Hayduke hiker notes spring 2022

Arches National Park

Route We had plenty of time to spend in Arches NP to align with our permits for the next section so took a longer indirect more scenic route in parts than the Hayduke. We walked from Moab Canyonlands Airport, across H191 to Tower Arch, then NE across Salt Valley to the Devils Garden, back SW across salt Valley following the pipeline to the Hayduke and Courthouse Wash.

Our route in purple and joining up with the red actual Hayduke in places

Willow Springs 03/27/22- Good pools before and small flow around the junction with Willow Springs.

Upper Courthouse Wash 03/27/22- Good flow down to Sevenmile Canyon then dry to near the road. We had a fair bit of bushwhacking after Sevenmile but may not have found the best route.

This year we followed the Hayduke route down Upper Courthouse Wash as opposed to 2014 where we took an another route described by Nic Barth ‘Arches Slickrock Alternate’ (green on the map). This slickrock line was way more enjoyable and scenic in my opinion – but did involve some Class 4 downclimbing down into the canyon.

Lower Courthouse Wash 03/27/22- Pretty mellow hiking but with more beaver activity this time than we saw in 2014.

Moab to Needles

Route We followed the Hayduke but with a few alternates as described.
HT30.2 We did the Amasa Back alternative which was nice and recommended. We started at Kane Creek, where there was a trail from the Trailhead to a bridge over the creek a few hundred meters up from the Colorado River (the Colorado river backs up into Kane Creek making it awkward and muddy to cross). There is a steep scramble down from the high point into Jackson Hole on an old trail, but other than that it is trail or jeep roads with good views.
Stopped at Base Camp and chatted to Tom who kindly let us fill up with water as well as admiring the tortoise!
There were 2 river access points to the Colorado River for water south of Base Camp after HT4.5, see below.


HT6.8 This is Chicken Corner and hard to miss, see pic! We took a direct alt (purple line below) south up a mellow wash with a couple of 2-3m high scrambling steps to short cut the HT (red below) which is an indirect jeep road. Worthwhile- its shorter and more interesting than the jeep road I think.


HT11.3 We left the HT just south of the pass at HT11.3 for a grand alternative down Hermit Canyon based on the Kelsey Canyonlands guidebook. We then followed a lovely limestone bench above the Colorado River narrowing to a meter or so in places.

There likely was access to the Colorado River for water from the bench, both at the bottom of Hermit and at the first canyon south of Hermit, but we didn’t check either out so can’t confirm that.

There is also the cool Tangren old horse camp on the way (please leave everything in place). We couldn’t find the spring to the east of Tangren as described in Kelsey though, …. I have doubts that it still exists.

We continued on the bench along the rim to Lockhart Canyon. Here we thought we could cross Lockhart and continue south to connect with the Hayduke at Rustler Canyon. There was a small cairn at the rim of Lockhart looking like we could drop down into the canyon. However we didn’t fancy it, the top looked too loose and rubbly for us!

Instead we followed the rim of Lockhart east easily on the same bench. Continuing along the rim of the north fork back to the Hayduke at HT20.9 and the foot of the Nic Barth Lockhart Cliff descent and a big pour off (black line below). This Hermit alternate taking you above the Colorado River is scenic and varied. Contact me if you want more info.

Overview map showing our Hermit Canyon route in purple along the Colorado river (Hayduke in red)

HT20.9 There was a small clear flow of water coming down a slabby gully within the first half mile south of HT20.9 but I suspect this would be short lived after the rain we had about 4 days before so I wouldn’t rely on it.
HT25.4 Lockhart had a good flow for about 1/3 mile

HT32.3 Rustler dryfall. there was a small pool just above the dryfall but Rustler was dry below. The direct route under the chockstone was fun!

HT35.1 Indian Creek. Pools of water in this stretch but no flow.

