Pine Creek was one of the first canyons I experienced, and to this day it’s still a favorite. Almost every time we go to Zion, we end up doing Pine Creek. It’s relatively easy to get a permit for it, and is well traveled and well loved due to the low effort/high reward ratio.
The canyon is relatively short, with an experienced group able to make it through in just a few hours. My very favorite part of this canyon is the hike in – because there isn’t one!
From the parking spot, you drop off the road and under a bridge and you are immediately ready to tackle Pine Creek.
Pine Creek is an ever-changing canyon. One time the first pothole was not only full of water but also dead, rotting bats (one of the less glorious realities of canyoneering), and in the photo below you can see it’s perfectly dusty and dry. Like every canyon in Zion, the weather is absurdly important, and flash floods are a real danger.
Once you start hiking in to the canyon proper, you very quickly lose light and heat. The sun rarely reaches bottom, and the water is cold! This canyon was my sole inspiration to buy neoprene socks, because my inch thick wool socks left my feet freezing in the water. Again, water levels, weather, and the season you choose to make this trip make a huge difference.
Deep inside Pine Creek, you reach the Cathedral rappel, one of the most picturesque and beautiful spots I’ve seen. Named for the church-like vertical space and streams of sunlight that come soaking through in beams, it really is a treat.
Continuing through the canyon, the walls become both narrow and wide as if they are breathing of their own free will.
Finally the canyon opens up and spits you into the sunshine – which, seriously, feels like the BEST THING EVER. We always hang out here, eating some trail snacks and thawing out in the heat. There’s one more big drop, and then a long hike out from here.
The final rappel is about 100 feet and is mostly free hanging. The technical part of this is the drop in, which awkwardly makes you scoot sideways off the side of a ledge before the pull of the rope swings you out and underneath. It can be more than a little nerve wracking – but is worth every drop of adrenaline when you are hanging below, amazed at the view of both the canyon walls and Zion stretching out behind you.
Once you reach the bottom it’s a quad-burning rock-hopping trek out along the river, complete with massive boulders, pools to swim through, and typically, tons of tiny frogs. It ends in a massive swimming hole, accessible from the street and usually full of people. There’s rocks to jump off of for the more aerial minded, and is another good place to stay and relax.
From the swimming hole is a steep trail up the side of the bank, dumping you on the wild side of the wall to the street. Hop the wall, and be on your way.