Dillinger Canyon is a stunning classic route on Bear Mountain, just outside of Sedona. It has 8 rappels down a beautiful red rock drainage. Alternatively, Half Dilly Canyon is possibly the biggest bang for your buck in the entire Sedona area. The approach hike in is mild, short, and beautiful, with a pretty decent trail the entire way. The technical section of both canyon options is stunning in true Sedona fashion, concluding with a mind-blowing 170′ almost entirely free-hanging rappel, and the exit is almost entirely on the flattest, best-groomed trail you’ll find. All of this is packed into an amazing full day, or an easy half day adventure.
🪢 This is a technical canyon with 8 rappels (Full Dillinger) or 3-4 rappels (Half Dilly) up to 170 feet. You will need one 200-foot rope, and one 200 foot pullcord, 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.
Both route options begin and end at the same spot: the Bear Mountain/Doe Mountain Parking lot. you will begin your hike up the immediately (and kind of brutally) steep Bear Mountain across the street from the parking lot. Take heart. If you’re doing Half Dilly, you aren’t on this trail for very long. After hiking up to the first bench, you’ll veer off onto a social trail to the right for Half Dilly. If you’re up for a more adventurous day (4 more rappels) with a little more work involved, proceed on the Bear Mountain trail up to the next bench and back a bit further for the full Dillinger Canyon experience. The trail is well traveled to the turn off. If you are crunched for time though, and just want to get to the goods, then take a deep breath and head right. Here’s where is starts getting rad. You’ll hike another mile-ish around the side of Bear Mountain, on the edge of this bench the entire way. You’ll be enjoying amazing views the entire way of Bear Mountain and directly into Fay Canyon. This hike all by itself is one of my secret favorites.
For Full Dillinger, once you come to the turnoff on the map, start heading down the obvious drainage. Staying in the drainage isn’t always the path of least resistance, but stay close.
Upper Dillinger Technical Descent
There’s an anchor to the right down canyon for this 20 footer, but we found it pretty easy to scramble around down canyon left. That’s my suggestion, and I’m sticking to it.
90 feet off of a tree right down canyon. Might be the most straightforward rap of the whole canyon.
25 feet off of a bush, right down canyon. This one is also possible to downclimb. we had people do it both ways with relative ease.
40 feet off of a tree right downcanyon.
After Rap 4, there’s a bit of a walk to the second half of the canyon. The only somewhat remarkable rap in this top section is the second. SO… if you’re short on time, you aren’t missing a great deal by only doing the bottom half.
Lower Dillinger Technical Descent (Half Dilly)
As soon as you reach a slick rock bowl, you’ll know you’re almost to rap 5 (or rap 1 if only doing Half Dilly.) This canyon has gotten a tiny bit more popular, so if there’s a party at that this rap, climb the small ridge left down canyon, and check out the views from up there while you wait. Word is, it’s worth the little jaunt out there.
Rappel 5 (or Rappel 1 for Half Dilly)
Stats for Half Dillinger
545 ft gain
The fifth rappel is 20′ off of a bolt RDC. It is immediately overhung. And I mean, immediately. This is pretty common with Sedona rappels. If you want to go easy on your gear, maybe consider the hip slide.
Rappel 6 (or 2 for Half Dilly)
The sixth rappel is off of a tree way up high RDC. If you’re going to climb up there to give that webbing a solid inspection (and you should), you could just keep heading right down canyon and downclimb this rappel. It’s a moderate downclimb or about a 30′ rappel, again overhanging.
Rappel 7 (or 3 for Half Dilly)
The seventh rappel is an 85′ two stage rappel off of a tree RDC. This is a super fun and beautiful rappel that is a great warmup for the big boy up next. It is over hanging, but there’s enough ledge to ease into the overhang. As you walk away from this rap, turn around and take a glimpse. All the heart eyes.
Rappel 8 (Or 4 for Half Dilly)
When I took my kids in this canyon, they ALL said this was their favorite rappel they’ve ever done in ANY canyon. It. Is. Epic. It is 170′ anchored off of a super solid tree RDC, the first 130′ are free-hanging. The views are incredible, the ride is incredible, it’s just a true heart-stopper. The start might seem intimidating, but there’s enough of a ledge there to ease you into that overhang.
When your heart settles back to a normal pace after all that radness, make your way down the drainage, keeping an eye out for the path of least resistance. When we went, it seemed to be on the left side of the drainage. Make your way in short order to Fay Canyon trail, which you will follow all the way back to the Fay Canyon Trailhead. This trailhead is about 3/4 mile west of the Bear Mountain Trailhead where you car is, so now is the time to: slog up the road. Or… hitchhike up the road. Or… send your sons that are super awesome runners up the road to fetch your car for you. We’ve done all of the above.
Map & Directions
Off of Boynton Pass Road, park at Bear Mountain Trailhead, the trail and approach start just across the street.
Trailhead Facilities There are pit potties, no water at the trailhead
Preview this Hike
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