HT39.3 ‘We hope so’ wash. About 1/4 mile south of HT39.3 there is a large pothole of water just under a small dryfall (as mentioned by Jamal Green in Across Utah). We took a side route out to the Colorado River neck lookout. Nice view and a short diversion starting from 200-300m before the pothole in ‘We hope so’ wash. Would be a nice camp spot too…

Needles to Hanksville

Route We took a northerly alternate from the Hayduke over the Colorado River at Spanish Bottom, through the Maze, Hans Flat and Happy Canyons to join the Hayduke at Poison Springs. 

In 2014 we took another alternate and what both have in common is that from Needles in Canyonlands National Park, we end up at the Colorado River at a place called Spanish Bottom. From the north bank of the river we climb up again over remote plateau and end up in the well named Happy Canyon and then cross the even more appropriately named Dirty Devil river. Credits for our 2022 route go to Jamal Green who describes it on his excellent Across Utah website.

Needles visitor centre to Colorado River – We saw no water on the trail from Big Springs down Cyclone Canyon then Lower Red Lake. We took water from the Colorado.

Maze – Standard descent from west of Chimney rock to Pictograph canyon – small pothole on scramble descent and small potholes at canyon bottom about where marked by Kelsey as a spring.

Maze- Wash north of the Harvest Scene, on the west side of the canyon junction -small seep flow

Maze – Foot of the Maze Overlook trail – Good water in pools with a small flow.

North Trail Canyon – Small pothole just before steep zig zag exit. We didn’t notice any water between Maze Overlook and here.

Hans Flat Ranger Station- Sells gallon jugs and open between 8 and 4.30.

North French Springs Fork – Medium pothole of water in wash above steep constructed trail descent. Well used by feral donkeys though and we didn’t take.

North French Springs Fork- Constructed trail descends steep section round a nose to the boulder filled wash at bottom and then continues criss crossing wash to easier ground after boulder section. Makes for a relatively easy passage.

North French Springs Fork- Slickrock pothole area down wash mentioned by Jamal Green was dry.

Happy Canyon- Small seep 1 mile below French Springs Fork junction. Good pools and seeps 3 miles below. We also saw these in April 2014. Happy Canyon narrows had some small potholes which may be better than the muddy water in the Dirty Devil…

Poison Spring Canyon- Good flow about 1 mile below and 2 miles above the spring.

Henry Mountains

Route We hiked from H95 past Little Egypt then joined the Hayduke before Crescent Creek. We then took an alternate dirt road south over Copper Ridge to Airplane Spring. Due to Brian’s blisters(!) we then turned about and hiked back to H95 but this time following the Hayduke from Crescent Creek to H95.

Little Egypt – This is an alternative route south of the Hayduke Trail from H95 as described by Nic Barth. The hoodoos and mining cabins were interesting and worthwhile as an alt.

Crescent Creek– Good flowing water as the jeep track nears the creek bed. Nice camping on the west side of the river too.

Airplane Spring on a lower alternate on the south slopes of the Henry Mountains had reasonable water in two wells inside the fenced off area.

Escalante to Kanab

Route The route we took between Escalante town and Highway 89 was really enjoyable and recommended with a particularly great sequence of canyons in the middle in the area of the Paria River. We pretty much joined up 3 alternatives described by Jamal Green along with some information from Michael Kelsey’s guide;

firstly Via Escalante West

then Stone Donkey to Hogeye

then a short hike down the Paria River before going up Kitchen and Starlight Canyons. Jamal Kitchen/Starlight text here and Kelsey’s Paria River Guidebook had useful information on upper Starlight, the cave and Mollies Nipple.

Alvey Wash- 04/25/22 About 5.5 miles south of Escalante town on Smokey Mountain dirt road- there was water running here where the wash narrows.

Mossy Dell- 04/25/22 This is about 19 miles from Escalante town and mentioned as a water source by Jamal but we couldn’t find any water here unfortunately.

Collet Canyon forks- 04/25/22 The jeep road crosses a few forks of upper Collet Canyon but all were dry for us. It looks like they might flow for a bit following rain.

Headquarters Springs- 04/26/22 A number of small flows of water here. We couldn’t find the cabin marked on the map though…

Corral south of Grosvener Arch- 04/26/22 Two good full tanks of water here, see map below.

Round Valley Draw, HT Section 8 mile 2.9- Our second time down these narrows and this is an excellent scramble.

Hackberry Canyon, HT Section 8 mile 11.2- 04/27/22 Water started from about here. Bear in mind its a tough walk down canyon from the narrows of RVD to this point in deep soft sand. Also this area was fouled by cattle making the water a little less inviting!

Hogeye Creek- 04/28/22 Excellent water flow in two shady sections in the middle of Hogeye down to maybe half a mile before the Paria River.

Paria River- 04/28/22 This was flowing quite clear between Hogeye and Kitchen.

Kitchen Canyon- 04/28/22 Very, very muddy flow. The canyon is so rubbly and loose that it looks like it the water flow is full of mud and silt from the side walls sliding into the wash.

Starlight Canyon- 04/29/22 Lovely flow of good water up the length of this canyon to where we exited at the cave.

1/2 mile to north of Kitchen Corral Spring (HT 43.4) – 04/30/22 Good small flow 1/4 mile east of Hayduke Trail dirt road along side canyon on jeep road. Go over barbed wire to small spring that is piped off so the canyon looks dry before you get to the spring.

H89 Buckskin to Jacob Lake

Route We followed the Hayduke in this section for the first time(!) with the exception of the enforced fire reroute on the AZT below…

Water- we relied on a single wildlife guzzler source on the AZT about 4 miles south of the Utah-Arizona state border, which seems reliable. That said there was a fair bit of activity at the state border with a few northbound AZT hikers finishing each day in May so there could be a fair chance of picking up water from people here to meet AZT hikers.

AZT diversion- there was a rerouting of the AZT north of Jacob Lake due to burn areas impacting the trail. See sign below…

Whilst on the AZT, the AZT water report provides good hiker updated water reports.

Jacob Lake to Grand Canyon South Rim

Route We mostly followed the Hayduke in this section apart from at the end where we hiked out of the Grand Canyon to the south rim on the Grand View Trail. This shortened the route a bit and we had already hiked the remainder part along the Tonto Trail and up South Kiabab Trail in 2014.

South from Jacob Lake the Hayduke follows the well maintained and relatively popular Arizona Trail (AZT) for about 30 miles. AZT water report

Its dry from leaving the AZT til hitting Nankoweap Canyon about 8 miles down from the North Rim on Nankoweap Trail. This trail is really scenic and makes for a superb hike. Nankoweap Canyon looks like a perennial stream with a gushing spring source just 10 or 20m downstream from where the trail hits the stream.

Once you hit the Colorado River there are a number of places to access the river for water. You can’t do this anywhere though so best keeping an eye on the map. The Nankoweap Granaries are definitely worth the side trip.

The route along the Colorado River between Nankoweap and the north of the Little Colorado can be pretty slow going over boulders with bushwhacking so allow plenty of time and best to start early if its going to be hot. We have managed to get lifts across the river to the Little Colorado outlet pretty easily within a few hours both times we have been there.

Hance Creek had a good, if small, flow of water.

Overall, from Jacob Lake to South Rim is a brilliant hiking expedition. We were there in May and at that time a challenge is the heat down in the bottom of the canyon.

Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim

Route We followed the Bright Angel and North Kiabab trails. These are popular and make for easy hiking for anyone who has hiked the Hayduke or variants to here. We camped at Cottonwood but I guess could have made it the whole way rim to rim if we weren’t able to get a permit.

The temperature was in the low 40C range at Phantom Ranch and to avoid that we had a really early start from South Rim then spent a while cooling down at Ribbon Falls (a must see anyway).

North Rim to Kanab Creek

Section 13 miles 27.9-37.4 I think the section down Saddle Canyon to Upper Tapeats Campground is one of the toughest sections of the Hayduke, although with some great scrambling and scenery. We were here mid May and it took us about 10 hours but that included about 1-2 hours time wasted scrabbling about at a wrong exit from Saddle Canyon.

The initial descent down Saddle Canyon (28.6-30.2) was cross country with some scrub in the dry bed of the creek but wasn’t too hard at all. Maybe with more people on the Hayduke it is gradually getting easier.

We missed the correct exit from the dry canyon bed at 30.2 to traverse around the dryfall and headed uphill too early. There are a few smaller dryfalls you get to first which have cairns on the left side but you need to go down past these to more cairns before the bigger dryfall. The route from there back into Saddle Canyon involves traversing on the left, west side onto a ridge then descending its west side to a small side wash and back into Saddle Canyon. It was pretty slow going, scratchy bushwhacking but had some cairns and signs of traffic.

Once you are back into Saddle Canyon at mile 31.0 the character changes straight away to scrambling and hiking inside the slickrock canyon. There were a few drop offs where we were happy to have a team to assist each other and lower packs- it would be trickier solo. The cord to lower packs was definitely useful. We didn’t really get too wet in the slickrock potholes, maybe knee deep. A superb canyon.

The scrambling ends at 32.6 with the Stina Canyon junction. From memory there were two small potholes at 33.1, the junction with Crazy Jug Canyon. The next few miles were very hot down a rubbly dry streambed and slow going. The going gets nicer about 1/2 mile before Tapeats Spring though with cottonwoods, shade, pools and running water.

Once we met Tapeats Spring the river changed character to a raging and loud cataract! There is a trail which helps a lot, starting on the south side and crossing the river at reasonable places with some scrambling along the way. We maybe had knee deep water (but very fast flowing) after a dry spell, any more might have made progress difficult. The area is really dramatic and scenic and a stand out of the Hayduke if you have low enough water levels!

Hildale to Zion

Our route deviated from the Hayduke to cross Canaan Mountain from Hildale to Rockville.

This is a marvelous hike has a real Hayduke flavor to it with a mix of trails, cross country, route finding and superb scenery. Its downside is that it misses out the ‘Barracks’ on the Hayduke which is also top class (we were there in 2014).

We did this hike in the opposite direction in Autumn 2018.

The site ‘Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park‘ gave us the original idea and the associated book is worthwhile purchasing too.

Water is available in the well named Water Canyon, then there are some big potholes in the slickrock wash at the top of Water Canyon. Sawmill Spring had water about 10 minutes downstream from the spring itself and there was some seeps and pools in the slickrock below that.

Bobway and Stevens Arch

Thursday 19th September 2019  The lower part of the Escalante River above Stevens Canyon is an area we haven’t visited before, so we put together this approx. 4 day loop hike taking in the river plus a few interesting other new places for us.

We drove for an hour down the dry and sandy Hole in the Rock road to make it to the Hurricane Wash trailhead- last seen when we hitch hiked out of here after a long, fantastic stretch of the Hayduke Trail in 2014. It was a hot, dusty and windy spot and we quickly set off from the car down Hurricane Wash at about 13:30.

Our route to the lower Escalante River

The sun and wind were at our backs keeping the temperatures down a bit and we could admire the vibrant, technicolour sandstone landscape. Soon the canyon began to close in and we were hiking on good trail down the lush lower part of Hurricane Wash with water, cottonwoods and some willow.

At the Coyote Gulch confluence we headed upstream into new territory and the steep red walls and vivid greens didn’t disappoint. We saw some pictographs high up on an alcove and soon after reached the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ canyon confluence. Not sure if we found the right route up Sleepy Hollow as we had some thrashing through vegetation before it opened out a bit. We were looking for an exit out onto the slickrock plateau above and soon found it- a steep step up assisted by standing on a pile of stones then some slabby moves before it eased off. Brian went up to have a look around for camping spots but it was windy out of the canyon and with little water around we decided to head back to the confluence with Upper Coyote Gulch. On the way back down we found an easier, less brushy route and soon settled into a fantastic camp under a huge alcove.

