At a Glance
ACA Rating: 3C III
French Rating: v5a4 III-IV *
Time Required: 8-10 hours
Distance: Technical section – 900m
Elevation change: 425m
Rappels: 16, maximum length 45m (150 feet)
Warning: This canyon can be jumped in a number of spots. It is up to you to determine whether the jumps are safe or not. The ability to jump into a pool without sinking too deeply is a technique that can be practiced and improved. Depth of pools can change at any time. The first person in a party can rappel into a pool and use goggles or a mask to determine the depth of the water.
Updated: 5 July, 2015
A long sculpted, flowing canyon west of Squamish, BC. The canyon is somewhat difficult to get to, requiring a crossing of the Squamish River for access. There are numerous rappels in the 35-45 meter range, some involving two stages. One of the notable features of this canyon is that a number of the rappels end in pools that are enclosed, and escape through narrow gaps into big open rappels A lot of the waterfalls are quite airy, and escapes from the canyon are plenty. The canyon is a fairly serious undertaking, requiring a fairly long day, often battling some pretty big flow!
Note: It has come to our attention that Box Creek and Monmouth Creek, as well as the approaches to both, are in an area that is a designated cultural site of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish First Nation).
This definitely does NOT preclude use of the area, but we wish to emphasize the importance of respectful use of the area. Please, in particular, attempt to minimize impact by using the old adage: Take nothing but photographs; Leave nothing but footprints.
Standard gear, including wetsuit and rappel equipment. Adequate rope for a maximum 45m rappel. Almost all rappels in the canyon are bolted. In a canyon like this, always consider bringing a wrench and one or two extra hangers, nuts, and washers, as well as covering eventualities with some webbing, etc.
To the Trailhead
From Highway 99, approaching Squamish from the south or north, turn west at the lights at Cleveland Avenue. After 400m, turn right on Bailey Street. The road quickly becomes gravel and comes to a fork. Keep to the right – this is Government Road. Continue north on Government road for 1.6km, crossing two sets of railroad tracks and getting back onto pavement. Turn left towards Squamish River Dyke Road (signed for Estuary Access and Squamish Spit) and return to a gravel road. After 350m, turn left onto the dyke road. Right here, beside the yellow gate blocking access to the north (right) you will find a short trail leaving the road, down to the river. This is the best put-in spot when the Squamish River is flowing particularly hard. Unload canoe/kayaks/gear here. You can park in the wide area on the other side of the road.
In lower flow, the river can be crossed further down.
An optional shuttle vehicle can be placed 1.4 km further down the road. This makes the river crossing to and from the trail much easier. There is a wide area along the roadway, on your left as you drive. It ends, and the road narrows, just where the trail comes out of the woods. Ideally, place things like dry clothing into the vehicle that carries the canoe, and leave it at the take-out spot. If no shuttle vehicle is available, plan on about 15 minutes of walking to return to the vehicle at the put-in spot.
NOTE: Crossing a fast-moving river like the Squamish is potentially very dangerous! Depending upon the discharge rate of the river and the dynamic hazards therein, there may be standing waves, snags, partially submerged logs, etc. You can check on the current, recent and historical data here: http://www.wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/graph/graph_e.html?stn=08GA022
Put in to the river here, and strike out across the river. Work your way across the river, as you head downstream. You will find that the trees you see directly across from you are actually on a long narrow island. You want to round the lower end of the island, and head upstream into a much narrower, slower moving channel on the other side. During high tides, you can head along the shoreline of the island, and through a gap between the island and a large gravel bar. (In very high tides, you may not even see the gravel bar – just a large tree stranded on it further downstream.) If the tide is lower you may need to continue around the gravel bar, past the large tree lying on it, and then back up the other side.
As you head up this channel on the other side of the island, you will soon come to a small cluster of old pilings on your left, close to the tree-covered shoreline. There are a couple of tiny coves here (N49.71469 W123.17253) where you can pull in and tie your boat to the trees. Note: the river here is still tidal and can go up and down a few feet while you are in the canyon – make sure you tie up the boat so it doesn’t float away while you’re gone, or else carry it up out of the river and into a clearing in the trees!
Once you’re ashore, you’ll find yourself in a small clearing with a few narrow trails spreading out into the trees. Go to the north (upstream) end of the clearing and follow the trail there away from the river. After a couple of minutes, it will angle to the left, and in a few more minutes you will hear the chatter of Monmouth Creek.
