Photo: Peek A Boo Slot Canyon BLM Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Utah

A hiker explores Peek a Boo slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Photograph by Howie Garber, Mira

By Kate Siber

The deep, tangled canyons of southern Utah are a remote and unforgiving country with the ever present danger of flash floods, extreme temperatures, lightning storms, and waist-high quicksand. In other words, perfect habitat for canyoneers, who know that the area’s unbroken wildness and otherworldly wind- and water-sculpted chasms are precisely what make it so appealing. Many canyons still remain unnamed, making true exploration a possibility.

A little know-how, however, can go a long way in mitigating the risks, which is why the American Canyoneering Association and outfitter Excursions of Escalante teamed up to offer three-day canyoneering courses. Students learn how to evaluate the weather, assess risks, tie basic knots, set up anchors, rappel up to 300 feet (91 meters), and squeeze through tight canyon walls. The classroom is arguably some of the best canyoneering territory in the country: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Some of the last lands to be mapped in the continental U.S., this high, remote desert is pocked with sinewy, red-sandstone canyons that twist and turn into Gaudí-like spaces.

Need to Know: A basic course is $500. Contact Excursions of Escalante for dates (

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