Canyoning, also known as Canyoneering, is an adrenaline-pumping sport that involves exploring natural canyons through rappelling, hiking, wading, rafting, and waterfall jumping. By combining so many adventure activities into one incredible activity, you can really experience dramatic landscapes with all your senses and challenge your body in unconventional ways.
Technical canyon routes require a good amount of rope work and down-climbing, while easier routes are mostly hikes that may have a creek or two to wade through. For beginners, it’s advisable to hire a guide to provide instruction.
Canyons exist all over the world, which means that adventure-seekers are willing to travel distances near and far to navigate through them. These are some of the most epic canyoneering destinations around the world to spark your sense of adventure.
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Zion National Park, Utah
The most popular place to go canyoneering in the U.S. is Zion National Park in Utah, and there are lots of guide companies in the area to take you out on this adventure. If you are a true beginner or just want to take it easy, there are canyons in the park that require no special skills. Meanwhile, other routes here demand intense commitment and specialized wilderness planning and training. The park requires you to have a permit for all technical canyoneering trips, and there are dozens of canyons here to explore. Popular canyons to check out include the lower end of The Narrows, The Subway, and Orderville Canyon.
Agawa Canyon, Canada
Agawa Canyon may be best known for its scenic train tours, but this is also a great place to go canyoning. You can only reach this wilderness area by foot, so expect plenty of untouched nature with beautiful forests. Autumn is an amazing time to visit this canyon because the hardwood forests glow with vibrant colors from the changing leaves. And when autumn turns into winter, you can head back to the canyon to go ice climbing. There are 575-foot granite canyon walls here that are best saved for experienced climbers.
Kawasan Falls, Philippines
Kawasan Badian National Park is famous in the Philippines for its beautiful waterfalls. Near Badian, the Matutinao River runs through the deep canyons that cut through the jungle. Kawasan Falls offers an excellent introduction to canyoneering for beginners because many tours don’t involve abseiling or climbing gear. This is a fun route that involves jumping into fresh water pools and swimming down rapids. But if you travel the popular route in reverse, it’s much more challenging and involves “river climbing.” For even more of a challenge in the Philippines, head to Montaneza and Tison Falls.
Tara Canyon, Montenegro
The Tara River Canyon extends 51 miles long and reaches its deepest point at 4,300 feet deep. It’s part of Durmitor National Park and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To navigate this canyon, you’ll need to swim, jump from waterfalls, and rappel down ropes. The 3.5-kilometer canyon between Durmitor and Vojnik is a great place to explore if you have some canyoneering experience. Rafting is also a popular activity on the Tara River, especially the 11-mile route from Brstnovica to Sćepan Polje. While you’re in the area, you can also go rock climbing, zip lining, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. Many visitors stay overnight in Zabljak while visiting this area, and camping is available at Sljivansko, Radovan Luka, and Brstanovica
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
This slot canyon in the American Southwest is near the town of Page, Arizona and located on Navajo Native American land. It’s a popular tourist spot for sightseers, photographers, and canyon enthusiasts, but access is restricted to tours led by authorized guides. The Upper Canyon is most accessible and you can simply walk into it. The Lower Canyon is longer, deeper, and requires ladder climbs and more strategic navigation. But overall, this is a much easier experience than say, the canyons at Zion, and doesn’t require technical rappelling or swimming.
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
This volcano in northwestern Costa Rica provides some excellent canyon experiences as well. Arenal Volcano National Park spans 29,692 acres, and Arenal is the most active volcano here. When you go canyoneering in Costa Rica, expect to see some fabulous waterfalls and lush forest greenery. One particular tour here starts with a half hour 4×4 ride through the rainforest near La Fortuna, which is known for its monkey, sloth, and parrot populations. When you book your adventure through a guide, you’ll learn the safe way to rappel down a waterfall to get into the canyon, and there are several guide companies in the area that will take you here. This is a moderately physical experience, and anyone in decent physical shape can do it, even children and travelers who have not had wilderness training.
Jalbire Canyon, Central Nepal
There are several amazing canyoneering spots in Nepal, and Jalbire Canyon is one of the best. This canyon is located along the Trisuli River between the villages of Panch and Simaltal in the Chitwan District of Central Nepal. Be prepared to abseil and slide in many parts of this canyon, which typically has wet and humid weather. Here you’ll see towering waterfalls reaching 328 feet tall, many water pools, and fascinating rock formations. The Dudh Khosi, Kathmandu region in Nepal is also an amazing one for canyoneering. With Mount Everest in the distance, the scenic rivers, valleys, and gorges here really can’t be beat.
Blyde River Canyon & Nuy River Gorge, South Africa
Kloofing and abseiling are the popular activities in South Africa’s Nuy River Gorge and Blyde River Canyon. If you were wondering, kloofing is the South African version of canyoneering. There are hiking trails that travel up the mountain and lead to amazing views over the gorge. For the ultimate adventure here, travel the Gecko Trail over multiple days. Wilderness experiences to have here include bushwhacking, boulder hopping, swimming, rafting, and bivouacking. And other South African kloofing spots can be found at Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, Garden Route National Park, and the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve.
Another epic canyoneering spot is Copper Canyon, which is located in southwest Mexico. This is the largest canyon system in North America, and the rugged terrain is best suited for moderate to experienced adventurers. There are lots of canyons here that offer stunning views and nonstop challenges. As you look over the Urique River, you’ll feel incredibly far away from civilization when you explore this remote canyon, and lots of guided tours last for multiple days.
Blue Mountains, Eastern Australia
The Blue Mountains of Australia are an ideal place to visit for adventurous canyoneering enthusiasts. There are at least 400 canyons here to explore! Grand Canyon Is great for beginners, while Empress Falls is a bucket-list canyon for more experienced adventurers. This is an area where you can indulge in lots of outdoor sports, including rock climbing, rappelling, rafting, and spelunking. Both beginner and experienced people can find a canyon to suit their skills and experience level. The waterfalls here are amazing, so dress to get wet!
Lake Garda, Italy
This is the largest lake in Italy and a popular holiday destination. Local guide companies take families with children as young as eight years old to explore the canyons, abseil down waterfalls, and wander through mountain streams. There are lots of great routes here for beginners, with jumps and slides that are voluntary. But there are also more intense routes between huge rock walls and high water falls with dozens of obstacles to overcome and technical abseiling points. The Torrente Aviana route, for example, involves abseiling down a 100-meter waterfall! Another area of Italy that’s great for canyoneering is the Susa Valley. This Northern Italy valley has an alpine canyon that’s famous for its waterfall slides.
Takachiko Gorge, Kyushu Island, Japan
Mount Aso formed this gorge, which has eroded cliffs and volcanic basalt columns. Manai Waterfall is a stunning sight amidst the greenery of early summer and the colorful leaves of autumn. This is a popular tourist destination with a walking path that overlooks the Gokase River and offers row boat rentals. But you can also go canyoneering here. Minakami is considered to be an outdoor capital of Japan and offers experienced guides to help you explore the region.