Canyoneering Guide - Alpine Activity

Canyoneering in 2022: Ratings, Guides, and Safety

Imagine yourself on a Canyoneering tour, the fresh air is whipping your hair around as you take in the amazing natural beauty of the canyon. Canyoneering has become one of America’s fastest-growing outdoor activities because it combines so many aspects of adventurous fun with an intimate connection to nature that just cannot be found elsewhere.

What is Canyoneering

Canyoneering is an adventure sport that covers everything from hiking and scrambling through canyons, rappelling down waterfalls, swimming through pools, and jumping off cliffs into deep blue pools below. It is primarily done as a recreational activity, but can also be used as a way to access difficult-to-reach areas for mountain biking, hunting, or fishing.

Canyoneering is a relatively new term, having been coined in the 1970s by mountaineers who were looking for a more exciting way to descend from mountains after climbing them.

Canyoneering is a great way to get out and explore the natural world while also getting some adrenaline-pumping excitement!

What is the Difference between Canyoneering and Canyoning?

Canyoning and Canyoneering are the same things and can be used interchangeably.

The Different Types of Canyons

There are various kinds of canyons and these variations need to be taken into consideration when Canyoneering. Canyons are broken into three main categories:

  1. Freestyle canyons require no equipment, but rather climbing skills to ascend and descend through the canyon; these types of Canyons might have water obstacles that cannot be easily navigated without prior knowledge or experience.
  2. Sport Canyons may feature climbing obstacles, but Canyoneers do not need to use ropes or harnesses; these Canyons are often fairly narrow and can require some squeezing through small openings.
  3. Technical Canyons may feature rock climbing skills that you must be familiar with to complete the tour successfully.

Why do people enjoy Canyoneering?

There are countless reasons why folks enjoy canyoneering some of these reasons include :

  • Canyoneering is a great way to get out and explore the natural world while also getting some adrenaline-pumping excitement!
  • Canyons offer a variety of challenges, something for everyone no matter their experience level.
  • Canyoning offers an intimate connection with nature that just cannot be found elsewhere.

Canyoneering Ratings and how They Work

Canyons are described in easy-to-understand language Ratings. They provide a simple way to describe what someone is getting into if they are an adventure seeker. Canyons are always changing, so the description is helpful for people who want to know more before they go exploring.

In this blog, we are using the ACA Canyon Rating System.

Technical Class Rating in Canyoneering

This canyoneering rating will help you understand what Canyoneering is like. Canyons can range from very simple to technically difficult/extreme and this rating will give an idea of the level of difficulty that a canyon involves.

Class 1

Class I Canyons are easy and do not require any special skills or equipment. There may be wading through ankle-high pools of water, and casual hiking. You can bring a day pack on these adventures this includes all the things you would like to have with you for exploring.

Class 2

Straightforward climbing or easy scrambling with little risk involved, though there may be loose rocks and some exposure. A rope will come in handy for beginners to ease passage or for hanging packs or to use as handling, Belays, or for emergency exits.

Class 3

Intermediate Canyoneering. Class III canyons need ropes and rappelling to successfully navigate the canyon. The rope for the first rappel is pulled, leaving simply one location to descend: down the canyon, and going back up the canyon would entail fixing rope.

Class 4

  • Advanced Canyoneering: These canyons will often require multiple rappels, and sometimes even a Tyrolean traverse. Canyoneers should be proficient in rope handling and have good anchoring skills.
  • Extreme Canyoneering: Only for the most experienced Canyoneers! A Class 4 canyon will often involve swimming, diving, or some other form of wet Canyoneering. The canyon is so difficult that the Canyoneers will usually have to climb out on ropes or be rescued by helicopter.

Water Rating

This uses alphabets to indicate ratings and consists of information about how Canyoneering is done in the water, and the complications still or flowing water can cause under normal conditions.

Water rating is always interlinked with the Technical rating. Here is the rating system below

A: Normally dry or very little water. Dry falls. Water, if present, can be avoided and/or is very shallow. Shoes may get wet, but no wetsuit or drysuit is required.

B: Normally has water with no current or very light current. Still pools. Falls normally dry or run at a trickle. Expect to do some deep wading and/or swimming. A wetsuit or drysuit may be required depending on water and air temperatures

C: Normally has water with current. Waterfalls are to be expected. Expect to do some deep wading and/or swimming in the currents. A wetsuit or drysuit may be required depending on water and air temperatures.

Class C canyons

These may be rated more precisely using the following system:

C1 – Normally has water with light to moderate current. Easy water hazards.

C2 – Normally has water with a strong current.

C3 – There is water with a very strong current. Threats of submerged obstacles. Experts only.

C4 – Even experienced professionals with excellent swimming abilities will find it difficult to overcome severe difficulties and hazards.

Seriousness/Risk Rating

There’s always a danger in canyoneering. so this rating system classifies the danger and how much risk is associated with the canyoneering activity.

  • G – General Audience
  • PG – Parental Guidance recommended
  • R – Restricted should not be attempted by anyone without proper training and experience.
  • X – Multiple risk factors exist that will complicate the descent. Errors in technique or judgment will likely result in serious injury
  • XX – Extremely dangerous and only for very experienced and highly skilled climbers who have extensive prior knowledge, skills, and equipment required to do so safely. Life-threatening.

What are SLOT Ratings in Canyoneering?

SLOT ratings are a standardized system of rating the technical difficulty and risk encountered in canyons. A “slot” is typically a narrow canyon with high vertical, Slickrock walls with few, if any escape options.

Slots are rated on a scale of I-VI starting at “I” for the easiest rating to “VI” being the most difficult rating that is beyond all but expert canyoneers ability.

