Canyoneering (or canyoning) can involve any or all of the following: hiking, swimming, rappelling, climbing, bushwacking, fitting into extremely small spaces, hypothermia, heat stroke and dehydration. To some that list sounds like a description of a nightmare but for many of us, it sounds like a dream adventure.
But you can explore canyon landscapes no matter what your experience level—your experience playing in the desert is what you make it. With thorough planning, research and guidance, you can find anything from a leisurely walk or good, long run through warm, dramatic terrain, to a full-on expedition with all the hi-tech gear you need to traverse uncharted territory. The terrain you choose can be vast or small, mellow or challenging.
And remember that canyons provide a lot of vertical, craggy rock walls and, sometimes, at the bottom, you'll find rushing, cold, muddy water (depending on the season). Sometimes you'll find caves and caverns at others. And though it's all play, making sure you follow the rules can be the difference between injury and returning home unscathed.
If you're looking for more adventure, seek out a guide. If you're going it alone, heed to these basics:
Know the Season
And what conditions to expect at different times of the year.
Know Where You're Going
Map it out and research the area. According to your skill level and what you want to do there, allow yourself enough time and make sure you're capable.
Have all the Appropriate Equipment Ready
If you're planning on climbing, rappelling or getting in the water, make sure you have EVERYTHING you need AND the skillset to accomplish your goal. If you have the smallest doubt, make sure you have a proficient guide with you or DON'T GO.
Use Common Sense
Know all the Possible Dangers
Use Resources and Ask for Help
Christina Scannapiego is the Outdoors editor for Active.com .