Continue following the trail steeply up the hill. (For Box Creek, the route exits the trail shortly before the steep section begins.) You will reach a couple of viewpoints that give an exciting preview of the waterfalls to come. Stay on the main trail – it will take you away from the creek for a while, then return to it as the grade eases off. Note: There are ground wasps in the area. One nest is located in the middle of the trail, about 45 minutes up from the riverside. People who are sensitive to wasp stings must be vigilant on the hike in.)
At about 425m elevation, you will come to a spot where the trail reaches the creek again, and turns upstream, This is the normal entry point (N49.71533 W123.18801). You can enter here, or continue up the trail for five or ten minutes to the upper entry point (N49.71511 W123.19111). The upper spot gives you a little bit of pretty canyon, downclimbing, and a short jump.
From the normal entry point, an optional 6m slide/jump in a narrow chasm leads directly to the first of the rappels. This jump can be avoided by scrambling down the left bank of the creek, looking down canyon.
A pair of bolts on the right side take you down a waterfall about 9m (30 feet) to a pool below. May be difficult in high flow. If necessary due to flow, instead go canyon left, and down a short downclimb to sling a bollard above the pool.
At the far end of the pool, rappel 23m (75 feet) off two bolts on the left wall. Takes you down a beautiful, wide waterfall. At the bottom of the rappel, there is an awesome little alcove behind a rock, with water curtains on each side.
This is the “infinity pool” rappel. Anchored off of two bolts on the right wall. In and out of the cascade, but ends in the full flow. 42m (135 feet)
Scramble down and right below a couple of big boulders, and find a pair of bolts on the lower face of a boulder looking down the channel. Follow the wide channel, and over the lip. Much of the flow can be avoided by keeping to rappeler’s right near the bottom. 30m (100 feet)
This is a short rappel down a slab to an alcove below a boulder. Anchored off a single bolt on your left as you approach. Allows you to avoid a diversion into the trees and scramble down mossy logs. 14m (45 feet)
Emerge from the alcove under the big boulder, and find a pair of bolts on your left side. Down the waterfall to a pool below. In very high flow, could be rapped off a slung boulder in the right side watercourse – less flow here. 24m (80 feet)
At the end of the pool, find a pair of bolts on the far side of a large boulder in the watercourse,. Drop down into a pool, over a lip to a ledge, the off to rappeler’s right (canyon left) into an alcove. 14m (45 feet)
Off a single bolt under a huge boulder, through a dark tunnel into a deep pool. This rappel is very cool, but can be avoided by an even more amazing jump (about 9 m or 30 feet to the pool) on the right. 12m (40 feet).
Immediately after rappel 8 (or the jump), round the corner and exit the pool (carefully) at the top of the Monmouth Tube rappel. There are a couple of options here.
- Rap only option: As you exit the pool, there is a single bolt on the left side wall. Rap off of this anchor into the pool below. 21m (70 feet)
- Rap and slide option: Exit the pool, and using the bolt on the left as a safety anchor, find the bolt on the right side of the exit, on top of the ridge of rock on that side. Rig a rope to this anchor, paying out approximately 9m (30 feet). This length is approximate – rig a contingency anchor for the first rappeler, and prepare to let out more rope if required. Rappel down the wall to an alcove and drop/slide packs into the pool below. While still on rappel, sit down on the edge of the alcove, facing out, and slide down off the end of the rope, about 8m or so to the pool below.
After the rappel/slide, climb up canyon left to a horn sticking out over the water, and jump in (about 9m – 30 feet).
Immediately after the tube rappel, there is a jump of about 3m into a narrow, deep pool. This is quickly followed by your choice of either a long shallow slide down a slab into a pool, or a drop into a small but very deep washing-machine-type pool on the right.
Continue down to where a fin divides the water course into two, and find a pair of bolts on the left side of the left channel. Again, you have a choice here: Set the rope length for 15m (50 feet) and rap down to a series of pink ledges, where you can jump into the deep pool below, or else set out 19m (65 feet) and rap all the way into the pool. From there, partner assist through a narrow gap into the “diving board” room. This can be difficult in high water.