Friday 20th September 2019  Cool night sky with the milky way framed by the roof of the alcove. Camping is great out here! This morning we aimed to cross the plateau above the canyons before dropping into the Escalante River via a route called ‘The Bobway’. From the start the hiking was beautiful over undulating slickrock with the early morning light casting long shadows. We aimed northward for a small saddle at the top of the Sleepy Hollow drainage before trending south east for a landmark hill called ‘Rock’ on the map. We had a look for water on the way and found one pothole with water deep down- another sign that this season is a dry one as I had heard reports of more water than that in this area.

Eventually we arrived at the top of a huge sandy bay leading down to a small canyon which hopefully would take us to the Escalante River- the Bobway. The Bobway is a short but lovely canyon with a mostly slickrock floor and a little scrambling. Nothing too hard though and there are faint signs of a trail in places. Soon we were at the Escalante and, as it had got a bit hotter, we sheltered under a boulder for some lunch.

We started down the Escalante with deep wading and bushwacking but the going gradually eased as the afternoon progressed and it cooled down too. We did one shortcut over a col to cut out a huge hairpin bend. The scenery improved downriver to top notch Escalante red walls, reflected light and alcoves. We passed the confluence with Stevens Canyon and headed on to find a camp spot right under the huge Stevens Arch- another wonderful camp. We haven’t seen anyone since shortly after leaving the car.

Hiking the slickrock heading away from Upper Coyote Gulch
Descending towards The Bobway
The Escalante River
Approaching Stevens Arch on the Escalante River

Saturday 21st September 2019  In the morning we waded further down the Escalante then climbed up on a faint trail to visit Stevens Arch itself. The arch was amazing- quite hard to describe, but this is one of the most fantastic sights we have seen in canyon country. Some ravens drifted around checking us out as we spent a while scrambling around and exploring. Reluctantly we left and were soon down at the Coyote Gulch- Escalante confluence. We were heading into a more popular area here and soon met a hiker group. There are a cool succession of waterfalls in Coyote and one fairly easy scrambling section on rather sandy slabs.

We continued upstream enjoying the iconic sights including Coyote Natural Arch and Jacob Hamlin Arch and the easy hiking on trails. On reaching the Hurricane/Coyote confluence, we continued up Coyote again for a while to camp in a quiet spot under cottonwoods. Another great day!

Hiking towards Stevens Arch
Lower Coyote Gulch slabs
Coyote Gulch

Sunday 22nd September 2019  A chilled out hike back up Hurricane Wash to the car in the cool morning air. We had a huge lunch at Escalante Outfitters before deciding to start the drive back to California so that we could get another final hike in the mountains before returning to Scotland. It’s been a short trip to Utah for our ‘fix’ of canyon country hiking but its it’s been fun!

The Gulch and Boulder Creek

Saturday 14th September 2019 We had an incredible drive heading east from California to Utah across the middle of arid and barren Nevada. We had been driving into the night, and started looking for places we might camp by the side of the road, when we saw some lights on the horizon which turned out to be the tiny settlement of Rachel. At the edge of Area 51, and famed for its UFO conspiracy theories, the ‘LittleAleInn’ is an oasis and we happily spent the night here instead of camping. Delighted to see photos on the wall of the bar of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost taken here whilst they were looking at sets for the superb movie ‘Paul’ .

Rachel, Nevada

Sunday 15th September 2019 Anyway, we eventually arrived in Escalante, southern Utah in the late afternoon the next day. Our rough plan was to hike into The Gulch and Boulder Creek, two tributary canyons north of the Escalante River that we hadn’t visited before. For ideas we used our bible (but aging) guide book –  Steve Allen’s Loop Hikes in Escalante – plus our own knowledge of the area and many other references including Jamal Green’s superb website.

