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Swiftwater Canyoneering is an outdoor sport that involves descending the watercourse of a narrow canyon, often using ropes and other gear to assist as you descend down waterfalls. It can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to be prepared before you try it. This post will cover the basics of swiftwater canyoneerings rising popularity in Washington State, some of the gear you’ll need, and what to expect from the experience.

We’ll also provide tips for first-time canyoneers to feel confident and safe when they try it. Are you ready to explore some of Washington’s most beautiful canyons? Let’s get started!

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Wild Sky Adventure Guides specializes in safe, fun, and memorable adventures to the PNW’s best wild places.


First of all, Washington State is home to varied terrain, this makes for some pretty exciting canyoneering routes. You have the rocky slopes of the North Cascades, the lush green forests of the Olympic Peninsula, and the wide open deserts of Eastern Washington. And there is SO MUCH WATER. Lots and lots of water!

Second, Washington has lots of mountains whose snow feed the canyons through the summer season. Washington canyons are in their prime during the summer season as the snow is melting in the mountains. 

And finally, Washington is home to a growing canyoneering community. The presence of a large outdoor community and the proximity of population centers like Seattle to the mountain canyon terrain make Washington State an ideal place to learn swiftwater canyoneering. 

Go Canyoneering in Washington State


Every canyon is different, but in general the canyoneering experience can be broken down into a few basic parts.

Car logistics: Car logistics vary from canyon to canyon, some need one car, others need two. Some need 4×4 and high clearance. Expect a lot of discussion amongst your group.

The approach: The approach varies from a few minutes along a well established trail to hours bushwhacking through thick forest. Make sure to have the information preloaded onto a GPS app like Gaia. 

Gearing up: When you reach the canyon access or “drop-in” point you will change from your hiking clothes into your wetsuit and technical gear. 

Protip: Make sure to use the bathroom and eat snacks at this point as opportunities will be limited. 

The Canyon: This is what you came for! Expect it to be wet, potentially slippery, loud, challenging, scary at times, and incredibly beautiful. 

The exit: As you finish the canyon the distance of the hike out will help you to make the decision whether or not to change out of your canyon gear. 

The Car: Now that you have finished the canyon it is time to put on your street clothes,  sort out any mixed up gear, and hang up or store your wet gear.  . Enjoy your accomplishment! 


Ready to give canyoneering a try? Here are a few tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Do your research. Make sure you know what to expect before you go. Read up on the route you’ll be taking and the hazards involved.

Be honest with yourself about your fitness. Make sure you’re physically prepared for the challenge by doing some hiking and climbing in advance.

Go with an experienced group. Canyoneering can be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared, so it’s always best to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Pack the right gear. A wetsuit, harness, helmet, and a nice pair of vibram soled shoes are the basis of a well put together canyoneering kit. It is dangerous to go canyoneering without the proper gear.

Be ready to get wet! Come prepared with water protection for any electronics and a dry bucket or canyon keg to keep snacks and clothes dry in the canyon. Specialized canyoneering bags are designed to quickly drain as you exit the water. 

Bring snacks! The water is cold and your body will need more fuel to keep you warm. High fat, high calorie foods are best to keep you warm and moving throughout the day. 

Follow the rules. Always obey the park regulations and use common sense when hiking in a canyon.

Seek Competent Instruction! When things go well in a swiftwater canyon it is a relatively straightforward and simple sport. When things go wrong it can turn dangerous quickly. If you have any doubts about you or your groups ability to safely descend a canyon give Wild Sky a call!


Washington State is an up and coming swiftwater canyoneering destination. There are many great places to go canyoneering all over the state and there is an active canyoneering community to network with. 

With the right gear, ample research, and competent leadership, canyoneering can be a thrilling adventure. Get out and enjoy some canyons this summer!

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