If there is too much flow to safely descend this waterfall, then instead move canyon left, and find a pool with a pinch where you can anchor to descend a groove along the left wall. With high flow, you will want to make this two stages, all the way into the diving board room. Approximately 27m (90 feet).
Whichever way you descend, make sure to explore both rooms above the diving board section.
The pool can be jumped from the diving board log, but is not very deep. During a recent particularly low flow period, the water was only about 1.5 meters deep! Ensure a flatter or scooped landing (or cannonball) to avoid going too deeply into the water. Keep knees bent! Those not comfortable with shallow water jumping should either climb down off the log onto the rock below before jumping, or rappel off of a meat anchor behind the log. Please do not leave a webbing anchor behind on the log.
Follow down a nicely carved section of rock to a rappel on the right side. The route follows a channel on the right past a small pool, and pours down into a narrow section at a 90 degree angle to the main canyon. There is a single bolt above the pool on the right side to simplify descending to this next rappel stance in higher water.
Drop into the channel that crosses the canyon, and pours off to the left. Find a pair of bolts on the right wall, and rap down to the pool below. 14m (45 feet)
Follow the pool to a large boulder in the watercourse, and keep left. Rappel off of bolts through a waterfall into a pothole, cross it, and continue down into another pool. 14m (45 feet)
After rappel 12, a downclimb through a groove leads to a very nice alcove. Follow around behind a huge boulder, in a very showery room. Swim below a wedged boulder to a landing with a large pouroff ledge. You will find a pair of bolts on the right where the water wells up and over a lip. Big water, and lands in a large pool, occasionally with fish in it! 39m (130 feet)
Move to the channel on the left, and find a single bolt on the left wall. Descend a groove to a stance below a big boulder. 14m (45 feet)
From here, move to canyon right, and find a large boulder with webbing slung around it. Rappel from here to the rocks and shallow pool below. (Length uncertain – approximately 20-25 meters?)
Some more downclimbing leads to a view down into the bottom of Box Creek, and the lower reaches of Monmouth. Undulating slabs of granite, with varied angles, scoops, pools and streams stretch down to the bottom. Some of the creek splits off to the right, joining Box Creek above the actual confluence. The downclimbing is initially easier here on canyon right, and may in fact continue all the way down to Box without requiring a rappel (though it’s unlikely).
The final rappel of the main canyon is on the left, past a series of scoops and cascades, anchored off webbing in a pinch on the left side of a chockstone. The rappel goes down a narrow corridor, but it’s easy to stay out of the full flow. 12m (40 feet) to slabs which can be followed to the right, all the way to the confluence with Box, and an exit to the trail.
From the base of the final waterfalls, and the confluence of Box Creek, head downstream for about three minutes, and exit the creek easily on the left to rejoin the trail. Hike back to the clearing, hop in the canoe, and recross the river.
Again, head downstream, working your way across. You will see quite a number of logs stranded close to the far bank. Looking downstream, the trees along the Squamish Spit road start to thin out, and cars (if there are any driving along the road) become visible. You want to find a little cove roughly even to where the last logs are stranded on the sand/gravel on the east side of the river, and just before the road becomes completely visible. As you row into the little cove, you will see that it is actually a small side stream that leads through a culvert under the road to the estuary on the other side. There are a number of vertical posts set into the stream, blocking access. Take the canoe out on the left (upstream) side, before reaching the posts. You will find a trail here that leads up to the roadway and your parked vehicle – if you have done a shuttle. Otherwise, walk back up the road (900m to lower put-in, or 1.4 km to upper) to retrieve your vehicle.
[table width=”500″ colwidth=”20|100|50″ colalign=”left|left|center|left|right”]
Upper canoe put-in,49.719579 -123.167867
Lower canoe put-in,49.715572 -123.167973
Take-out canoe,49.707469 -123.170288
Trailhead landing,49.713905 -123.173527
Trail turns uphill,49.713249 -123.181175
Keep right,49.713478 -123.184620
Normal entry,49.715020 -123.187978
Upper entry,49.715059 -123.191296
Monmouth-Box confluence,49.712734 -123.181779
v5a4 II (in low flow season) up to v4a4 II (in higher conditions)
* Reasons for rating:
v5 – Vertical sections in medium to strong water flow. Crossing pools during the descent. Slippery or obstructed rappel location.
a4 – Prolonged immersion causing some heat loss. Moderate current. Easy jumps of 5 to 8 m.