The Grandstaff Canyon rappel in Moab, Utah is an amazing half day adventure full of legendary fun and nothing very strenuous. It’s all crime, no punishment as this one-way hike takes you to two epic 100 rappels, one of which is a free hanging rappel off of Morning Glory Arch!
Climbers and canyoneers will be able to zip through the canyon quickly with tons of fun while newbies can easily hire a guide to take them on this unforgettable adventure. Either way, adventurers of all levels will have a blast on the Moab bucket list experience.
Disclaimer: Rappelling the Grandstaff Canyon is a risky activity that requires experience with route-finding, anchor assessment, and rappelling.
The Grandstaff Canyon is a fairly non-strenuous adventure with big rewards. The part of the Granstaff Canyon that’s “hard” is the technical skills of rappelling and the logistics of shuttling. I terms of physical strenuousness, this adventure requires roughly 3 miles of hiking in total that is al slightly slightly downhill and flat.
Possibly. Rappelling the Grandstaff Canyon requires route finding and technical rappelling skills. Experienced rock climbers and canyoneers will have no trouble guiding themself on this adventure but without these skills, you will want to hire a guiding company to take you on this rappeling adventure.
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Difficulty of the Grandstaff Canyon Rappel
This is one of the easiest and most accessible canyoneering adventures in Moab, and all of Utah for that matter.
Considered a class 3A in the canyoneering grade system, the Grandstaff Canyon is completely doable for brand new canyoneers. The route-finding is very direct, it only takes 3-5 hours, and one 1 small water crossing is required.
With that said, even though this is “easy,” you DO need to have experience with rappelling or rock climbing to do this adventure on your own.
If you don’t have route-finding and rappelling skills, there are multiple different guiding companies that operate in this canyon. I’ve heard great things about Moab Adventure Center.
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Is it Kid Friendly?
Whether you take a guided or self-guided trip, this is a great adventure to take kids on as long as they’re not afraid of heights. We took my 11 and 14 year old siblings on this adventure
Yes totally! But it does depend on how afraid of heights they are. Some kids may freak out to rappel themselves or be lowered down by you or a guide. There’s no alternative backtrack so your kids will have no option but to descend. Also note that some guiding companies have a minimum age requirement.
For climbers who are familiar with multi-pitch belaying, note that it’s totally possible to just directly lower (via a belay) your kids down the rappels if you’re worried about them managing their own rappel. Consider setting some form of gear that the rope will actually be passing through (even if it’s just 2 locking biners) to avoid excess wear on the anchors.
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What Gear Do you Need
I had a lot of trouble researching what gear was need to do the 2 rappels.
The 1st rappel is 100’ long and the 2nd is 115’ long. A single 70m rope is long enough for both ends to reach the ground. You could also opt for 2-40m ropes.
Both strands of a 60m really don’t reach unless it’s an especially long 60m (which is very possible with climbing ropes).
You can single rope rappel with 1-60m but you will need a pull cord. Pro tip: If you have to ask with a single-rope rappel is, you probably shouldn’t do it.
It used to be very popular to do an iconic simul-rappel on the actual Morning Glory Arch itself by 2-50m ropes (rigged as a double-rope rappel) on either side of the arch. It’s less popular now & partially discouraged to rig a rope over the arch to prevent destruction of the delicate sandstone. You technically can simul-rappel off the main anchors and it’s still free hanging. Experienced climbers can consider learning this technique beforehand for an epic free-hanging descent with your best adventure buddy. Arguably this is more dangerous and stresses the anchors more with double the weight so take personal responsibility to decide if it’s worthwhile.
You will also need…
- Personal Anchor System (PAS)
- Rappel Device (ATC, Gri-gri, etc)
- Backup (prusik cord, locking biner, etc)
- Climbing Harness
- Climbing Helmet
- Hiking Shoes
- Backpack, Water & Snacks
Getting to the Trailhead
Getting to the trailhead for this rappelling adventure is very easy. Though it’s unsigned, the technical name for this trailhead is the Medieval Chamber Trailhead. It can be found on Google Maps by this name.
