Waterslides Canyon in Sierra Ancha Wilderness Arizona

Waterslides Canyon


Mileage: 4.3
Elevation gain: -1484 feet
Time to complete: 7-10 hours
Stars: ★★★★★
Difficulty: 4.0/5 (Ratings explained)
Swift water, numerous obstacles

When it comes to technical canyons, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s more fun than Waterslides Canyon. Deep in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness, this scenic canyon is like two adventures in one when you run it from top to bottom. The top half features a narrow canyon with towering walls and beautiful waterfalls, while the lower half has sculpted granite with a series of pools, slides, and rappels that create the most incredible natural waterpark.

🪢 This is a technical canyon with a minimum of 8 rappels up to 80 feet and several jumps or slides, some of which can be rappelled, if desired (or to check water depth). You will need one 200-foot rope, 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

I don’t think any canyon was on our to-do list longer than Waterslides. We worried about the long drive, the road conditions, water flow, temperature, and safety conditions. But one fine April day, we were gifted the most perfect conditions with air temperatures in the mid-70s with water still flowing from recent rains.

We left the Phoenix area at 6AM, and after the missing turn-off for the road that goes to the top, we finally started the adventure around 9:30AM. To be honest, the road wasn’t nearly as bad as we imagined it could be (you ever try to drive out to the Parker Canyon exit?), and it is likely passable by a 2WD high clearance vehicle. We didn’t test that theory, since we only had 4×4 vehicles. I’m just saying “probably.”

Once at the top parking area, you’ll follow a Jeep road down toward the canyon. Now, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but turn left at the refrigerator. Say what? There’s some evidence of past habitation in the area, including what might have been a refrigerator. and this is where we cut across from the road into the canyon floor.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 1

Rappel 1

Length 70 ft
Anchor Tree RDC

Once on the canyon floor, it’s just a short distance to the first rappel. You’ll know it when you see it.

Rappel 2

Length 50 ft
Anchor Bush LDC

Rappel 2 is just a short distance past the bottom of rappel 1. Watch for wasps here, and be careful on the rope pull. Our rope got wedged in a notch, and we had to back up to get a better pull angle to avoid getting it stuck.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 2
Waterslides Canyon Rappel 3

Rappel 3

Length 45 ft
Anchor Bush RDC

There might be a pool of mostly avoidable water at the bottom of this rappel.

Rappel 4

Length 25 ft
Anchor Tree RDC

The beta says this can also be downclimbed, but we went when it was wet and possibly slick, so we decided a rappel was the safer bet.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 4

Boulder Field

After the first four rappels, you’ll come to a stretch that is full of giant boulders. You’ll be using your arms to help you climb around these obstacles, but generally, we stayed pretty close to the watercourse and found a way through.

The boulder field in Waterslides Canyon

When your path ends abruptly at a cliff, go right to find a downclimb that should be doable for most canyoneers. Even Hillary, despite her cursing Carly’s name.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 5

Rappel 5

Length 60 ft
Anchor Pinch point

The anchor is set back from the edge a bit, and the actual rappel has a short free hanging section.

Rappel 6

Length 50 ft
Anchor Boulder

The boulder is set back from the edge of this rappel down a cool, blocky waterfall.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 6

The Confluence

After rappel 6, another drainage will come in from the left side. Find the best place to downclimb into this narrow gorge and head right to keep moving downstream. There are some nice spots in here to have lunch.

This section was labeled “Swamp Walk” on the map we had from Ropewiki, but we didn’t really find any swampy conditions. There was a little bit of moss growing in some of the pools, but nothing major. I’m guessing it can get grosser if there hasn’t been much flow lately.

The Slides

Eventually, the rock will change into sculpted granite with pools and slides. Get excited! This is what you came for, right? Heck yeah!

There are a myriad of slides and pools in this section, ranging from a few feet long to about 30 feet long, and it would be impossible to document them all. However, I will show you some of the larger slides, and keep in mind that the tallest ones likely have an anchor in place so you can rappel down if you wish.

Waterslide in Waterslides Canyon
Evidently, I didn’t get a good pic of this one, but Hope’s face says it all
Waterslide in Waterslides Canyon
You’ll know this one by the chockstone at the top (can be rappelled)
Waterslide in Waterslides Canyon
The biggest slide tends to fling off to one side (can be rappelled)

So, this place is ridiculously fun, but it’s also hard on your gear. Be sure to cover your wetsuit with clothing that you will never need again. There’s a 50/50 chance it will be unusable afterward.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 7

Rappel 7

Length 35 ft
Anchor Tree

This rappel is possibly the most beautiful in the canyon. I saw a video of someone jumping it, but I can’t confirm it’s suitable for jumping.

Rappel 8

Length 80 ft
Anchor Piton RDC

Swim to the other side of this pool to gain access to the anchor. Send someone who doesn’t mind a little sketchy exposure.

Waterslides Canyon Rappel 8

The Exit

Now, if you’re like us, it can take a very long time to do this canyon for the first time, and you might have the sun starting to get low in the sky. That means you’re cold and ready to get out of the water for good. Then you see it—a huge pool between you and your progress down canyon. Never fear, a little fancy footwork will get you past this pool on the left. Water avoidance skills: master.

At this point, you can doff your wetsuit. I know, how British of me to use that word. I feel fancy right now. Soon after this point, the water will disappear, and you’ll be following a creek bed toward your vehicle. Once it’s in sight, you can pretty much find the path of least resistance that generally goes in that direction. Toward the end, you’ll leave the creek bed and do some light bushwhacking before coming to the crux of the canyon.


Yep, there’s one more creek crossing, and your shoes were just starting to feel so dry. Suck it up. There’s only one way home, and you’re looking at it.

Map & Directions

Location Sierra Ancha Wilderness, Globe, Arizona

Fees/Passes None

Trailhead Facilities None

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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