Orderville Canyon Hike: A Great Alternative to The Subway in Zion

Zion National Park is a hiker’s paradise with plenty of trails to choose from. If you’re looking for a challenging but rewarding trek, try the Orderville Canyon hike. This 11.7-mile trail winds its way through the beautiful Zion landscape and offers amazing views of the park’s backcountry. So, if you’re up for a challenge, put Orderville Canyon on your Zion hiking list!

We did this backcountry hike years ago and have all the details for you, including how to obtain a permit, the best time of year to visit, obstacles to consider, and gear to bring. We hiked Orderville Canyon because we couldn’t get permits to canyoneer into the Subway (at the time). Orderville Canyon is an excellent alternative to the Subway or hiking the Narrows!

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Canyoneering through Orderville Canyon

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How to Hike Orderville Canyon to Temple of Sinawava

Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the country, and for a good reason. There’s something for everyone with its amazing hikes, stunning views, and unique geological features. One of the highlights of Zion (in our opinion) is the hike through Orderville Canyon. This 11.7-mile one-way hike takes you through a narrow slot canyon with dramatic cliffs on either side.

Below are some tips to help you make the most of your trek through Orderville Canyon.

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Beginning of Orderville Canyon

Orderville Canyon Hiking Guide

Hiking Orderville Canyon requires some planning.

Along with trail details, in this article, we will share how to apply for a permit and set up shuttles to the Orderville Trailhead so you can hike from the top down and end at the Temple of Sinawava in Zion Canyon.

Don’t forget to bring your annual national park pass to enter Zion.

How to Get the Permit

There is no lottery to hike Orderville Canyon.

You can make reservations online or there is a last minute drawing if those reservations are gone.

A wilderness permit is required. You have to pick up the wilderness permit in person from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Wilderness Desk.

You can get the wilderness permit the day before your hike.

The Wilderness Desk recommends planning at least 20 minutes to obtain the permit. Be sure to bring your ID and vehicle information. Whoever applies for the permit has to be on the hike as well.

The Wilderness Desk is only open from 8 am to 5 pm. You can get the permit the day before your hike.

Set Up Private Shuttle to Orderville Canyon Trailhead

Arrange for a private shuttle service to drop you off at the top of the Orderville Canyon Trailhead before you plan to hike.

The Orderville Canyon Trailhead is closer to the east entrance of the park off of Route 9. This trailhead is located outside of the scope of the Zion National Park shuttle buses.

You will be hiking top-down, so a shuttle to the top makes things easy.

Google any private shuttle outfit in Springdale, Utah. Tell them you are hiking Orderville Canyon from the top-down. They will know where to drop you off. We used Red Rock Shuttles and Tours.

Zion National Park Shuttle

Since you are hiking top-down, you already have your top shuttle covered with the private shuttle company.

Once you pop out of the bottom of Orderville Canyon, you will be entering the lower section of the Narrows.

Walk the Narrows to the Narrows via Riverwalk Trailhead. Then you will find the shuttle stop for stop #9, Temple of Sinawava.

From here is where you will hop on the Zion National Park shuttle bus to make your way back to your car or where you are staying.

2022 Shuttle Update: You do not need a permit, ticket, or reservation to ride the Zion Shuttle.

Hiking Orderville Canyon Utah Trail Details

Orderville Canyon Hiking Details

Hiking Orderville Canyon in Zion National Park is a great way to get away from the crowds and explore some of the park’s more remote areas. This hike can be challenging at times, but the views are worth it.

Orderville Canyon is truly one of Zion National Park’s hidden gems. A tributary of the Virgin River, Orderville Canyon flows into the famed Narrows.

Below are hiking details:

  • Difficulty: strenuous and difficult, wading through water, 2 rappels (do not jump)
  • Permit required: yes, wilderness permit required
  • Route type: point-to-point
  • Distance: 11.7-miles
  • Time to hike: 8 to 10 hours
  • Pets are not allowed

This day hike is not for the faint of heart. It is a strenuous but super fun canyoneering adventure!

The route is semi-technical and not for inexperienced or casual hikers.

This hike is excellent for beginner canyoneering.

Orderville Canyon Slot Canyon Overview

Orderville Canyon is a great day hike and canyoneering adventure through slot canyons.

As stated above, there are two short rappels in addition to rock scrambling, a few short swims, incredible backcountry views, and wading through water.

The hike starts off in a more open area at a higher elevation. As you venture further down the trail and into the canyon, the walls become higher and more narrow.

The hike is dry for roughly the first part. Then you start to get into the water. Getting into the water is really fun in the summer!

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Orderville Canyon canyoneering through the water

You will need a climbing harness, rope, webbing, links, helmet, hiking poles, dry bag, sturdy shoes that can get wet, snacks, a wag bag, wetsuit, and plenty of water. Gear checklist below!

