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Escaping Alcatraz Canyon

In theory it all sounded fun, until we slept the night in a slot canyon. 11 people, 13 hours stuck and we finally got out at 7 am.

We were originally planning on just camping this weekend but we heard of our guy friends going to canyoneer Alcatraz Canyon. The reason it's called this is because apparently the first people to ever try had to do some miraculous climb out because it got too skinny. We should have stopped right there right?

We went.

(before photo)


It comes up in Google Maps, that will take you straight there. OR if you prefer to go off the grid, here are some instructions we followed from Road Trip Ryan:

"Head south from Interstate 70 on highway 24 toward Hanksville.

  • Turn left (east) onto a signed, graded road at mile post 135.5 and reset your odometer. ( 12S 537332mE 4275067mN / N38° 37' 24" W110° 34' 16")

  • Follow this two-wheel-drive graded dirt road for 24.5 miles to an obvious junction with an information kiosk. Reset your odometer at this junction and go right. ( 12S 562756mE 4258500mN / N38° 28' 21" W110° 16' 50")

  • Travel 7 miles to another prominent junction, and go right. ( 12S 560687mE 4247916mN / N38° 22' 39" W110° 18' 19")

  • Go left again in less than 0.1 miles. Reset your odometer. ( 12S 560644mE 4247820mN / N38° 22' 35" W110° 18' 21")

  • 5.9 miles - Junction, stay right. ( 12S 557496mE 4239709mN / N38° 18' 13" W110° 20' 33")

  • 6.6 miles - Ekker Ranch Junction. Go right instead of left into Ekker ranch. ( 12S 556488mE 4239131mN / N38° 17' 55" W110° 21' 14")

  • At 7.1 miles (0.5 miles past Ekker Ranch), go left (straight). ( 12S 555751mE 4238936mN / N38° 17' 48" W110° 21' 45")

  • Follow this road 2.5 miles to a slickrock area overlooking Alcatraz. This last section of road can be rough, requiring a high clearance vehicle. ( 12S 552510mE 4236884mN / N38° 16' 43" W110° 23' 59")"

It will take at least an hour to get there once you pull off on dirt roads. An SUV is nice to have but if you only had a sedan, it would make it with some careful driving. Once we got to the cliff, we pulled off to the right on a dirt road to find somewhere to camp. We followed the road to the left and stopped to pull our cots out. This is important because there just HAPPENED to be service there. Which became an imperative factor when our battery died. If any of you go and run into a problem, go on that road and you will be able to make a call.


Asked every family member since.

So the canyon starts out with a 160 ft rappel off a car hitch. It's amazing. We attached two smaller ropes which made life easier in the canyon because two people could carry them. We had 11 people with us so having two ropes made things go faster.

The beginning was fun. A lot of shimmying, you get wet here and there but it is technical. I'll be honest, I have only canyoneered a few times but even the more experienced people were saying how technical it was. There is rarely flat ground, you are always straddling, jumping or shimmying. I loved it.

After the 2nd rappel, it started to get pretty skinny and this is where claustrophobia set in. It only got worse. We encountered the one part where it was about a foot wide and these MASSIVE spiders were running around. Ultimate panic attack. Maybe this video will do justice.

Ok maybe not justice to the spiders but just get a good laugh out of my sister freaking out.

As we continued on there was a point where the skinniest girl in our group got pretty close to stuck. She's a twig. The boys looked at the spot and knew there was slim chance they were going to fit. Since we read the original story of this canyon of the couple who escaped, we assumed we were also supposed to climb out. Panic began to set in for a few people as we had to hoist girls and guys out of that extra skinny part. We were running out of day light so we back tracked quickly and kept our eyes peeled for any bolts or easier parts to climb out. We found none. We were really confused because everywhere else online talked pretty casual about this canyon, no mentioned how skinny is ACTUALLY got nor did it mention bringing quick draws to climb out. It honestly got SO skinny we just did not see how we were going to get 11 people through there including a few bigger built guys. We were convinced that there was another way out.

We got back to a flat part of the canyon and we tried free climbing out. We tried throwing ropes around rocks. We even tried human ladders. They all failed. We felt pretty panicked because we kept thinking there was no way we were supposed to get through the skinny part of the canyon. We had 2 hours left before the sun went down and we decided as a group we would send our 3 smallest people to forge through and get to the end. At that point we had been going for 8 hours and exhaustion was setting in. By this point a few girls had started crying and the guys started to seem uneasy.

I will skip you the antics but in short: we honestly did not know the way out. We were not sure if that crew of 3 was going to make it or get stuck. We all lost our appetite and went into survival mode. We did not know if it was going to be a few hours or a few days before we got out of there. Those of us that stayed we started spooning to stay warm. The sun went down and it would be 13 hours before we would escape that canyon. Let me tell you that 13 hours was the most anxiety I have felt in years. Every hour or so we thought we heard something so someone would scream for help. As time went on we almost started to hallucinate and we were praying it would not rain.

Once the sun went down, we were terrified we would hear footsteps from those 3 coming back meaning they did not make it through the canyon. Or that someone got stuck. Or even hurt. It was at 7 am when they came back to pull us out. One person anchored in the sand and belayed each one of us out of there.


One of our guys who went did in fact get stuck. He got stuck up to his chest and had there not been two other people to pull him out, he would not have gotten out himself. The tiny girl that went ALSO got stuck. The 3 that went also got REALLY banged up. Scrapes all over their bodies and holes in their shirts. One of the guys also mention how they were really grateful they left their backpacks with us because they would not have fit. He was carrying a normal sized day hike pack, he took only the rope bag with him. They also told us how it got so dark at one point they could not see their hands in front of them. Here is earlier in the canyon and it only got deeper after that. Also a picture of bumps and bruises, this will make you want to wear pants forever.

SO know that it gets really really tight. If there is someone that is a little rounder, it will be a struggle. People have gotten stuck in the past. Also know that there is no other way out then forward. We tried every other option so you don't have to.

  • Bring small backpacks - Our backpacks got holes in them because they were getting dragged/ripped through really small spaces.

  • Wear long pants and long shirts - Imagine rubbing sandpaper all over you. That is what is about to happen to you. Again, you might get holes in your shirt.

  • It really is technical - Don't bring beginners and keep your group smaller. More people just takes time and there is some real claustrophobia so bring strong minded humans.

  • Bring headlights

We don't know how people talked so casually about this. We thought this would be something that maybe we had to go conquer later on next year but not one person wants to back. Yes the first timers were scarred but even the experienced guys had no interest in going back. We were super lucky to get out. I am sure at one point our parents would have noticed we were not returning calls but it would have been a really uncomfortable few days before rescue teams came.


  • Always tell people where you are going and when they can expect you back. Be specific.

  • Bring GPS, you are never too cool for GPS.

  • Guys become a lot more attractive after you spoon for 13 hours.

  • God is really good.

(after photo)

GRATITUDE: making it out of Alcatraz canyon

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