Boynton Island East canyoneering route Sedona, Arizona

Boynton Island East


Mileage: 4.6
Elevation gain: 1242 feet
Time to complete: 5-7 hours
Stars: ★★★★½
Difficulty: 4/5 (Ratings explained)
Sketchy approach, downclimbs

If you want a canyon with an approach that’s more exciting than the rappels, Boynton Canyon East is your ticket. Sketchy upclimbs, chockstone boulder, and an airy step will get you to the summit of Boynton Island, where you’ll have 360-degree views. Then it’s seven rappels into a grand alcove and intimate slots where you’ll have unique views of Sedona’s incomparable geological formations. Oh, did I mention there are ruins, too?

🪢 This is a technical canyon with seven rappels up to 100 feet. You will need one 200-foot rope (or one 100-foot rope and pull cord), plus all the required safety equipment for rappelling and knowledge how to use it. This guide is not intended to provide instruction on how to descend a technical canyon safely.

Trail Description

This trail starts out super chill on the well-traveled Boynton Canyon Trail that everyone uses to visit the world famous Subway Cave. Texas visitors might be alarmed when they see you carrying helmets on your way up, but you can assure them you’re doing something waaaay more sketchy than that.

I will say we were a little nervous ourselves to attempt this one, but you really don’t have to be a rock climber to get there. You just need to be okay with a few sketchy moves and a little bit of exposure. You helmet isn’t there just to scare the tourists—wear it!

Boynton Canyon Trail

This is the easy part. From the parking lot, you’ll follow Deadman’s Wash Trail for a short distance before turning left at the junction with Boynton Canyon Trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow as it passes along the side of the Enchantment Resort.

After about a mile and a half, you’ll want to keep an eye out for a social trail on your left. No, it doesn’t look much like a trail. Yes, it might have sticks blocking it to keep people from wandering off the main trail accidentally. If you find yourself bushwhacking soon after, you’re probably not on it. And no, I didn’t edit the GPS track after that little bushwhack, so just do your best to stay on the beaten path.


The next half mile or so will take you up onto the shelf of the canyon where you’ll be treated to views of Boynton Canyon, overhanging ledges, and a series of Native American ruins.

One of the ruins is particularly impressive.

Native American ruins in Boynton Canyon

As a reminder, these are sacred, irreplaceable historical sites, so be cool and avoid disturbing them in any way. (Also, they are protected by law.)

The Sketchy Bits

Shortly after is where the fun really begins. The first obstacle is a short but slightly exposed break in the cliff where you’ll be climbing up. Say what? Hopefully there’s a little strand of webbing still there to give you a hand. There’s a bolt at the top if you’d like to help your compadres out by setting up a handline.

Not too bad, right?

After that is the “low angle slab,” as described by our friend Eric Moorcroft. Did he even take geometry? By this way, this dude is the expert on Sedona canyons, so if you want some beta from the OG, visit his write-up at Sedona Canyoneering.

Ascending the “low angle” slab

All right, if those two obstacles didn’t scare you, then I have no doubt you’re going to make it to the top. There will be a chock stone boulder to get over and an “airy step,” which can be bypassed with an optional scramble to the left of it. Beyond that, it’s a fairly easy scramble to the summit of Boynton Island.

Oh wait, wait! I can’t let you go without seeing this picture that makes us look super badass.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t even close to as sketchy as it looks, and in fact it was much easier than obstacles one and two. But SHHHHHH… we look freakin’ crazy!

Boynton Island Summit

When you get to the summit, you realize it actually is an island in the middle of one of the most beautiful canyons in Sedona. Enjoy the view!!

WildPathsAZ on Boynton Island

Technical Section

Rappel 1

Length 100 feet
Anchor tree

Finding the first rappel is a bit tricky. It’s not part of a canyon, and its sole purpose is to get you down a level so you can start the good stuff. Look for a pointed outcropping where you can downclimb by a small tree down to a slightly larger tree. There’s your anchor.

Boynton Island East rappel 2

Rappel 2

Length 100 feet
Anchor large boulder

This is the money shot from the cover photo. The start is easy, and it quickly becomes a rad freehanging rap.

Rappel 3

Length 70 feet
Anchor tree

Rappel down to a large ledge and then keep going over to the sandy bottom.

Boynton Island East rappel 3

After the first three rappels, you’ll go down the drainage a bit, turn to the left and find a crack system. The last 4 rappels descend this crack in rapid succession.

Boynton Island East rappel 4

Rappel 4

Length 20 feet
Anchor tree

You can downclimb this one or just combine it with rappel 5 into one longer rappel like we did.

Rappel 5

Length 30 feet
Anchor tree

This rappel drops you off into a subway-like alcove that you’ll have all to yourself!

Boynton Island East rappel 6

Rappel 6

Length 30 feet
Anchor tree

If the last one didn’t impress you enough, rappel 6 drops you off into this place where you can walk out onto the ledge for a photo op.

Rappel 7

Length 30 feet
Anchor tree

For this rappel, you’ll squeeze down a skinny crack and then go over a ledge into a freehang rap. There is sensitive vegetation on the wall here, so avoid putting your feet on it. Use a guided rap if needed.

Boynton Island Exit

Continue downclimbing along the path of least resistance until you reconnect with the Boynton Canyon Trail. By now you’ve forgotten just how long the approach hike was, and it’ll seem like forever to get to your car. Or maybe that’s just because you’re hungry.

You goin’ to G’s Burgers? Us, too!

Map & Directions

Location Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, Sedona, Arizona

From Highway 89A, go north on Dry Creek Road in West Sedona. That will turn into Boynton Pass Road. Keep left at the fork. Turn right onto Boynton Canyon Road. The Boynton Canyon Trailhead will be on your right.

Fees/Passes Red Rocks Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required. Pay kiosk at the trailhead.

Trailhead Facilities Pit toilets

Download KML or GPX

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

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