By Published On: December 3, 2023Categories: canyoneer, UtahTags: , ,

Dothraki is a canyon veiled in myth and mystery. Located in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness, near Water Canyon, Dothraki is not a traditional canyon, but more of a vertical crack going straight down almost two thousand feet.

Some of the myths about Dothraki involve the fearsome Dragon’s Back approach, the technical nature of the canyon, its history of sticking ropes, and the belief that this canyon can take more than 10 hours to complete. Although there is a grain of truth to these allegations, the canyon is not as fearsome as rumored. That being said, Dothraki is not a beginner canyon and should be attempted with a competent group. There are no permits required to access this canyon, but an SUV or better vehicle is recommended to get to the trailhead as the road is not always well graded. Full beta can be found here: Dothraki – ropewiki

On a very cold morning in the beginning of December, we made our first attempt on Dothraki with our friend Wayne Myers and another member of the Washington County SAR team, Jeff Poulton. Wayne has done the canyon multiple times and was happy to show us the ropes, so to speak 😊.

Due to the short winter days, we started at 8am and set up the very short shuttle from the Squirrel Canyon to the Water Canyon trailheads. No sketchy approaches are needed when you have the incredibly scenic Water Canyon trail that goes all the way to the top, a gain of about 1500 feet. This trail is in itself a very worthwhile hike, even without a canyon at the end. From there, it’s a fairly short and gentle hike over to the drop in point with not too much bushwhacking.
The first rappel is about 85 feet off a tree with a rather awkward start, which drops you into the main crack. Immediately, we were faced with a couple of intense downclimbs that required a very tall person (Wayne!) and some partner assists. A good way to wake up if we weren’t awake already 😊.
There are many things that are magical about Dothraki, but as a plant nerd the most amazing thing about this canyon, aside from the views, are the trees. The trees that grow straight out of sandstone, seemingly without roots, and curve in amazing ways to reach the sunlight and span this narrow crack to grow straight up the opposing side. Also, there are incredible roots growing right out of sandstone in ways that I have never seen. See below for some magical and iconic tree and root photos from Dothraki.
The most famous curved tree growing out of the side of the canyon is located fairly close to the entrance, right after the initial downclimbs. After many photos were taken, we entered an incredible and narrow open chamber with a steep drop off to one side. Although it doesn’t have an official name, I’m calling it “the cathedral”.
Shortly thereafter, things got extremely narrow and difficult for the larger people in our group. Ahead was a very narrow cavern that ended in a pool of water. The tall people decided to bypass by climbing up and around, but I wanted to experience the narrows and had no problems squeezing and stemming over the water. Straight ahead was the narrowest part of the canyon. We shed our backpacks and side squeezed through the straight crack. I wiggled out and helped drag backpacks for the larger folks. It was a close call staying dry, but we all made it. As much as I lament being very small, it is in the tight places where the little people shine 🙂
After a few rappels down very tight slots, things got more interesting due to the unexpected amount of water in the canyon. It was a cold day, so no one was interested in taking a dip. We had to use creative climbing and wayfinding to avoid some of the normal rappels into pools. There were some notable stems over pools holding water that were very exciting! As we got lower down the canyon, the views of cliffs outside the canyon walls got better and better.
After about five hours in the canyon, we made it to the last sequence – two rappels staged to descend a lovely red cliff the last 130 feet to the bottom. This was a most scenic conclusion to a scenic canyon. The walk out to the shuttle was fairly easy, although rather sandy. We got back to the parking lot around 4:30pm, well before dark.

Dothraki is a very fun and challenging experience, both physically and mentally. There is problem solving at every turn and many challenging downclimbs, especially if you’re trying to avoid getting wet. The entire experience of descending a narrow vertical crack in the sandstone is novel and the scenery is quite beautiful, especially the trees!

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