Cassidy Arch Canyoneering in Capitol Reef

In mid-October we decided to take Kenon’s entire family rappelling in Capitol Reef National Park. Canyoneering in Capitol Reef is one of the best ways to experience the park because you get to visit the heart of the park. We chose the Cassidy Arch Canyoneer, which is a series of eight rappels ranging in height from 24 feet to 132 feet.

Rating: 3a

Time: 4 – 6 hours 

Rappel Lengths: 24 to 132 feet (7 – 40 m)

Flash Flood: Low to Moderate unless it is raining directly overhead

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Have you ever wanted to try canyoneering but were not sure if you could do it? The Cassidy Arch series is a great way to start. Half of our group (including Kenon and myself) go rappelling frequently and know all of the ins, outs, and safety precautions. The other half of our group had never been in a harness before. Two of our group members were over 50 years old. Really, this rappel is for anyone! 

Caveat on that – we had three very well-trained and practiced people in our group that could lead, check for safety, and help the others. Anyone can do this rappel AS LONG AS there are experienced people in the group willing and able to guide. The heights are steep, though, so make sure everyone can handle that. Once you go in you have to finish all of the rappels in order to get out. 

The trail starts at the the same parking lot as the Cassidy Arch Trail. The last part of the road leading to this parking lot is impassable and dangerous when it rains. Please keep a close eye on the weather before deciding to embark on this adventure. 

The trail starts with 1.5 miles and 670 feet elevation gain of hiking. It ends at Cassidy Arch and this is where the rappelling begins! To get an an in depth guide to each rappel can be found here. 

The first rappel is 132 feet, starting things off with a bang. It is fun to stand on top of Cassidy Arch and watch each member of the group rappel down into the steep canyon.

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The second rappel is the same length but arguably easier. You are essentially walking backwards down a steep slope then dropping off for a few feet at the bottom. The hardest part is getting everyone on rappel. Since I was the one in charge of checking for safety I had to awkwardly hook myself to an anchor and everyone had to maneuver around me while trying not to slip and fall. 

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The third and fourth rappel can easily be combined into one rappel. They are each 23 ft with a short platform in between. 

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The fifth rappel caused a lot of hilarity in our group. The rappeller has to shimmy through a narrow slot and then either climb over the slot onto a platform or continue shimmying through to begin descending. Choosing to go over can cause physics to work against you, bringing the rope too far from the anchor point, and causing you to swing into the rock. Shimmying through is a very tight squeeze! Kenon and our friend Amanda both choose to take the over route and banged into the rock. Kenon’s brother Atley tried shimmying through and caused a lot of hysterical laughter as he took minutes and minutes to get his manly hips and shoulders through the slot. 

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The sixth rappel was a favorite for many in our group. It has a slick start that caused a lot of us to fall the first couple of feet but after that it is amazing! There is a big, natural bridge that you descend next to. There is also an overhang halfway down. For most of the rappel you are just dangling in space, checking out all the amazing sights around you. If you push off the overhang at the right moment, you can even turn the rappel into a rope swing. No one from our group could get the push-off quite right.  

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The seventh rappel is my personal favorite. To get from the sixth to the seventh there is a short via feratta that everyone must clip into. You then hook into the rappel while still connected to the via feratta. You walk down a steep cliff then push off of a large overhang and dangle for the remainder of the rappel.  

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The eighth rappel also has a rough start through a bit of a slippery, tight squeeze but then gets easy. Once off the eighth rappel it is an easy, about 30 minute hike back to the parking lot. 

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We had so much fun taking everyone through this series of rappels. Every twist and turn of the canyon is filled with stunning views. It is a great way to get away from the regular at Capitol Reef. 

Check back later this month for an in-depth guide on canyoneering gear and beginner essentials. 

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