To get here, drive on 4th street (either north or south depending on which way you’re coming from) to ge two the junction of Mill Creek Drive. Head east on Mill Creek Drive. When this road forks with Sand Flats road, stay left on Sand Flats road following signs to Slickrock trailhead and other recreation.
After about 2 miles, you’ll reach the Sand Flats Entrance Station where you’ll have to pay $5 per vehicle to drive in.
From the Entrance Station, it’s 2.3 more miles to the trailhead. When you pass Echo Campground on your right, it’s .3 miles further to reach an unmarked dirt road on the left. Follow this road up to the cell tower. This is is where you’ll start hiking.
Hiking In: Medieval Chamber
From the Cell Tower parking lot, head downhill on the OHV road. Almost immediately, the OHV road veers right but if you look straight ahead, you’ll see a small sign with a map of the Grandstaff Canyon rappel route. This is the official Medieval Chamber trailhead.
Take note of the map, but unless you have GPS navigation of Google Satellite view, it doesn’t help. As you’ll see on the map, at one point it says to merge with the OHV road and that’s not actually true. The entire route down to the rappel station follow the wash that most directly heads downhill.
Stay Aware: Keep an eye out for unexpected surprises – maybe a hidden passageway or an artistic display. Embrace the unexpected!
As long as you’re heading downhill, it’s honestly hard to get lost, especially because it’s so highly trafficked with tons of footprints. Even if you take a wrong branch, more than likely you’ll re-emerge into the same main wash.
After about 20 minutes of hiking, you’ll intersect an OHV road that crosses right-left. Do NOT follow the OHV road and instead continue straight ahead, following the wash that narrows and heads subtly downhill. There should be plenty of footprints guiding the way.
The footprints/trail will veer down and left where there may be small pools of water that you can avoid by traveling across the rocks on the side.
30 minutes into your hike, you’ll merge into a fairly narrow canyon which you’ll stem down into slot canyon. Immediately after this, you’ll encounter an unavoidable pool of water that we were surprised to discover.
The pool is about knee-waist deep depending on the season and your height. We did it in October and it was about hip-deep for me who is 5’4” tall. Fortunately, the deepest part is only about 2 steps long then it’s shallow.
Leaving the water crossing, you’ll run right into the first rappel station.
In total, it took us just under 1 hour of hiking to reach the 1st rappel station.
1st Rappel: Medieval Chamber Slot Canyon
The 1st rappel doesn’t get as much attention, but it’s almost equally as epic. The rappel descends down into a narrow chute where orange and red hues of the canyon tower around you.
There are actually 2 different rappel stations to use. I suppose it could be so that large groups can descend faster. We used the rap station on the left.
Set up your rope for a 100′ rappel and descend down into the beautiful slot canyon. Keep in mind that there is usually a tiny pool of water at the base of this rappel. Your rope may get wet and take care to avoid getting yourself wet on the way down.
A mere 1 minute of walking following the obvious wash will bring you to the cliff edge where Morning Glory Arch stands. Here, you’ll see the bolted rappel anchors.
2nd Rappel: Morning Glory Arch
Now begins the grand adventure! Rig your rope on the bolted anchors for a 110′ rappel, making sure to double check the integrity of the anchors in the process.
It’s best to not toss your rope down since there are often crowds of hikers at the base. Instead just slowly lower both ends of your rope.
Once your rope is down, you’ll rappel down off of a sheer and eventually overhanding red cliff edge. On the opposing side of this cliff, you’ll rappel past the epic and looming Morning Glory Arch. This free hanging rappel feels legendary as you drop in between the striated red rocks. Be sure to take it slow and enjoy it, it’s over fast!
Here’s where can opt for the fun simul rappel!
Hiking Out: Grandstaff Canyon Trail
Once everyone has reached the bottom and you’ve safely retrieved your rope, you’ll hike out on the popular Grandstaff Canyon trail. The trail is mostly very obvious however, it does cross the river quite a few times and it’s not always easy to tell where the trail goes. If you run into a dead end, you’ll quickly notice a trail on the other side of the river.
Enjoy the pretty views of the canyon walls beside you as you hike this easy trail out for 2 miles.
If you have questions, let us know in the comments! We did this in 2022, so if you did this more recently than us, feel free to comment with added information.
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