difficulty, group size is limited to five people. Bring a headlamp!

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • All canyoneering gear and safety equipment
  • Instruction from experienced and fun guides
  • Transportation to and from the canyon
  • Private tour – just your group plus your guide(s)!
What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • Lunch and snacks – please bring enough food to be out and active for 5-7 hours
  • Water – we recommend at least 2 liters of water per person
  • Price does not include tax or guide gratuity

We rate our canyoneering trips based on physical difficulty. Zig Zag Canyon is a loop hike and requires some uphill, off-trail scrambling. There are places where we’ll use our hands and feet for progress and your guide will coach you through a few easy climbing moves. This canyon also offers the opportunity to use different techniques such as downclimbing, using a handline and “chimneying” (your feet on one wall, your back on the other). The hiking here is doable for anyone that is reasonably fit, but it is more adventurous than your run of the mill hiking trail.

For this canyon, whatever you would wear on a regular hike will be just fine. You can check the weather here before you arrive. Bring a warm layer for the spring and fall months. We require closed-toe shoes for all of our canyoneering tours.

Absolutely! Our private tours allow us to spend plenty of time at the top of each rappel going over rappel technique, answering questions, etc. On every rappel, you will be backed up with a second rope that the guide can use to slow you down or take over control if necessary. You’ll “learn the ropes” and be able to control your own speed, but you’ll never be 100% on your own.

Zig Zag Canyon does have 2 short rappels that are great for an introduction to rappelling. The canyon ends with a huge, 220-foot rappel. All 3 rappels are mandatory.

 

Please visit our FAQ page for answers to general questions about canyoneering

Overall Rating
5/5
Mike
Reviewed On 30/10/2021
5/5

Absolutely amazing experience!! It was definitely a highlight of my daughter (19) and my (50) time in Moab. Our hike and repel in and down Zig Zag Canyon was incredible. A once in a lifetime experience!! Our guide was very patient, kind and very knowledgeable of the surrounding land and its history. Highly recommend, worth every penny!!!

Alyssa
Reviewed On 30/10/2021
5/5

My husband and I did the full day Zig Zag canyoneering trip. It was our first time ever rappelling, and it was awesome! Jake was a fantastic tour guide, always explaining how to navigate through the obstacles, and making sure we were getting the most of our experience. We loved that we were able to have a private tour without paying any additional costs. Before booking the trip, I had emailed several questions, and Melissa was very responsive and helpful in her replies. I highly recommend Desert Highlights!

Kjersit
Reviewed On 24/04/2019
5/5

We had an amazing trip to Zig Zag Canyon yesterday with Melissa and Kai, and I recommend it highly! The scenery is spectacular, and hanging mid-air in a canyon is just an incredible way to take in the views. We're a group of 6 - 2 mamas and 4 kids aged 12 and 14, pretty fit but not 'superathletes' and our first time canyoneering (except my friend, who runs marathons). The hike up was moderately hard, and it was fun, with some scrambling and climbing with a rope in one section. The 2 first rappels were a good introduction, and the 3rd was absolutely spectacular. Melissa and Kai were excellent guides, with a good sense of humor and a very calming demeanor for anyone who is a bit nervous. My daughter (12) was very nervous, but Kai and Melissa calmly guided her through the steps. She left wanting to do more canyoneering:) Me too:)

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