This weekend, we decided to check out Water Canyon -- a pretty, splashy hike at the base of Canaan Mountain. This area is just south of Zion National Park, but officially outside park boundaries. That means you get Zion-esque soaring cliffs and dripping alcoves, but you can bring your furry friends along!
To get to the Water Canyon trailhead from I-15, take Exit 16 and drive towards Hurricane on State Route 9. From Hurricane, head south on SR59 to Hildale (if you hit the AZ border, you've gone too far.) In Hildale, turn left on Utah Avenue and follow it east until it ends. Turn left at the T onto Canyon Street. Continue 0.4 miles after passing Jessop Road on the left. When the road forks, veer right and follow Water Canyon Road another mile to the end. We tried to get to the trailhead in our 2WD passenger car, but it wasn't up to the task -- we ended up walking along the road for the last mile to get to the trailhead. The road is washed out and sandy in spots, so 4WD would definitely help.
And yeah, you do end up driving through Hildale/Colorado City, the infamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) towns straddling the UT/AZ border. About 9,000 followers of Warren Jeffs live in these towns, and you’ll see huge walled compounds and women with braided hair wearing prairie dresses. It’s definitely interesting, but try not to be an obnoxious gawker.
From the unmarked parking area, we started walking up the trail. We assumed we'd be splashing through the creek, but the trail actually ran parallel to the water. The first lush mile traversed the creek basin at a fairly level elevation, but after about a mile, it started steeply scrambling up and down rocky mounds. We passed through some blackberry brambles and munched on berries that were thisclose to being ripe. We reached the waterfall area after 1.5 miles. It was a really nice place -- almost like small version of Zion's Subway. Weeping-rock alcoves were full of monkeyflowers and ferns, and we spent an hour splashing around.
You can continue on the trail all the way up to the Canaan Mountain rim (which looks great, BTW,) but we were running short on time, so we turned around and hiked back to the car. Success!