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Thread: Pipe Spring Canyon - Zion National Park

  1. #1

    Pipe Spring Canyon - Zion National Park

    My brother and I spend a wonderful, no-rush day together in the west size of Zion (Lava Point/West Rim Trail area) doing Pipe Spring Canyon. Tough navigation on the approach with all the trails and roads going everywhere, but beautiful slots and narrows. About 9 hours car to car. 1 hour "lost" to difficulty navigating the approach. Could probably do the big rap in 30-45 minutes less next time. This was only my brother's second canyon and it didn't disappoint. The MIA exit was as much of a chore as everyone says, but it was still a day very well spent. Gorgeous scenery. Fun problem solving and a solitude you just don't find in most areas of Zion. The only other person we saw on the trail all day was a member of the camp staff who helped us find our way to the head of the canyon.

    Timeline:
    08:10 - Parked at the West Rim Trailhead and hit the MIA road heading east
    10:10 - Arrive at the "Pipe Spring" one hour behind schedule due to navigation confusion. Break for snack.
    10:30 - Start at Rap #1
    12:00 - Arrive at the "big rap" #5
    01:30 - Took us 90 minutes to negotiate raps #5 & 6 (!). Lunch break.
    02:15 - Continue down canyon
    02:45 - Exited the upper canyon. Began the climb out.
    03:30 - Finished the big climb. Seemed longer than 45 minutes
    05:00 - Arrived back at the vehicle

    Definitely a canyon to do again, especially now that I know how to find it

    In spite of cautionary tales on both beta sites we had researched, navigation still proved difficult and we wandered around a bit before finding the famed pipe spring. Long story short, follow the beta precisely. Don't get distracted by the more well-maintained (of many) roads or signs pointing to the MIA camp. The quickest approach to the canyon involves older, less-used trails that aren't intuitive to take. This photo shows us looking back at the pipe spring and behind it the road you'll come in on - the left if you took the long route like us, and up and to the right if you took the short route.
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    Once you find the pipe spring, follow the road/trail alongside the south side of the drainage where you'll quickly find the rappelling area used by the MIA camp. Descend into the drainage using the same scramble route used by the youth in the rappelling area, then downstream and you'll quickly come upon the first rappel.
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    Pipe Spring starts out with a quick succession of delightful drops down flutes and was a lot of fun to navigate. Here is my brother on the first rappel:
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    Looking down the second or third rappel:
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    A panoramic view of one of the early rappels:
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    Looking back up one of the early rappels:
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    The view from the top of the "big rappel":
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    My brother descending the chute immediately before the big rappel:
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    My brother on the first stage of the big rap:
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    Looking back up the big rap. Simply stunning. Pictures don't do it justice!
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    Another angle, looking back up the big rap. We staged the rap off the tree at top center. About 180 feet from the top, and then another 100ish feet to the bottom. T'was a bit sketchy, but my brother didn't see Tom Jones' new station a bit further down. We'll try that next time:
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    Another panoramic view of the big rap. We stopped and ate lunch here. A beautiful spot. So quiet and serene. Love it!
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    A big owl we saw in the canyon. A bonus treat!
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    Beautiful columbine in the canyon
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    The big rap signals the end of the major rappels in the canyon. It is followed by a delightfully narrow slot section with fun downclimbs and a few short raps:
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    Panoramic shot of one of the final, small raps. The lighting was wonderful.
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    A short rap or two right before the end
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    My brother at the exit, where Pipe Spring Canyon joins the MIA exit:
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    My brother almost reaching the top of the MIA exit.
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    Looking down the MIA exit.
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    My brother pointing the right way to go on the initial approach. When we had passed this way earlier in the day, we unwisely went to the right.
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  3. #2
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Glad you enjoyed it.

    I recently re-wrote the beta, perhaps you did not have the most recent version. I am perplexed because I think it is now clear, and did you follow the map?

    "To get to the "Pipe Spring", you must follow the MIA Exit road-walk section backwards. It is very helpful to have done the MIA Exit BEFORE attempting this canyon.

    Park at the West Rim Trailhead and head down the MIA Road -- the gated road on the north side of the parking area. If the gate is open, still do NOT drive down the road. It might be locked by the time you get back. There is a maze of roads in this area, and some details on the USGS topographic map are out of date. Follow my approach map carefully to reach the Pipe Spring 'picnic area'. But really, it is simple: go left at the first Y, go right at the next. Then follow this road straight. The road ends close to the edge of the MIA "pit". Follow the edge road to the right a short way to the pipe spring.