SLOT Ratings are a way to rate the difficulty of canyoneering routes. The ratings are:

  • S – for beginner
  • L – for intermediate
  • O – for advanced
  • T – for expert

The higher the number, the more difficult the route is. Remember that these ratings are just a general guide.

Grade: Required time and seriousness

This grade rating is a measure of how much time and effort you will need for successful completion. Grading is done by examining factors such as exposure, length of hikes to reach the descent point, climbing ability required (downclimbing), potential challenges like swimming or wading waterways that may be present in canyons with water rating. Rating is in Roman figures

Half Day

  • I – Requires a couple of hours.
  • II – Requires at least half a day.

Full Day

  • III – Requires most of the day.
  • IV – Requires at least a full day, be sure to make an early start. Bring a headlamp and plan for a bivy.

Multiple Days

  • V – Requires at least a day and a half on average.
  • VI – Anticipated to take multiple days.

NOTE: Time estimates are for groups of 6 or fewer people. Larger groups will require more time, as well as less experienced teams.

How do I Interpret Canyon Ratings?

For a beginner learning to interpret canyon ratings before climbing can take a little while, but it’s a skill that will serve you well.

here are some examples of canyon ratings:

  • S4-A XX-III: Class 4 slot canyon with very difficult and exposed climbing/stemming problems. Normally dry. Life-threatening even for expert climbers. Will require most of a day for an average group. Skillful climbers only.
  • 3-B PG IV: Class 3 terrain. Water with zero or very little current. Slightly more than normal risk. It will require a long day for an average group.

Safety Tips and Tricks

Here are so safety tips and hazards to watch out for during canyoneering :

  • Don’t do it if you are not comfortable with the level of difficulty.
  • Watch for slippery surfaces in canyons, especially around water sources.
  • If anyone in your group is uncomfortable or afraid, turn back immediately!
  • If you are injured, stay calm and seek help.
  • Do not leave your fellow climbers behind to seek assistance. If someone is missing, wait for them at the bottom of the canyon before continuing with your hike out!

Everything You Need for a Successful Trip in One Bag

While preparing to go canyoneering there are a couple of things you shouldn’t forget.

  • The first is your bag. A backpack is a must-have. You cannot do canyoneering without one! It makes it easier to walk into the canyon. You’re going to want something sturdy that can handle being tossed around and also keep all of your gear dry, especially one that isn’t too big or too small and has a lot of compartments.
  • Another important thing to carry along is a water bottle. It is important to stay hydrated, especially on a hot day.
  • You will also want to bring sunscreen and a hat. The sun can be very intense in the canyon, and you do not want to get a bad sunburn.
  • Bug spray is another essential item – there are lots of mosquitoes and other bugs.
  • Another crucial thing to not forget to bring is your map. Make sure to check the trail ahead of time to make sure you know where it leads, and how long it will take.
  • You should also wear comfortable clothes that are easy for walking in – sneakers or hiking boots work well unless there’s water involved! You don’t want wet feet after all of this preparation.
  • Equipment. Make sure you have everything ready to go before leaving, you will want your harness, which should fit properly and securely, and make sure to bring all the necessary ropes too. You also need at least two different types of rappelling gear, so double-check.
  • Also, remember to pack light to save time and energy, and don’t forget your camera!


Canyoneering can be a dangerous sport if you’re not aware of the hazards involved. Some of the hazards include:

  • Flash flooding
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothermia
  • Getting lost
  • Falling and getting injured

Make sure you are aware of these dangers before embarking on your next canyoneering adventure.

How to Prepare Your Body and Mind for an Adventure of this Magnitude

The adventure is also a race against time. you need to make sure your body is ready for the challenge, and that you’re mentally prepared not just physically!

Okay. I’m interested… but Canyoneering Sounds Extreme

You can do it for fun and it makes for good exercise. Make sure that you research the area that you are going to visit, and be sure to avoid doing anything beyond your skill level or experience, as that can then make canyoneering very “Extreme” and dangerous.

It is advised that as a beginner in climbing, you start from a Class-1 canyon and gradually build experience and work your way up, till you become an absolute professional.

But I’m not an outdoorsy person… can I still try canyoneering?

Yes! Canyoneering is not only for the avid outdoor enthusiast. It can be a challenging and rewarding activity, but it does require some physical fitness to participate in certain parts of this adventure.

How do I Prepare for a Day in a Canyon?

Canyoneering is an activity that most people do not need to be in top shape for. For the majority of canyons, there are no special equipment requirements either; you just have to dress with some extra attention paid to what you wear and carry at all times.

You can find a small hill close by and go laps up and down it with a bag pack to get your lungs ready for the hike, but Canyoneering is not like most other outdoor activities where you would need to prepare by doing some sort of physical training.

Also remember to pick out comfortable and durable footwear and constant hydration is of the uttermost importance.

Please paint a picture of a day in the life of canyon?

Imagine a day spent Canyoneering. The sun is shining and the sky is blue as you strap on your gear and head out for an adventure. You’ll hike down into a narrow canyon, scramble over boulders, balance across ledges, and wade through streams as you make your way through this beautiful landscape. Every step is an invitation to take the next, as you explore this new and exciting world. Canyoneering is an adventure like no other, and it’s a perfect way to spend a day in nature.

If you’re looking for an adventure that will take your breath away, Canyoneering is a perfect choice.


There are many great canyoning destinations all over the world. Some of the most popular include North America, Switzerland, Norway, and New Zealand. Each destination offers its unique challenges and scenery.

No matter where you go, canyoneering is a thrilling adventure that will leave you wanting more. The combination of hiking, swimming and rappelling can be a bit dangerous, but the risks are minimized by following safety guidelines and getting the proper equipment.


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