Granary Canyon


Granary Canyon is outside of Moab, which is good, because people go to Moab all the time, so it’s important to find things to actually do there, besides what everyone else is doing.  So we mix it up:  we left Boulder early Friday morning, did a good run that same day (see previous post), and rolled into Moab in time to hose ourselves down before dinner.  Our clever plan is to then rest the legs with a canyoneering adventure on Saturday, before concluding with a strong run on Sunday (see next post), and arriving back in Boulder after a full weekend around 10 pm.  Sound good?

Good.  Granary Canyon is good.  Easy access, a few big raps, some interesting scrambles, but mostly fun in the sun, with great views, and no potholes to swim: perfect for a cool late winter/early spring day.

We are dropped off on top of Island in the Sky in Dead Horse State Park.  As we amble cross-country, I am struck by how happy I am just doing that.  The desert is good; haven’t even seen the canyon yet, and already I’m really happy.

With Peter reading the GPS, we soon are at the first rap.  Without the GPS, it wouldn’t be “soon” at all – the mini-boom in canyoneering coincided with the popularity GPS’s, so all canyon routes are located with coordinates, which is really helpful, as the basic topography of the Colorado Plateau is extremely complicated and irregular; being off by only 100M can mean you’re hosed.

We easily DC’d the first rap, then set up the second; there would be five total.  That’s the other wonderful development in technical canyoneering – there is a route description.  This tells you how far the rappel is, which tells you how much rope to bring, which keeps you from either sliding off the end into oblivion, or carrying slightly more gear than absolutely required … I’m not sure which is worst.

That rappel is called “The Onion”, although some could imagine it looks a lot like something else.

We continued to amble on down; the third cool thing about canyoneering, is once you’re in, you can’t get lost.  Your route is the same as the waters’ route.

Granary Canyon was mostly quite moderate, except for a few short but surprisingly tricky spots; one required a butt slide of about 20′, the other a full-on jump of about 12′, and the last a delicate traverse, which wouldn’t have been so delicate, except it was right above a freezing cold pool of manky water over your head.

This sport is most closely related to climbing, but they are utterly opposite siblings in many ways:  canyoneering is athletically very easy, just requiring technical knowledge of rope handling, while climbing is one of the most challenging sports in existence.  Good climbers have a certain elegance to their movements while canyoneers … well, don’t.  Doing a controlled slide on your butt for 20′ is actually considered fine technique, but elegant it’s not.  Nor are shoulderstands with your partner, tossing your pack over the lip of a pothole and climbing up a rope attached to it, or many of the other little-boys-playing-in-the-sandbox canyoneering techniques.  The upside, is that this sport clearly has the highest fun to effort ratio of any.  No kidding.  Next time you try running a Marathon you’ll strongly agree with me at about Mile 20.

The canyon ends at a 500′ vertical cliff.  Utterly spectacular, and typical of the Moab area; the Wingate here is so incredibly continuous.

So out came the GPS, and instead of meandering amongst the endless slickrock gullys and outcrops, that trend in no rational direction or order, we followed a little arrow on an electronic screen, taking us to the one precise spot at the top of miles of Wingate cliff, where one could get down without having to do a 500′ rappel, which would require more rope than we wanted to lug around.  This spot already had nylon webbing tied around a tree, and because someone had been here before us, and somehow figured all this out, and then went to the trouble of writing it all down, we knew that our pair of 200′ ropes would get us to the ground with exactly 5′ to spare.

Which it did.  I continually thank the people who came before me, and don’t even mind they carved their initials into the rock at the bottom of the rappel, because they enabled me to casually saunter thru this amazing landscape, and safely exit the canyon system, in a little over 4 hours time.

The route description said “6-7 hours”, so we had told our lady friends to pick us up after 5 hours, so got a chance to watch the cars go by before the drive back into town, before the hot tub, before the over-priced cheapo margarita’s, and before the lovely walk after dark in a light rain up Mill Creek.

Photo Gallery HERE.

Tags: ,

8 Responses to “Granary Canyon”

  1. Says:

    Buzz, Sounds like a blast! I’m jealous, for a moment until I notice I am in New Orleans, listening to jazz and enjoying shrimp creole, cold beer and a good cigar….life is good. Come do Granite Peak sometime!
    -Chris Bakwin

  2. Interval training Says:

    Amazing Canyon!

  3. Спортни стоки Says:

    Wow! What an amazing place!

  4. mortondesignworks Says:

    Great adventure and some awesome pictures!

  5. Neil D. Johnson Says:

    Where did you get the beta information on this canyon? I’m looking for a little bit more info to use on an upcoming trip. I am using the beta from AJRoadtrips, but it seems to be a little incomplete. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Buzz Says:

    Neil: One might observe that a good place for beta is this blog!

    One might also go here:

  7. Neil D. Johnson Says:

    Fair enough.. My real question i guess is where you got gps waypoints. Last I checked Tom doesn’t have Granary on his site. There are a few with descriptions, but I am mostly looking for gps waypoints. But thank you!

  8. Tom Jones Says:

    A good source for beta is AJ Roadtrips by Ryan Cornia. Here’s a link:;jsessionid=ax4dmg4qm7i7umtmjab3xc4g

    but maybe better to start with
    Thanks for the plug, Buzz.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: