Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO
At its deepest, the Black Canyon reaches 2,700 feet down intosouthern Colorado. Some climbing routes require a 2,000-foot rappelwith a 5.10, 12-pitch climb out, and rapids start at Class V (goodluck, kayakers). So hike about a mile down Chukar Trail with a fly rodin hand: You’ll feel like you’re in an underground Shangri-La, and thedry-fly fishing is spectacular (blackcanyonanglers.com). Afterwards,crash 20 miles downstream at Black Canyon Anglers’ 20-bed fishinglodge, nestled between sandstone cliffs (from $80 per night).
Mokelumne Canyon, CA
Separating Lake Tahoe and Yosemite on the spine of the SierraNevada, the Mokelumne Wilderness is home to wildflower fields,10,000-foot volcanic peaks, and 105,165 acres of untrammeled land. This3,000-foot-deep canyon cuts through the thick of it. Take California 88from the north and stop by the Amador ranger office for a permit. Bythe time you reach the rocky canyon, six miles in, you’ll have thesecret, if frigid, lakes all to yourself (look for Blue Hole, nearTanglefoot Trail, in the southwestern corner of the canyon). Tip: Bringbear spray.
Green River Gorge, WA
From Seattle, head southeast and pick up Route 169 toEnumclaw-Franklin Road. Five miles down, you’ll find some unmarkedtrailhead gates. See the gate leading toward the power lines? That’sthe Mercury Mine trail. It drops you at the edge of the Green RiverGorge, a 300-foot-deep gash. It’s only 27 miles from the city, but youwouldn’t know it from the Class IV whitewater (River Recreation;riverrecreation.com) and old hunters’ paths in the damp primeval forest.
Pleiades Canyon, UT
Zion National Park is crammed with canyoneers, which is why Moabguide Matt Moore cased the empty La Sal Range for new routes. Thefruits of his labor: a canyon he calls Pleiades. This waterfall-riddled, surprisingly lush sandstone chasm has a location so hidden that even locals can’t find it. On a day trip ($150; deserthighlights.com), you’ll rappel through cascades, scramble through slickrock narrows, wade through moss-draped pools, and get back to town in time to kick back with a tart hefeweizen from the Moab Brewery.