Fry Canyon, photo courtesy of Steve Mestdagh

With the highest density of slot canyons in the world, Southern Utah has more geologic drama than even Instagram can capture. If you're inexperienced with canyoneering or the terrain, find a guide to help you navigate the slots or teach you how to venture out on your own. It can be pretty treacherous, and bringing along a guide-especially if you're new to canyoneering-is always helpful.

Excursions of Escalante 
125 E. Main St., Escalante, 435-826-4714, excursionsofescalante.com

Desert Highlights
50 E. Center St., Moab, 435-259-4433, deserthighlights.com

North Wash Outfitters
88 W. 100 North, Blanding, 435-678-3255, northwashoutfitters.com

Zion Rock & Mountain Guides
458 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale, 435-772-3303, zionrockguides.com

Meet the Pro

Rich Carlson, isn’t just an expert canyoneer, he’s the expert. In his 23-year career as a canyoneering instructor and guide, the founder of the American Canyoneering Academy has trained more than 10,000 students in the art of “safety, self-reliance, and fun,” sending protégés to all seven continents.

A veritable Adam to his guiding family, Rich—who has been canyoneering himself for more than 35 years—can accurately claim that the majority of canyon guides in the United States were either trained by him or by someone he trained. His compulsion to teach and lead extends well beyond slot canyons, however, which is why he also taught land navigation in the military before moving on to collegiate finance courses in the late 1980s. “I love teaching and the feeling of knowing that I’m helping people, especially to become safer and more self-reliant,” he says. “I have received many emails from people who told me the skills they learned from me saved their life in a challenging situation. That’s very gratifying.”

So what counsel does the master mentor have for fledgling canyoneers? “Patience. Have a willingness to progress slowly and acquire skills gradually to pursue more difficult canyons.”

Back>>>Part 1 of Narrow Focus

Back>>>Read other stories in our August 2013 issue