Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

It was 6 am when friends began appearing with headlamps and big hugs for the most epic arch hike ever. In one day we descended two technical canyons, rappelled down a breathtaking 300 foot sheer wall, crossed some exposed slickrock, and even climbed a difficult chimney on belay. All to reach an arch.

Whew! For a day this long, we decided to meet in the cold, dark parking lot of the Zion National Park visitor’s center at 6 am. We drove to the Pine Creek parking area and as we stood in a circle chatting before the hike, Tom dumped a huge bag with a 300 foot rope in the center of us. We all backed away as if it were a rattlesnake. No one wanted to add the weight of it to their pack for what we knew would be a difficult and risky hike. I didn’t even have a pack that day since Brian offered to carry all our gear in his pack, so I hesitantly took the big, awkward rope bag and slung it over my shoulder. We turned on our headlamps and started down a sandy wash in the dark. The ground was littered with pretty red and yellow leaves and every now and then we would plunge into a puddle that was difficult to see in the dark.

Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

Soon we reached our turn off to a series of steep slickrock ledges and we began to climb straight up. The rope bag was bouncing all over the place each time I tried to make a move up the ledges. Thankfully Brian offered to take it for awhile as we climbed the slickrock. He lashed it to the outside of his already large pack. The light began to touch us and illuminate the orange and white mountains all around us as we slowly made our way toward our first technical canyon. We crested the summit of an orange slickrock hill surrounded by large pine trees casting tall, dark shadows.

Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

We put on helmets and started down the canyon. It was a skinny v-shaped slot with wavy stripes of white, gray and orange which hugged our bodies securely us as we slid and scraped down, butts wedged into the slot and elbows and knees splayed out against the rock sides for traction. This canyon was basically a long controlled fall between abrasive walls, and many pieces of clothing were shredded. What fun! After about an hour the slot ended with a 60 foot rappel into a pool of water at the bottom. The time was only 8 am, we were in the shade, and it was still very cold. We looked at the pool with dismay, but after Louis went down first and told us it could be avoided we cheered and went down the rappel with enthusiasm.

From there we still had several hours of travel to reach the arch. We followed a beautiful sandy wash with a flat, friendly floor. Big orange and white slickrock domes rose up on either side of the wash. Bright red, rust and yellow fall foliage surrounded us. Soon we were making our way up the side of Bridge Mountain. I could hear Everett say to Louis that there was some exposure coming up soon and I tried not to worry, but exposure in the Zion backcountry often means fancy moves on slickrock that could result in a long, dangerous fall should you make a mistake.

Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

We got to the part with exposure, and it required us to hike about 20 feet across a steep slickrock slope which had about a 75 foot fall beneath it. We made our way across carefully, trying not to look down. Then we arrived at the most difficult part of the hike – a rock climb in a crack with only a log wedged horizontally to help the climber get started from the ground. I put on my harness and thanks to Mike, almost all of us opted for a belay on the climb. There was no way I would have felt comfortable free climbing it. Portions of it were fairly vertical with a 30 foot drop straight down to a sharp, rocky floor. We all conquered the big climb and continued to some smaller climbs. We chose not to use a rope. Instead we pushed and pulled each other when it got difficult. Finally we saw the arch, perched high on the side of Bridge mountain.

Photo by Lori

Photo by Lori

After working so hard to get there, the first glimpse of the long, skinny arch was very exciting. We all approached it differently, some gazing up at it from the bottom, some venturing out on top of it for glamorous photos.

We left the arch feeling satisfied. Half of the group decided to hike back and the other half prepared for the second technical canyon of the day. We rappelled down the chimney climb, then descended a very steep canyon with five rapid rappels. The last rappel dropped us right near Lori’s truck. This canyon was rarely descended and all the rappels were covered in dirt and sand. They were fun rappels, with the second to last being the most memorable.

Photo by Lori

Photo by Lori

We rounded a corner and right in front of us the floor just dropped out from beneath us. In front of us was a 300 foot drop all the way down a sheer rock face to the road. We all caught our breath and approached the first stage of the rappel. The first stage was a 30 foot rappel to a ledge which was only one foot wide and a bit to the side of the fall line of the rope. Once clinging to the one foot ledge, we hooked up to some beefy bolts for a big 300 foot rappel.

As soon as I started the 30 foot rappel to the narrow ledge, the world dropped out from beneath me and there was only 330 feet of air. I aimed for the one foot wide ledge and Louis grabbed my harness to pull me onto it. We probably should have tied a knot in the end of the rope for that first 30 foot rappel, we realized afterward. A mistake on that little rappel would have been fatal.

We carried two 300 foot ropes so we could set up a simultaneous rappel for the 300 foot drop to the floor of the canyon. Louis and I both got on rappel and sat on the ledge together, ready to descend. He slid over the edge and I followed close behind, until we were both perched right below the edge on our ropes, legs dangling with 300 feet of air beneath us.

Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

What fun to share such an exhilarating experience with a friend, side by side. I’ve never done a simultaneous rappel before and I highly recommend it. It’s especially great during a big, airy, exciting rappel because instead of talking myself through it to stay calm, I had a friend right there to chat with and point out every ledge, every overhang, every change of friction. We rappelled side by side as much as possible due to the danger of rockfall should one person get ahead of the other, so there was constant negotiation.

“You’re in my space, can you move over a little?”

“You’re going faster than I am, I have a lot of friction here.”

“I just jumped down this ledge, I’m going to wait for you to do the same before continuing.”

Photo by Everett

Photo by Everett

It was a wonderful 10 minutes on rope and at the end we were happy to finally have our feet on solid ground again. Once Brian and Lori made it down, a 30 minute photo shoot followed as we celebrated our big rappel. Lori’s little friend named Elephant even made it into the shot. He accompanies Lori on all her best adventures. We then continued down the rest of the way and enjoyed a nice dinner all together in Springdale. The highlight was ordering two huge desserts and sending them all around the table for everyone to nibble until they finally disappeared.


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

2 Responses to The Most Epic Arch Hike Ever – Crawford Arch

  1. Great trip report Lisa! It was sure fun being the other half of the simulrep. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have always wanted to do that hike to the arch…..I never knew you could keep going as opposed to turning around and come back to the Pine Creek lot. Definatley on my “to do” list.

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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