Our hike from US Highway 12 in the Escalante area of southern Utah

With a late start, we had a short evening hike from the point that Highway 12 crosses the Escalante River. We hiked trails along the river, then crossed into the dry Phipps canyon and walked up valley for a while to camp.

Monday 16th September 2019 Lovely moonlit night and we enjoyed nice cool temperatures for breakfast in the leafy but dry lower part of Phipps Canyon. Setting off back down the Escalante River, the river level was low with some faint trails, river crossings and a little bushwhacking to keep us alert! The Escalante is lined with vertical sandstone cliffs and escape points are mostly via confluence canyons. After passing Boulder Creek confluence at about 11am we arrived at a different type of exit point that makes use of a slabby break in the cliffs on the north side. A short steep hike up above the river took us to a ‘line shack’ wooden hut – this route has been used by cattlemen in the past.

From here we hiked on undulating slick rock slabs and sandy washes heading north then south east paralleling above the Escalante River. Our idea was that this would give us easier hiking to reach the canyon of The Gulch than following the meandering Escalante River itself. It was pretty hot though and involved a fair bit of up and down but with the plus of extensive views across the plateau.

Eventually we found a cool rock rib descending steeply down into the green canyon of The Gulch – another route used in the past by cattlemen. Unfortunately for us the ‘perennial stream’ at the bottom of the canyon was dry, so we decided to drop our backpacks and head down The Gulch for about 20 minutes to pick up the Escalante River again and fill up our water bags there. Heading back up canyon with heavier backpacks, The Gulch has a fair bit of vegetation so the hiking was slow but with some interesting overhanging alcove walls. It was hot and sweaty and we were glad to find a camp in the evening by scrambling out of the canyon floor onto a grand slick rock perch.

Hiking out of the Escalante to the ‘line shack’
North of the Escalante
The temps cooled a bit with some welcome cloud
The descent into The Gulch
Alcove in The Gulch

Tuesday 17th September 2019 Another lovely morning with the moon dappling the canyon walls and we set off up canyon to reach an exit scramble avoiding some dryfalls further on. Still no water in the canyon at all so were glad of diverting to the Escalante yesterday. After clambering up some rock ledges on the west side we picked up a faint trail paralleling the canyon with some great views back into The Gulch. We dropped again hoping to descend back into the canyon and reached a cairned point at the top of a slab/wall. We looked at this drop for a while and decided to give it a miss as it appeared too risky for us! Maybe would be easier in ascent…..

Instead of heading further up The Gulch as we had hoped, our new aim was to cross country over to Boulder Creek and head up that canyon. This again was nice viewful hiking in pleasant temperatures winding our way over to the ‘Bingham Tea Bench’ and actually crossing our tracks from a hike in October 2017. We reached a col and then descended very gradually in a superb slickrock valley south west towards Boulder Creek. This is gorgeous country out here and needless to say we hadn’t seen anyone else yet (nor would we til we hit the road- Highway 12- tomorrow afternoon).

We passed a few deep potholes and gratefully took some water. It appears that we are in a dry period as this year there doesn’t seem to have been the usual wet spell in late summer to replenish the water sources.

At the point where the pothole drainage drops into Boulder Creek it looks impossible to scramble into the creek. However about 300m to the north we found ‘The Crease’, a 30 foot slabby corner that provides a doable way down- maybe about Class 4 in descent? We were happy to lower the backpacks first to make the slightly slippy scrabble a bit easier.

We were now just above the Boulder Creek Narrows, a tremendous narrow canyon with the river running through a subway style rocky cleft. Leaving the backpacks behind we waded downstream for a bit. I guess it would be a lot harder if the water levels were higher, but as it was, we turned round at a pool which would have required a swim to cross.