    Follow the road next to the watercourse below the pipe spring, to the developed rappelling area for the camp. Descend the trail down in that the camp has established to the bottom of the canyon. Hike downstream. In a few minutes, the bottom drops out of the wash, with twists and turns down below. Looks like a rope might be necessary!"


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  4. #3
    Tom, your beta (on this trip and many others) was invaluable! Thank you for taking the time to comment! I used your beta along with content from Bluugnome. I made my mistake early on. We covered the initial ground much faster than I anticipated and so when we got to the first fork in the road, I didn't think we were yet at the Y on your map and chalked it up the topo being "out of date" with "roads in this area are not shown accurate on this map.

    There was an "MIA Camp" sign at the Y with an arrow pointing to the right (where you're supposed to go left) and I figured the MIA camp was where we needed to get since that is where the MIA rappelling station is, which marks the head of Pipe Spring, and so off to the right we went. After another mile the road started to look completely different than what's on the topo. There is now a connecting road not showing on the map, in the lower left of the map.

    It was at this point that we were fortunate to run into an MIA camp staff member out for a morning stroll, the only other soul we saw all day. She didn't know where Pipe Spring Canyon was, but knew of "a pipe spring" and the rappelling area and that was enough to get us on the right track. From there everything went like clockwork, including the MIA exit, thanks to the beta you and Luke provided. We exited back up along the road\trail\path we should have entered on. It was often overgrown and faded with trees fallen across the path.

    It was my first time navigating in this part of Zion and my advice to anyone else going there for the first time would be that you won't see this canyon from a distance. Pipe Spring literally starts as a spring on flat ground and becomes a lovely fluted canyon in a matter of yards, albeit hidden from site. The maze of roads is indeed bewildering, and the beta should be followed precisely. Avoid the temptation to follow signs or use the more established roads. You'll think you're getting lost, but if you follow the map, you'll get there in about an hour. More than that and you've likely taken a wrong turn!

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  6. #4
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Pipe Spring Canyon - Zion National Park

    Thanks for the write up arnellfam.

    Good pictures of in the canyon too. I have peered down there from the pipe spring and have wanted to do it, but pictures like these are what motives people. Well, at least me anyway.

    Speaking of Pipe Spring, the spring, brrrrrrr! That water is so cold and refreshing. It tastes so good, especially after climbing up the MIA.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your adventure with us.


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  8. #5
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arnellfam View Post
    Tom, your beta (on this trip and many others) was invaluable! Thank you for taking the time to comment! I used your beta along with content from Bluugnome. I made my mistake early on. We covered the initial ground much faster than I anticipated and so when we got to the first fork in the road, I didn't think we were yet at the Y on your map and chalked it up the topo being "out of date" with "roads in this area are not shown accurate on this map.

    There was an "MIA Camp" sign at the Y with an arrow pointing to the right (where you're supposed to go left) and I figured the MIA camp was where we needed to get since that is where the MIA rappelling station is, which marks the head of Pipe Spring, and so off to the right we went. After another mile the road started to look completely different than what's on the topo. There is now a connecting road not showing on the map, in the lower left of the map.

    It was at this point that we were fortunate to run into an MIA camp staff member out for a morning stroll, the only other soul we saw all day. She didn't know where Pipe Spring Canyon was, but knew of "a pipe spring" and the rappelling area and that was enough to get us on the right track. From there everything went like clockwork, including the MIA exit, thanks to the beta you and Luke provided. We exited back up along the road\trail\path we should have entered on. It was often overgrown and faded with trees fallen across the path.

    It was my first time navigating in this part of Zion and my advice to anyone else going there for the first time would be that you won't see this canyon from a distance. Pipe Spring literally starts as a spring on flat ground and becomes a lovely fluted canyon in a matter of yards, albeit hidden from site. The maze of roads is indeed bewildering, and the beta should be followed precisely. Avoid the temptation to follow signs or use the more established roads. You'll think you're getting lost, but if you follow the map, you'll get there in about an hour. More than that and you've likely taken a wrong turn!
    Thanks for the clarification.

    Great pictures!

    There is a bit of a concern of people actually going to the LDS girls camp when it is in session, which would not be cool. We are guests on their private land.

    Tom

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