The second rappel is further down and over a waterfall. There is about a 10′ drop on the second rappel.

As you continue through the canyon, you will enter a trickling tributary of the Virgin River. Then you start getting into the water. It will be deeper in some places and shallower in others.

Towards the latter part of the hike, you are in the water the entire time as you make your way into the Narrows.

I really appreciated having hiking poles as the day went on and we got deeper into the water.

Orderville Canyon Hiking Gear Essentials

Below are hiking essentials you’ll need for this trek.

  • Rappel gear – rope, harness, helmet, webbing, links
  • Supportive water hiking shoes – I used light trail running shoes
  • Chacos – I took Chacos and swapped them out along the way (know your feet)
  • Layers – in case you get cold or hot, bring a fleece, long sleeve shirt, and short sleeve shirt
  • Hiking poles
  • Food
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit
  • Wetsuit
  • Drybags for your gear
  • Wag bag
  • Camera
  • Day pack – I used this Osprey bag
  • Water bottle – can’t beat how lightweight Nalgene is – plan 1 gallon per person per day in the desert!

We have this fantastic canyoneering guide book Zion Canyoneering guide book by Tom Jones and really liked it for details and technical information.

Best Time of Year to Hike Orderville Slot Canyon Utah

We recommend hiking Orderville Canyon in the summer and into the warm fall.

Start your journey as early as possible – get your wilderness permit the day before. This hike will take most of the day to complete. You want to have plenty of daylight.

The last couple hours hiking will be wading in water which makes for an epic summer adventure.

This hike is closed when water levels are high during spring run-off.

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You will be wading in water

Where to Stay

Depending on how outdoorsy you feel like being, there are a few options from camping to hotels on any budget.

We camped at Lava Point. Starting in 2022, reservations will be required at Lava Point.

You can also camp at Watchman Campground or South Campground. Reservations are required for all camping and can be made on recreation.gov.

There are also plenty of really nice hotels in Springdale.

Zion National Park Safety

Have a great time! Be sure to plan ahead and know park conditions before you go.

When canyoneering in Zion, always be thinking of where you could go for high ground in case there was a flash flood.

Below are additional resources to help you plan an awesome trip:

Final Thoughts on Hiking Through Orderville Canyon

Orderville Canyon is one of our favorite backcountry hikes in Zion. We loved that there were fewer crowds, and we got to see some amazing backcountry. The hike was pretty technical. We definitely recommend having rappelling gear. It would really suck to jump from one of the two high spots and break an ankle.

Summer is a perfect time to canyoneer because the air temperature is hot, but the water is cool. Honestly, by the time we got into the Narrows, I was pretty cold even though it was hot outside. You might want to consider additional layers for your hike if you get cold or hot. Bring a wetsuit.

By the time we got into the Narrows, I was getting exhausted! I could really feel the 10+ miles from the day’s adventure!

Bring plenty of food and water. This hike is serious backcountry. We can’t stress this enough.

We hope you have a great time.

Thanks for reading!

Ashlee & Pablo


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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

10 Comments

  1. Josy A on December 26, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    OMG this sounds incredible! Hiking, rappelling, swimming and generally exploring such a cool canyon! I would be a bit worried because although I have done plenty of scrambling, I have never rappelled on my own. Is there anywhere nearby where you can learn the basics, or do you think we’d need to go with a guide?



    • Ashlee Fechino on December 27, 2020 at 10:55 am

      Hi Josy – you can learn to rappel safely at any local climbing gym. Are there any climbing gyms near where you live? I learned this way and through friends that rock climbed.



  2. molly on December 27, 2020 at 12:46 am

    Zion is one of my favorite parks and we have spent several nights in its backcountry. Thanks for sharing this great post!



    • Ashlee Fechino on December 27, 2020 at 10:55 am

      Hi Molly – awww, thanks for sharing! So wonderful to hear.



  3. Hannah on December 27, 2020 at 4:02 am

    Orderville Canyon looks like an amazing hiking experience! It looks like it might be a bit advanced for my level of experience but it looks like a beautiful route and the scenery is incredible! Thanks for the great guide!



    • Ashlee Fechino on December 27, 2020 at 10:56 am

      Hi Hannah – thanks for reading! Zion has hikes for everyone and every skill set.



  4. Tiffany on December 27, 2020 at 9:43 am

    I want to learn to rappel safely so I can do this! I admire your skills!!!



    • Ashlee Fechino on December 27, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Hi Tiffany – thanks for stopping by! Is there a local climbing gym near you?



  5. Jenni / Out in the Nature on December 27, 2020 at 11:08 am

    What a hike! Permits and rappels are already extreme, and then you would be hiking in the river, water on your waist! Sounds so cool!!



    • Ashlee Fechino on December 27, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Jenni – it is an awesome outdoor adventure!