Canyoneering FAQs

What is canyoneering?

Canyoneering is an adventure sport that combines multiple outdoor activities such as hiking, boulder-hopping, and waterfall rappelling to traverse down a canyon, typically formed by a river.

When is French Broad Adventures open for canyoneering?

Canyoneering trips are available from March through October, with a minimum of 2 people. If you don’t see availability online just give us a call.

Where do we meet?

You will be meeting your Canyoneering Guides at Black Dome Mountain Sports, 30 minutes prior to your trip time. When you get there (use the main entrance) feel free to look around the store and pick up any last minute items you may have forgotten. Your Guides will be in or around the “Conspiracy Lounge” portion of the store getting things ready for your trip – or just ask a Black Dome employee where to look. Once everyone is ready, your Guides will drive you to the canyon, about a 4o minute – 1h 20 minute drive (depending on canyon location). Once you complete your adventure, your Guides will bring you back to Black Dome, where your car is parked. Incidentally, the Conspiracy Lounge at Black Dome is an outdoor-themed bar that makes for a great watering hole after your trip.

What canyon will we go to?

Safety is something we take very seriously, and we support the Forest Service Waterfall Safety Initiative. In an effort to dissuade unsafe copycat behavior from the general public, we do not publicly disclose the location of the canyons and waterfalls we use. We now have multiple canyon locations to choose from, and are VERY excited about this. For any given trip day we will monitor weather, check river gauges and factor in other accessibility issues – and then pick the “best trip of the day” for your canyoneering adventure. If you have been canyoneering with us already and want to check out a something new, just ask! We’ll see if we can get you to a different spot.

Is canyoneering safe?

While any outdoor activity has inherent risk, at French Broad Adventures our top priority is always reducing and mitigating any risks. Our company has been a leading outdoor adventure provider for over 37 years now, and we bring that collective experience to canyoneering. In addition to their varied backgrounds in climbing, rigging and rope access technology, all of our Canyoneering Guides have been trained by an ACA (American Canyoneering) ProGuide, in the ACA’s Single Pitch/Fixed curriculum – the first class held East of the Mississippi! Also, your Guides have advanced training in first aid, so you can rest (play!) easy knowing you will always have a Guide on your trip with a minimum of a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) Certification. But don’t forget that you are responsible for your own safety too; listen carefully to safety briefings and always follow your Guide’s instructions – because a safe trip is a fun trip!

What about medical or health conditions?

Because you will be in a wilderness setting where access to definitive care takes longer than normal and cell service is minimal, we do not recommend that folks participate if they have an existing medical condition that could require urgent care. If you need any fast-acting medications such as en epi-pen, diabetic glucose or an asthma inhaler it is imperative that you bring them along on your trip.

Do I need to be in good physical shape to canyoneer?

Yes. Time in the canyon averages between 3-4 hours depending on the size of your Group and the canyon location. You will be outdoors on steep, boulder-strewn and potentially slick terrain (what fun would a waterfall be without water?) A good indicator that you are physically fit enough for canyoneering is that you can comfortably walk 3 miles on semi-steep and/or uneven trails carrying a light pack, comfortably hike on uphill and downhill slopes, can climb or descend 5 flights of stairs, and can climb a ladder with ease.

Do I need to have previous canyoneering or rappelling experience?

Not necessarily, but a familiarity with climbing, ropes or rappelling (even if it was at a camp, climbing gym or challenge course) may help you feel more comfortable with the activity. First-timers with a sense of adventure are always welcome; and of course your Guides will give you a demonstration and safety briefing prior to the start of your trip and will assist you throughout the day if you have any questions.

Are your trips suitable for families?

Yes, being outdoors is always a great family activity! We do however, ask that all canyoneering participants be at lease 12 years of age. So if you have younger family members that want to participate, we recommend our climbing wall, ziplining, whitewater rafting or calm water trips. However, if you have children that are not quite 12 yet, ask about our canyoneering “tag-along” option (see the “tag-along FAQ for more details).

Is tipping my guide or other staff appropriate?

Our Guides are providing a professional service to you, your family, or your group. Guides depend on tips as part of their income. A good rule of thumb is to tip your Guide as you would a server in a restaurant, 15-20% of the trip, but of course any tipping is always at your own discretion. Gratuity is deeply appreciated.

What should I wear?

We recommend that you wear loose, comfortable clothing that is not bulky (because you will be wearing a harness). Multiple, thinner layers are preferable, as weather conditions can change rapidly throughout the day. You will have some opportunities to add or subtract layers if needed, so plan to carry them with you in your pack (we will provide you with a small backpack). You may also wish to bring a light rain shell, especially if there is rain in the forecast. We don’t require pants, but if you choose to wear shorts we recommend they be a longer style so they don’t get bunched up in your harness. Try to avoid wearing cotton or denim as these fabrics do not breathe or dry well; choose wool or synthetic materials (such as polyester, dry-fit or wicking materials) instead. Bring socks, and just let us know what size shoe you wear when you get there. The only shoes you’ll ever want to wear canyoneering are Astral brand, based right here in Asheville. We are so convinced these are the best shoes for this type of outdoor activity, we are going to provide them for you! Also of note: if you need anything for your trip, chances are they sell it at Black Dome Mountain Sports. You will be meeting your Guides there, so feel free to shop for a great new piece of gear – they’ll even give you a discount while you’re there; because they are an awesome local outfitter, and they’re excited about canyoneering too!

What do I need to bring?

We ask that you do not bring valuables or anything else on the trip that you would mind having lost, wet, or broken. You will be able to leave things like a change of clothes, towel, and other items in the van at the trailhead near the canyon, so please bring those along with you. Your cell phone is unlikely to work though, so we suggest that you don’t risk bringing it on the actual trip. If you would like to take pictures of your trip, we suggest instead that you bring small a waterproof/shockproof camera or a disposable camera. We will pack a small bottled water (while it’s not required, we support reusable water bottles and would love it if you brought one of those instead) and a light snack in your pack for you, but you should consider bringing a “brown-bag” style lunch (i.e. a sandwich or wrap) and/or your favorite energy bar (i.e. Clif, Lara, or Rx bar) or trail mix if you’d like something more substantial. Keep in mind that you are responsible for carrying your own things, so pack light. We do not recommend that you bring hiking poles, since they are very difficult to manage while on rappel.

How long is the trip?

The length of your trip is going to vary greatly depending many factors such as the size of your group as well as their comfort and ability levels, but plan on a round-trip time (time spent in the canyon, plus transportation to and from your meet-up spot at Black Dome) of 4-6 hours.

Can I wear glasses or a hat?

If you need prescription glasses or contact lenses, please wear them. Sunglasses are also a nice item on a sunny day. We do suggest that you have a strap for your glasses though, as they can fall off and get lost easily without a strap. You are also welcome to wear a hat for sun protection, just make sure it is low-profile enough to fit under a helmet. Light knit hats and baseball caps are usually fine, but things like bulky winter caps and wide-brimmed sun hats/visors can be a little difficult to fit under your helmet comfortably.

I can’t swim. Can I go canyoneering?

Though swimming is not required on the trip, canyons on the East Coast are often blessed with more water than their desert Southwest counterparts. Therefore we do not suggest that those with an intense fear or aversion to swimming go on a canyoneering trip. Being able to rappel down canyons with waterfalls is part of what makes this trip so spectacular. If river are appropriate, it is possible that the that there will be opportunities to swim and slide down wet rocks, and just generally play around in the creek.

I am afraid of heights. Should I go canyoneering?

Put simply, no. A healthy respect for heights is welcome, and we can work with someone who is working on “getting more comfortable” at height, but if you have an intense fear of heights this is not the trip for you.

Will I get wet? 

Yes, so dress accordingly and bring a towel and change of clothes for after your trip. We will be rappelling through, or adjacent to, waterfalls, so you will spend time in the “spray zone”. Additionally, you may be wading through pools in the creek and may also have the option to swim, slide and jump in, so expect to be wet.

Is there an age or weight limit?

We ask that all participants be at least 12 years of age, and those under the age of 18 be actively accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Though there is not a specific weight limit, participants must fit in to a climbing harness with a waist measurement between 18-45″ and a leg measurement between 10-28″.

Are trips cancelled when it rains?

No, we are going to get a little wet regardless, so trips will go rain or shine. However, we would not begin a trip if there are adverse storm conditions such as lightning and thunder or high winds. We will do our best to monitor weather before and during the trip, but storms can form quickly and unexpectedly in the mountains, so dress accordingly.

Everyone in my group wants to go, but I’m afraid of heights. Can I tag along?

We understand that canyoneering isn’t for everyone. If you have (at least two) family members or friends that are booking a trip with us, please feel free to ask if there is room on the trip for you. For a discounted price, you can come with us and skip the rappelling. This will give you a great opportunity to be the “designated picture taker” for your group – an important job indeed. You’ll still need to meet the basic physical requirements of the trip (minus the at-height qualifications) because you will be hiking trails with us, boulder-hopping, and maybe even swimming in the river if you want! And you’ll essentially be getting a guided trip to one of the areas best waterfalls, how awesome is that? Adults are welcome, any children under the age of 14 that are “tagging along” will need to be accompanied by an adult though. Please call our office for more details and to check availability.