10 of the Best Canyoneering Destinations All Over the World
"Canyoning" to the rest of the world, known as "canyoneering" in the United States, is a sport that combines the adventure of rock climbing and bouldering with hiking and orienteering, as well as rappelling, cliff jumping and some very difficult swims. If a simple hike through nature doesn’t offer enough of a rush to satisfy your need for adrenaline and danger, then canyoning just might be for you. It’s like a long power walk with obstacles, falls, ropes, rocks and a heck of a lot of fun.
You can find quite a few spectacular canyoneering spots in North America, as well as some wonderful locations abroad. Here are some of the most stunning—and challenging—canyons Mother Nature has to dish up.
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
If you want to get your feet wet, literally, in the world of canyoning, there’s no better place to start than around the Arenal Volcano area in Costa Rica. You’ll get to rappel down rock faces and over waterfalls, plus hike through some amazingly lush rainforest. This type of trekking might sound like a challenge, but it's actually pretty child-friendly. Expert guides, there to make sure you are safe and have a wonderful time, staff most of the outfitters operating in the region.
Agawa Canyon, Canada
If you head on up to Ottawa, Canada, you can experience the adventure of trekking through Agawa Canyon. For people who aren’t hardcore outdoors enthusiasts, they can take a ride on the Agawa Canyon Train and enjoy the splendors of nature from the comfort of their seats, rather than careening down the canyon itself. If you really want to see the canyon and the surrounding forest up close, you’ll have to take the train, since this is a protected wilderness with almost no car access.
Zion National Park, Utah
Jumping from rock to rock like a billy goat, sloshing through shallow streams surrounded by gorgeous canyon walls, some of the most beautiful scenery in North America, plus rock climbing and rappelling down into steep gorges—these are some of the amazing things you can do while canyoneering at Zion National Park in the great state of Utah. Zion is truly a gorgeous, yet haunting park. The best way to take it all in is with off-trail hikes and a bit of canyoneering.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon is sandstone gorge cut into the earth that contains some of the most evocative and eerie-looking rock formations you could ever hope to hike along. When light pours into this slot canyon, you could be forgiven for thinking you were walking inside a medieval cathedral—it’s just that beautiful. The canyon is divided into upper and lower sections. You should travel through both with a guide to make the most of the experience.
Blue Mountains, Australia
A trip Down Under will let you take full advantage of Australia’s Blue Mountains. There’s lots of action going on here for intrepid canyoneers. Spelunking, rafting, climbing, hiking, biking, rock climbing and rappelling are just some of the ways you can get around this very green, canyon-filled paradise. There are packages available for newcomers to canyoning, as well as other options for the more rugged nature explorers in your group. Just make sure you bring some waterproof clothing, because with all the waterfalls around, you’re sure to get wet.
Verdon Gorge, France
If you’d like to do a bit of canyoning, you can’t go wrong with the stunning Verdon Gorge in France. You’ll be able to slip, slide and rappel your way through this long, deep gorge in the southeast of the country. It’s widely considered one of the most beautiful canyons on the planet. You’ll also do lots of jumping into clear pools of water and across rocks, all the while surrounded by green countryside. There are a wide variety of routes through the Verdon Gorge, which you can select according to your skill level.
Suze Valley, Italy
Would you like to spend the day exploring a gorgeous alpine canyon in Italy? If so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the Suze Valley (Val di Susa) in Northern Italy. You’ll be able to poke around Foresto and Sesser canyons, get wet, slide down chutes and waterfalls, and then end your day somewhere warm, topped off by a great Italian meal. Comfort foods, like pizza and pasta, are always good after a hard day of hiking.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
The Copper Canyon is a breathtakingly spectacular destination in Mexico’s southwest. The area is actually comprised of many canyons that intertwine and come together at various points. There are six main canyons in the region for you to trek through, away from any signs of civilization. If you want a pristine, very austere, natural destination, Copper Canyon offers up a true canyoning paradise. It’s a big canyon area, so be prepared to be out for several days.
Sierra de Guara, Spain
Canyoneering in the Sierra de Guara, in the mountainous region of northeastern Spain, can be a sublime experience. It’s an extremely rugged area ripe with trekking, mountain-biking and canyoneering possibilities. Limestone rocks, sheer gorges and towering mountings will serve as your guide (unless you actually hire a guide) as you run, roll, tumble and jump your way through this natural reserve. The scenery here is large and breathtaking, while the adventures you’ll be partaking in are second to none.
Cape Town, South Africa
In South Africa, canyoneering goes by a different name—the locals call it “kloofing.” Near Cape Town, you’ll find some wonderful spots to go kloofing. One of the best is Nuy River Gorge. You can enjoy all of the action of rock hopping, rappelling and river swimming here, and still head back to Cape Town in time for a fancy dinner, since the gorge is only a few hours' drive away from the major metropolitan center. There are plenty of outfitters all over South Africa who will be more than happy to kit you up and guide you out into the wild. If you really want to test yourself, you can always try Suicide Gorge as well. The name says it all.