Canyoneering ratings begin with a number, 1 through 4, broadly describing the technical nature of the canyon. This rating immediately provides a sense of skill appropriateness and necessary gear for the descent. For example, canyon ratings beginning with a "1" will be good candidates for my 6-year-old niece to join me on, as "1" indicates a fairly casual hike/walk. Anything rated with a "3" or "4," however, will certainly require rappelling; since my niece doesn't know how to rappel and I don't have a children's harness, I know this particular canyon is out of the question.

Class 1 - Canyon Hiking  Non-technical. No rope is required. See the route description for difficulties. 


Class 2 - Basic Canyoneering  Scrambling, easy climbing or down climbing. A rope may be handy for hand lines, belays, lowering packs and emergency use. Exit or retreat possible up canyon without fixed ropes. 


Class 3 - Intermediate Canyoneering  Rappels or technical climbing and/or downclimbing. A rope is required for belays and single-pitch rappels. Retreat upcanyon would require fixing ropes. 


Class 4 - Advanced Canyoneering  Aid climbing, multi-pitch rappels and/or complex rope work(such as re-belays, tyrollean traverse, or guided rappels) may be required. Might also require difficult pothole escapes, serious squeezing, extensive high-risk down climbing, or have difficult-to-establish natural anchors. Rappels longer than 200 feet will usually earn a canyon a Class 4 rating.

The difference between Class 3 and Class 4, for me, is the difference between canyons that medium-skill climbers can comfortably complete (Class 3) and those that require canyoneering experience or specific canyoneering skills (Class 4).