The official route of the Hayduke Trail climbs out of The Barracks via a very steep gully just downstream from the Misery Canyon tributary. IMHO… this is not the best way. Many others likely agree as this gem of a canyon has been frequented for years by adventurers making use of another route just a short ways down canyon. The alternate route is a little bit longer, but not only is it not quite as steep, it also takes one through arguably the best parts of the canyon (map below).
If one is hiking down the East Virgin, once past the rockfall/logjam obstacle it’s just a few bends more and one will see Misery Canyon coming in from the right. There’s likely to be a a small waterfall and crystal-clear pool beneath its exit. Diversion: it’s a difficult climb up, but the lower part of this canyon is pretty awesome to see.
Just ahead is the official canyon exit based on the book:
To do the alternate route instead, just continue down the canyon. You will almost immediately enter a great set of narrows. This is the narrowest section of The Barracks and at times the light through this section can be stunning.
Below the narrows the canyon opens up a bit and a spring bubbles up on the left. Watch out for quicksand in this section. The next few hundred meters is a gorgeous section where the wider walls allow enough sunlight in to give life to moss, flowers and small trees alongside the river. Soon one will see the bench on the right which is the way up.
BUT… before climbing up, drop your bag and explore a little more down river.
Immediately downstream from the exit route is the Powell Plaque commemorating John Wesley Powell and his team who first explored this canyon in 1872. The plaque is on the same side of the canyon as the exit route and tells how Powell gave it the name Parunweap Canyon from the Paiute Indians meaning ‘Roaring Water Canyon’.
Continuing downstream one passes the boundary of Zion National Park. Then the canyon constricts again into another spectacular set of narrows.
The canyon continues to be very scenic until a group of boulders blocks easy progress down the canyon. Ropes and/or climbing skills are needed to continue down past this point and around the bend to where one can get a glimpse of the top of Labyrinth Falls. This is as far as one can go (not only safely, but due to park restrictions as well.) Turn around and head back up canyon.
Back at the the exit route it’s an easy climb up onto the a bench which is circled by the river. Then the route climbs abruptly up along a gully of stable, but sharp rocks. Though there isn’t really any exposure, a tumble here would be painful! Take your bag off if you feel the need for more caution.
At the top of the gully you will soon intersect back with the official Hayduke Route. Just south of this spot is a great camp location. Since you are outside of Zion on BLM land, no permit is necessary. Some may be slightly confused by the route up from the nice camp spot to the ridge. Head north across slickrock and then up another gully.
NOTE: above this section, there are several additional smaller camping spots along the route as it follows the ridge to the north (and still outside the park boundary.)
Here’s a map of the area with the alternate route shown in dashed orange:
Gallery with some additional photos all in high-rez: