Etiquette for slot canyons?

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion Etiquette for slot canyons?

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  • #3701769
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    This is not specifically a backpacking question, but I wasn’t sure where else to post.
    My partner and I are new to hiking slot canyons (easy ones, as she has some joint issues) and I’m wondering if there are any unwritten rules or etiquette to dealing with people, kids, dogs, etc in slot canyons, not just due to Covid, but in general. I’m hoping there are a few canyoneers on BPL who might chime in. Thanks!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Watch for flash floods.  I’ve seen stories of people being trapped

    (Not what you were asking)

    Jon Fong
    BPL Member


    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    Bring a Swag Bag

    Standing water can be really cold

    FIltering water can be a chore, don’t count on a Saweyer alone

    Have fun!

    DWR D
    BPL Member


    Seems every year some people die in slot canyons… even locals who should know better. Watch the weather forecasts closely. Any hint of rain, do not go into a slot canyon… It can rain 10 miles away and flood your canyon. You can’t out run it and, unless you are very lucky, there will be no way to get high enough to be above the water. Especially during monsoon season: late June thru September

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Would etiquette be different than anywhere else? Say hi, keep some distance, share useful info, pack out what you pack in. If someone is peeing, turn away and give them a sec to finish. Do you have specific concerns related to this environment and etiquette?

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    I think the OP was concerned about long very narrow stretches where, like passing someone on a balance beam, you can be quite intimate as you pass.  I’ve not had the opportunity to do any of the canyons, but I’ve seen lots of photos.  I can only imagine that, in spaces too narrow for two people to pass one another, the person with the least amount of backtracking would defer to the other and back up so that they could exit the slot.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    Apologies for not being clearer with my initial question folks. Kevin is correct. There are slot canyons where you’re literally rubbing your shoulders or belly against the walls in tight passages. Things that wouldn’t be an issue on hiking trails seem like they could become real issues in a slot canyon. Eg: potty breaks (both human and dog), passing or being passed, dealing with folks coming the other way, people with claustrophobia, etc. Those were the type of things I was hoping to get more info on. And of course, Covid just adds another complicating factor. Anyway, thanks for the responses so far.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I’ve only canyoneered in larger ones or when we were the only party, but I can see parallels to caving.

    If there’s an obvious harder direction, you let people coming that way go first.

    Let people know, “There are 2 more in our party behind us” or “We passed a couple that was struggling a bit 1/4 mile back”.

    Pass along any helpful intel like, “Crystal Spring is dry now.”

    Like golf, give people the option to “play through” if they’re moving faster than your group is.

    I always answer “How much further is it?” with “It took me 4 hours from this point to hit the headwall and return.” and let them assess our relative ability/speed (unless they seem clueless, then I might add “and I was moving fast.  Remember it’ll get dark in 3 hours!  Does everyone in your group have a headlamp?”).  Miles or even vertical feet is meaningless to most people, especially in a canyon.

    I’d say no amplified music and to not be overly focused on your GoPro videography if it disrupts others, but I’m an old guy.

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