Canyoneering Tour Of Yankee Doodle Canyon
Difficulty: This canyon requires skill multiple down climbs and one technical rappel.
Gear: 170 foot rope, harness, ATCs, good shoes with grip, 50 foot rope, wet suit and dry bags (depending on season).
Time: We completed the hike in two hours with an experienced guide, Nathan Marsh, and three hikers, Linne Marsh, Kim Mower, and Denise St. John, so give yourself anywhere from 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of your group.
Accessibility: The canyon is accessible year round. I recommend doing it during the summer to avoid water, which might be present during spring or fall. If you don’t care about getting wet, then add a wet suit to the gear list and hike on!
In the quiet hills above Silver Reef and Leeds lies an otherworldly experience for adventure enthusiasts. Sure you can see lots of great scenery on a variety of hikes here in Southern Utah, but with a little more of a challenge, you can experience scenic canyons that only a select few get to see. Yankee Doodle Canyon is an awesome example of what canyoneering offers. This gorgeous slot includes unique views of rock formations, green vegetation, and technical hiking. Although it’s only one mile, and classified as one of the easier slots in Southern Utah, it doesn’t disappoint.
The adventure begins with a 100 foot rappel into a fluted drop. When you begin the rappel you have no clear vision of your end point. It definitely gets your blood pumping! You start the rappel by walking down the canyon wall for the first 20 feet, and then the middle section is free hanging until you reach a minor rock outcrop where you can walk down again. Some people break up the rappel, but if you have enough rope, do it all the way.
There is only one technical rappel, but there are a couple of down climbs throughout the canyon that require some assistance, so bring an extra 50 foot rope to complete the hike. There are a couple 25 foot drops that will require the security of a rope. Most of the down climbs are short, but if you feel more comfortable rappelling, there are options for using a rope. The down climbs are broken up with periods of flat canyon floor, rock “slides”, and a narrow area where you use the leverage of your hands and feet on the canyon walls to complete the hike. The trail in this canyon changes constantly due to flooding, so be prepared to scramble over unexpected rocks or tree trunks.
After a nice stretch of flat bottom floor, the canyon begins to widen into a rocky riverbed. The exit point is a nice slab of rock located to the right of pine tree with exposed roots. Scramble up the slab, and partway up to the vegetation is a small ledge bearing right. Follow the ledge to the right and find the shallow moki-steps (grooves in the rock). These are minimally helpful with the short 3 foot climb. Scramble up to the vegetation and follow the faint trail up out of the wash until it meets with the road. Turn left and follow the road to arrive back to your vehicle.
You can’t tell in the video, but this experience was Denise’s first time rappelling and canyoneering. (Talk about baptism by fire!) So if you’re a first timer, don’t sweat it! That first rappel isn’t as bad as it seems. The canyon is a blast as long as you have an experienced guide, good gear, and the desire for adventure.
Northbound on I-15: Take exit 22 for the town of Leeds. Then follow the frontage road 1.6 miles through Leeds to Silver Reef Road. Turn left (west) and drive under the freeway.
Southbound on I-15: Take the Leeds exit which will place you right down to the Silver Reef Road. You will not need to drive a frontage road.
After driving under the freeway continue west on the Silver Reef Road. 1.5 miles from the freeway the pavement will end shortly after the road name changes to Oak Grove Road. About 450 feet after the pavement ends there is a road to the left. Stay right and continue on Oak Grove Road. After another 1.5 miles there is a fork in the road. Stay left at the fork. This is where you will leave Oak Grove Road.
Another 0.7 miles and the road tops out where there is a huge turn out to park a few cars and get a good view of the surrounding area. Follow the road as it winds down the other side of the top out. 2.3 miles down from the top out the road will pass through a ranch area with fences on both sides of the road. Drive 0.3 more miles where you will cross over a cattle guard.
Drive 0.4 miles past the cattle guard to an un-marked road going left (southeast). Drive another 0.7 miles to where Heath Wash crosses the road. Drive another 0.6 miles to where the road crosses Big Hollow.
Then drive 0.9 miles to the parking for Yankee Doodle Canyon. There is a turn out here on the right (north) side of the road where 2 to 4 vehicles can park. This is about 240 feet east of where Yankee Doodle Hollow Creek crosses the road.