Jughandle is a large arch high up on a mesa on the east side of Zion National Park. The route to the arch crosses and follows the top of Keyhole Canyon for part of its length. This is a beautiful part of Zion and well worth the trek into this area.
You can climb to the top of the mesa to reach the top of the arch but this is a very difficult class 3 scramble up a rock and gravel chute.
Overall rating = difficult
Distance: 4.7 miles total – moderate
Elevation gain: ~1400 feet to the top of the arch – difficult
Terrain: Open Slickrock and a steep final climb – difficult
Exposure: Steeply sloping slickrock and treacherous ascent – difficult
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System
If coming from the west take SR9 through Springdale, Utah, into Zion National Park. Turn right on SR9 at the Canyon Junction and take the switchbacks up and through the Main Zion Tunnel. Travel through the second tunnel and park in the parking area 2.0 miles from the second tunnel exit (GPS 37.224603, -112.902736).
If coming from the east turn onto SR9 at the Mount Carmel Junction and drive into Zion National Park. From the East entrance gate drive 1.9 miles to the Parking area.
The trail begins on the north side of SR9 about 150 yards east of the parking area. You ascend a long slickrock ridge keeping to the west side of the ridge peak. From here you travel up the slickrock saddle until you come to the ridge above the Keyhole Canyon. This is about 0.5 miles and an ascent of about 200 feet from the road.
From here you must descend the steep treacherous slope into the Keyhole Canyon. This is a drop of about 100 feet through sand gravel and rock. Great care is needed on this descent if you are at all nervous about your footing.
At this point the upper Keyhole Canyon opens into a large wash and then continues into the lower Keyhole Canyon. This canyon is deep and narrow and a permit is required to travel through it. From the Keyhole wash make your way north along the open wash until you reach a point where you can ascend the slickrock ridge to your right. Travel this ridge in a northerly direction for about 1 mile. If you do not plan to ascend the mesa to Jughandle Arch, from this point you can make a loop west and back to the Keyhole wash along the western slopes.
If planning to ascend to the top of the arch, continue in a northerly direction following a bushy drainage and then onto another slickrock ridge. From this ridge you get a good view of the steep chute that you will ascend. Head in this direction working over secondary valleys and ridges.
From this point you will climb about 700 feet to the top of the mesa. The last 400 feet is steep and treacherous, a class 3 scramble, but ropes are not needed. It is about 3/4 mile to reach the mesa top. The arch is at the eastern side of the mesa.
On the return loop you can take a shortcut back to the parking lot. At the top of the scramble up from the Keyhole wash head in a south westerly direction (straight ahead and to your right) and travel down the steep slickrock slope into the lower reaches of Keyhole and back to the road. This is not for the faint of heart.