Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park

Orderville Gulch
Zion National Park

          Orderville Gulch is one of my favorites in Zion National Park. The canyon has as much charm as its big brother, the Zion Narrows, with probably a little more spice. The canyon is certainly narrower than the famous Narrows.

          Orderville Gulch offers dramatic scenery, majestic narrows, wading, short swims and a few scrambling problems to keep you on your toes. The bonus is you can complete the canyon in time to make happy hour at the local pub and dazzle the tourists with your tales of adventure.

General Information:
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          Orderville Gulch is a canyoneering adventure requiring complete technical gear. Orderville Gulch is rated 3B III using the Canyon Rating System. Every group should have at least one experienced canyoneer or rock climber along to help defeat a few minor obstacles. This route is suitable for novice canyoneers with competent leadership. This route will require 7 to 8 hours to complete.

          This route contains at least two short rappels of 20-feet or less and requires a 50-foot rope. Orderville Gulch requires several miles of wading combined with a couple of possible short swims. A drybag for your gear is also suggested. The swimming is never further than 10 to 15 feet. The water is cold and a hot day is suggested. Everyone will want to carry a warm, dry fleece to put on if they become chilled or at the canyon end so toss one into your drybag. During periods of cool weather a wetsuit might be a good idea.

          The difficulties in Orderville Gulch can change greatly between flash floods. Sometimes there is no swimming and other times there is a bunch. Sometimes the wading is minor and other times its extensive. Sometimes the rappels can be downclimbed and sometimes they can't.

          Temple of Sinawava and Clear Creek Mountain are the USGS 7.5 minute topographical map that show Orderville Gulch. Navigation for this adventure is easy, but there is no real trail after the first couple of miles. All waypoints and maps for this route use the WGS84 datum. You will be walking and wading in a canyon bottom.

           You will need a Zion backcountry permit for this canyon. Orderville Gulch has a high flash flood danger, check the weather report at the Visitor Center when you pick up your permit.

Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park

Shuttle Information:
          A vehicle shuttle is required for this adventure and cleaning up the shuttle at the end of the day can be tedious. Cleaning up the shuttle normally requires at least two hours on a good day. Several local companies offer commercial shuttles for a very reasonable price. If you value your time I suggest you at least check out the different options.

Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park

Trailhead Information:
          From the East Entrance of Zion National Park, drive east 2.4 miles on highway 9. Turn north (left) at the signed "North Fork" junction (N37 14' 21", W112 49' 57"). Drive 11.5 miles (The first 5.5 miles of road are paved) and turn west (left) on a dirt road signed Orderville Gulch (N37 20' 13", W112 49' 49"). Take the dirt road west for 0.3 miles to a large corral and a small parking lot. This is the Orderville Gulch Trailhead and it is accessible to passenger vehicles in dry weather conditions.

          Four-wheel drive vehicles can continue an additional 2 1/4 miles down the steep and rough dirt road. Just remember you must retrieve your vehicle at the end of the day. Time wise it is normally faster to hike down the steep dirt road than mess with the four-wheel drive shuttle.

Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park

Route Information:
            From the Orderville Gulch Trailhead (N37 20' 07", W112 49' 59") follow the Four-wheel drive road west for 2 1/4 miles, down a steep grade, and along the canyon bottom to where the road ends. This is the optional four-wheel drive trailhead (N37 19' 57", W112 51' 47").

          From the four-wheel drive trailhead just continue hiking down the canyon bottom following the trail of least resistance. After hiking 3/4 miles you will encounter a 125-foot dryfall (N37 19' 33", W112 52' 10"). There are several routes around the dryfall, but the easiest is to backtrack about 150 feet and locate a hiker made trail on the south (left) side of the canyon. The hiker made trail descends a steep dirt slope to the canyon bottom.

          From where the hiker trail reaches the canyon bottom hike downstream 150-yards and a drainage known as Wild Wind Hollow (N37 19' 28", W112 52' 14") enters from the south (left). From Wild Wind Hollow hike downstream 1/2 mile and the technical canyoneering route known as Birch Hollow (N37 19' 24", W112 52' 33") enters from the south.

          Continue hiking downstream 3/4 mile and Walker Gulch (N37 19' 28", W112 53' 08") enters from the north (right). Continue hiking downstream 3/4 mile and  Esplin Gulch (N37 19' 07", W112 53' 47") enters from the north (right). 1/2 mile below Esplin Gulch and you will encounter the first major obstacle on the route. The obstacle consists of a large chokestone with a 15-foot drop on the downstream side. The rappel anchor consists of two bolts on the north (right) wall of the canyon. Do not jump down from this or any obstacle. Jumping is the number one cause of search and rescues in Orderville Gulch.

          300-yards below the large chokestone the technical canyoneering route known as Englestead Hollow (N37 18' 52", W112 54' 22") enters from the south (left).

          Continue hiking downstream for 1 3/4 miles and Bullock Gulch (N37 18' 43", W112 55' 43") enters from the north (right). Bullock Gulch is where you will always encounter water that will require wading for the remainder of the route. Bulloch Gulch is also where the best section of Orderville Gulch begins. This section is known among canyoneers as the Orderville Water Park.

          Just downstream from Bullock Gulch the canyon offers some dramatic narrows. You will encounter a large logjam in the narrows that you must climb over. Hand and foot holds are plentiful if you look around and take your time. One mile below Bullock Gulch a second large chokestone with a 12-foot drop on the downstream side presents itself. The rappel anchor consists of two bolts on the south (left) canyon wall.

          The further down canyon you travel the more water the stream gathers from the canyon seeps. Everything just keeps getting more exciting around every corner. The remainder of the route is made up of short swims, small waterfalls, easy scrambles and plenty of fun. Did I forget to mention that the narrows just keep getting better around every bend?

          3/4 miles below the second large chokestone you will encounter the dramatic confluence of Orderville Gulch and the Zion Narrows (N37 18' 28", W112 56' 48"), which enter from the north (right). The confluence is very dramatic. At the confluence with the Zion Narrows just keep hiking downstream. You should meet dozens of tourists for the remainder of the route who have hiked up canyon.

          After hiking down the Narrows for 1 1/4 miles you will encounter an attention-grabbing 115-foot waterfall on the east (left) canyon wall. This is Mystery Falls (N37 17' 57", W112 56' 40") and is also the exit of the popular technical canyoneering route known as Mystery Canyon .

          From Mystery Falls it is a 1/2 mile hike downstream to where the paved tourist trail begins (N37 17' 37", W112 56' 50"). When you encounter the paved tourist trail just follow it downstream for an additional 1/2 mile to the Temple of the Sinawava (N37 17' 07", W112 56' 52") and the shuttle bus.

Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park Orderville Gulch in Zion National Park

          Anyone considering canyoneering Orderville Gulch for the first time should watch the video to get an idea of what you are in for. If you are an Orderville Gulch veteran just sit back and enjoy the show.


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