It’s always a bit of a gamble making “classics” lists. When Fifty Classic Climbs of North America first came out in 1979, most of those climbs saw only a handful of parties every year. After “The Book” was published, most were perpetually covered with climbers like ants on a candy bar. Not that we don’t want to share, but a lot of climbers and canyoneers are stingy about beta for just that reason. Crowds modify the backcountry experience, and eventually complex trails are beaten through what was wilderness. Routes are mega-bolted and dumbed-down to accommodate even the inexperienced and underfit, and that creates all kinds of problems.
Fortunately, all of the routes on this list, with one exception, are beta’d to death already. Some of them are now so crowded they are controlled by quota systems. Go there if you must, but understand that you will never have the same sort of exploration experience in them that the early descenders had. Let these canyons teach you how to canyoneer, then go find something new and exciting of your own.
Here (taken from Canyoneering) is the countdown of ten of my favorite canyons:
The Teton Crest trail is 39 miles of pure backpacking bliss. Many rate it as the number one rated multi-day trek in all of North America. There is so much to offer on this trail, I made it the feature hike for the Parker family in To the Top of the Grand, book twelve in the Adventures with the Parkers series.
The trail, for most, starts incredibly easy, and is often hiked in mid to late summer, as the trail is often snowed in both before and after that. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort runs its ski tram to the top of the mountain all summer—and what a ride it is, from 6311 feet all the way to the top at 10,450 feet, saving over 4000 feet of climbing. From the top of the ski tram, Grand Teton looms in the distance appearing as a beacon and escort for the whole hike. Day one on the trail, for most, takes backpackers to Marion Lake—about 6 miles in. Part of that day is often spent getting acclimated, as the elevation hovers near 10,000 feet much of the way. It is good to go slow to take in the incredible wildflower display on the trail. The higher elevations of Grand Teton have wildflowers in a short season bloom in July and August, while in lower elevations they have typically dried out.
The Weminuche Wilderness and the South San Juan Wilderness areas of Colorado are filled with see-forever views. They are places where waves of mountains rush to the horizon, where peaks stretch into the heavens. And it’s a perfect place for some fantastic wildlife observation: Coyotes yelp in wildflower-blessed meadows, snowshoe rabbits scamper down willow-lined trails, and beavers slap at sunset on silent lakes. In addition, black bears roam through lush forests, and elk herds tiptoe quietly through woods or congregate in meadows, feeding while hikers watch from a ridge above.
Rousseau said: Men are born free but everywhere are in chains. A profound observation which foretold the bicycle craze. Then Aretha came along and said: Chain-chain-chain, chain of fools. Which sums it all up quite a bit better in my opinion.
The invention of the chain drive in the 1880s (almost exactly halfway between Rousseau and Aretha) enabled bicyclists to escape the purgatory of the highwheeler era, during which their pedals were shackled directly to those comically large front wheels. Along with Dunlop's pneumatic tire, Starley's addition of a chain and gears to the bicycle was certainly one of the most important waypoints in the entire history of personal transportation. The chain drive was a revolution in personal freedom and human dignity.
Not long after the miraculous chain drive took over, however, inventors were thinking of ways to put it out of business. Chains were hardly perfect, after all. They were greasy and needed frequent lubrication, and occasionally tried to take your finger off, realities that diminished the marketing glow of the new form of transportation.