Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

A family affair in Bear Canyon

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on May 5, 2010

Bear Canyon, 3BII
2.8 miles
Coconino National Forest, tributary West Clear Creek

When my parents come to visit from New Jersey it is a great opportunity to take my father, Lee, canyoneering. It was my Dad who introduced me to the great outdoors when I was only four years old, taking me hiking in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. This time we wanted to change things up and try to also include my mother, Marsha, in the plans. Even though my mom was not going to participate in the descent of the technical canyon, I came up with a trip so she could still be part of the day.

Bear Canyon, which I have descended twice before once during the day and once at a night, is a side canyon of West Clear Creek. It has a beautiful set of narrows with few technical challenges. The entire trip can be completed in three to five hours. Once Bear Canyon meets with West Clear Creek, a very short jaunt upstream leads to a steep trail that takes you out of the bottom of the canyon and back to your car on top of the rim.

Outfitted with a lawn chair slewed around my shoulder and carrying a small cooler I walked with my mom and our Boston Terrier, Briscoe, down the trail to a sandy beach along the banks of West Clear Creek, which couldn’t have been clearer. My mom got out her book and her iPhone to play Sudoku as Briscoe jumped in her lap.  After assuring her that she would not be killed by a mountain lion or mountain man, I pointed in the direction of the creek we would be coming from and told her we would see her in three to four hours. I then raced back up the trail, joined my Dad and Laura and we descended into Bear Canyon.

As I said before, Bear Canyon is short, sweet and rather easy. Today, however, would be a little more challenging than normal because of the combination of the harsh winter we experienced and it still being somewhat early season for technical descents in this area. This meant for extremely frigid water in a canyon that normally has cold water in the middle of summer. Expecting these conditions we came prepared with 7mm wetsuits, which were much appreciated as we descend past blocks of ice and large patches of snow, which I suspect, will linger for several more weeks. The canyon was way more beautiful than my last descent of this canyon, which I did at night.

We reached West Clear Creek and saw my mom and Briscoe still relaxing on their beach. I was relieved to see that neither the mountain lion nor the mountain man hadn’t gotten them. Probably Briscoe kept them at bay.



3 Responses

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  1. Stephen Schwartz said, on May 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Once again, it looks like great fun. I believe that my wife, Valerie, would have also stayed on the beach!

  2. John A. Hayner said, on May 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    That looks like a TON of fun! any useful tips for someone about to do their first rappell (outside of a climbing gym)?

    I am rappelling down a skyscraper in town for a fundraiser. If it helps to see the building, I have a picture on my blog:

    • canyoneering said, on May 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm


      Most importantly…. No matter what happens you can not let go with your brake hand. Trust the rope and your feet, lean back and have fun.


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