Canyoning: an adrenaline fueled descent down a gorge carved out by mother nature’s super force – water. Dave Talbot – descends further into this new and upcoming adventure sport.

With so many new sports emerging, the combination between one sport and another is so appealing, think – kitesurfing, paragliding, downhill mountain biking, indoor rock climbing……. Canyoning is just that. It takes the best elements from different sports and wraps them all into one exhilarating adventure. Cliff jumping, water slides, abseiling, zip wires, nature….what’s not to like? 

I spoke with the with the Canyoning Company ( and asked a few questions to find out more:


What’s the difference between gorge walking and canyoning?

As an adventure sport, Canyoning is booming in the UK.  We are constantly asked “what is the difference between Canyoning and Gorge Walking” (or ghill scrambling if you’re from the lake district). Both involve rock and water adventures journeying by foot along a river system, gorge, or canyon.

Gorge walking does what it says on the tin. In general terms Gorge walking is walking and climbing up a gorge . This can involve jumps, climbing and scrambling and on occasion some small slides, wading through the river and climbing behind waterfalls. Moving upstream is one of the crucial differences between canyoning and gorge walking. Gorge walking is more of a low level activity and a great introduction to combined rock and water experiences.  Gorge walking is a great activity for youth groups and families. Gorge walking can be done in most areas of the UK as all you need is a river with some pools, rapids or small waterfalls. This is why when you were younger or went away on your school adventure week you might have done gorge walking as an activity.

Canyoning is a very new adventure sport to hit the UK. Canyoning developed as an exploration technique, pioneered when mountaineers and cavers wanted to investigate deep canyons or gorges in mountainous areas. Over the last decade, this activity grew into a sport in its own right. Very specific skills were developed for safely getting down these canyons. As Canyoning down-stream, often very fast rivers,, this throws a lot more into the mix. On a canyoning trip you are likely to encounter abseils, jumps, big slides, flumes and zip lines. You will definitely wear a harness, use ropes and see many waterfalls throughout the whole of your journey. Canyoning is a lot more adventurous and full on than gorge walking, but with the right instructor it is a very safe and extremely fun experience that will blow your mind!

Where can I go canyoning?

Canyoning is often found in mountainous areas where rivers carve deep gorges out of the rock. Due to the natural erosion of the water, beautiful rock architecture can be found. Waterfalls create a natural water park. Some canyons can be technical (involving ropes and tricky moves). At the easier end, many are accessible to all and just involve simple jumping, wading and walking. The best canyoning locations in the UK are found in Scotland, although there are some canyons in North Wales and the Lake District. Bruar, Dollar, Alva and the Grey Mares Tail are some of the best canyons in Scotland.

Where’s the best place in Europe to go?

Internationally, some of the best canyons in the world can be found in Europe. The French and the Spanish were the first to start canyoning and thus a huge array of canyons have been discovered in the mountainous regions. The Pyrenees is a Mecca for canyoning. The climate during the summer months is very pleasant offering the most comfortable environment to be in the water. Ariege is based just over an hour from Toulouse, and right in the middle of canyoning country. 

In the USA, Utah and Arizona are undeniably the most well known places to go Canyoning in America, however Colorado is a real gem. Let the team of Canyoning Colorado show you why Ouray County is world-famous for canyoning.

Take the plunge

Guided trips vs self guided exploration?

Canyoning is an adventure sport, and like any adventure sport has its risks. If you are not skilled or knowledgeable about your environment, the risks can become higher. If this is the case, consider joining a trip  with an accredited canyoning provider. Here you will be accompanied by an experienced Instructor and given all the appropriate equipment to stay safe and comfortable on your trip. By using an ICOpro (International Canyoning Organisation for Professionals) accredited centre you can be assured your instructor, equipment and canyon is at the highest possible standard.

If you are going it alone, make sure you have the correct equipment and skills. If you would like to expand your knowledge and canyoning skills, Courses are available to get you fully competent in this new adventure sport. By joining an ICOpro Canyoneer level 1-2-3 (CA123) course you will become autonomous in the canyon environment, be able to hire equipment from canyoning centres, and be free to explore these beautiful places with your own group.

Water levels – they must make a big difference?

The flow of water and water level in each canyon can be subject to change. Sometimes this can happen very quickly after heavy or sustained rain, and can pose a risk to canyoning. It’s always important to check the weather at least 3 days prior to your canyoning trip, on the day, and during your descent. By going with an accredited provider this will be done for you. When the canyon has lots of water in it, it can become more fun and pose more challenges, but with too much water it can become dangerous. Always seek advice from local canyoning guides, instructors and companies before you go.

Can I go canyoning by myself?

For safety reasons, going Canyoning solo is not recommended. Canyoning is almost always a group activity. It relies on everyone taking a role on the trip and helping each other out. Even if it’s your first time canyoning, you will still find yourself helping and enjoying the thrill of being part of a team. The ideal group size is around 6-10 people.

What equipment do I need to go canyoning?

Canyoning in the UK is almost always in water for at least part of the trip, so an essential item is a wetsuit. Choosing the right wetsuit is important for you to stay warm and comfortable. You can get canyoning-specific wetsuits which are usually two-piece wetsuits and are thicker than most suits, usually around 5mm. You will wear a canyoning harness, so you can be secured to the ropes either to abseil or move across exposed areas. When you go canyoning you will always wear a helmet. Depending on the canyon, you may get a white-water helmet or a mountaineering helmet. It is now seen a best practice to wear a mountaineering helmet because canyoning is classed as a mountaineering sport. If you join an organised group, all the above equipment will be issued to you before you set off.

Finally, but most importantly you will need some shoes. Canyoning can be very slippery and involves walking, climbing and scrambling. Having good shoes will make or break your canyoning experience. Canyoning-specific shoes exist, offering good protection, grips and support.; if it’s your first time giving it a go, ordinary trainers, laced up tight will probably do the job.

Canyoning Summary…….

With so many new adventure sports emerging, it can be difficult to keep up! But canyoning has a special magic and sees many happy thrill seekers coming back time and time again. What ever could be next…… extreme ironing………