Boulder Creek narrows

Back at the packs, we now headed up Boulder Creek. The canyon walls were not too high, but narrow, and the river itself was pretty chocked up with vegetation. At times we hiked up above on slabs, at times we hacked through the willowy brush, but often the easiest way was up the bouldery river (as per the name!). At one point Brian was suspended above the creek pinned to willow branches, with lots thrashing he managed to disentangle from the shrubbery with some scrapes and tears to show for it.

After we passed the confluence with Deer Creek the water volume went right down, but even then there were some waist deep pools to wade through. It felt tough going upstream and we were again thankful for the low water levels. An interesting sight was that the river was packed full of fish – rainbow and brown trout- plus the odd snake.

We found another great campsite above the creek bed on a superb wide slickrock bench. A great if slightly tough day.

Camp above Boulder Creek

Wednesday 18th September 2019 In the morning we had an explore of the slabs around camp before heading back into the creek again. Good to see some hummingbirds and we now came across a fair bit of beaver activity- with chopped trees and a few dams.

In late morning we made it to the middle exit point described in the Steve Allen guide and picked up a way out of the canyon and climbed fairly easily out on slabs all the way up to Highway 12. We had about 3 miles to hike south down the road to the car at the Escalante bridge and this was surprisingly pleasant with cool winds and little traffic.

All in all another great little backpack!

Boulder Creek

US South West

We have visited an area in the south west of the United States called the ‘Colorado Plateau‘ a number of times now including 2 months on the ‘Hayduke Trail’ in 2014 [and update, we are out again in spring 2022!]

The plateau covers the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and southern Utah. It is characterised by high desert, deep canyons, steep rock cliffs, forests and vivid colours. For us the attraction is in the vast wild countryside that provides endless adventures for backpacking, exploring, hiking, scrambling as well as paddling and rock climbing. There are many signs of prehistoric cultures too: Ancestral Puebloan, including the ‘Anasazi,’ Sinagua, Fremont, and Cohonina. And thankfully much of the area is public lands such as National Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas (although the Trump administration reduced the size of some key areas, hopefully this will be reversed).

Listed below are our outdoor adventures- many with links to blog posts.

Autumn 2019

We visited California in Autumn 2019 and took a 10 day break to hike in southern Utah again from September 14th. We stayed in the Escalante catchment for another two excellent 4 day hikes covering some new territory for us.

Escalante – Bobsway and Stevens Arch

Escalante- The Gulch and Boulder Creek

Autumn 2018

We returned to southern Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona in October 2018 for more backpacking in this wonderful area.

Buckskin Gulch slickrock

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Escalante – Bighorn Canyon, Harris Wash and the ‘Cosmic Navel’

Capital Reef NP – Lower Muley Twist and Halls Creek

Zion – Canaan Mountain traverse

Escalante – Scorpion Gulch

Grand Canyon North Rim Loop (Indian Hollow-Colorado River-Kanab-Jumpup Canyons)

Video summary of our 2018 hikes ( 9 minutes)

Autumn 2017

Back again to the canyons and high desert of the US south west in October 2017! We flew from Scotland to Las Vegas and rented a car with 3 and a half weeks to get out and backpack further into some new areas.

Canaan Mountain and White Domes loop north of Hildale

Escalante – Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante-Brigham Tea Bench-Boulder

Capital Reef NP – Upper Muley Twist and the rim route

Grand Gulch area – East Slickhorn-San Juan-Slickhorn canyon loop

Dark and Youngs Canyons

Hackberry Canyon-Yellow Rock-Paria canyon

Video summary of our 2017 hikes (10 minutes)

Autumn 2016

Back to the desert and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona in September/ October 2016. Two years ago we hiked and kayaked our own version of the Hayduke Trail. Having enjoyed it so much we returned this year with a rental car to hike to some other canyons and interesting places. Whilst we wouldn’t get the full immersion of a multi month hike such as the Hayduke, we were aiming to target some of the most spectacular places in the region with some trips ranging from  1 to 5 days.

Paria river backpack I

Paria river backpack II

Escalante – Death Hollow, Bowington and Boulder Mail trails

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons I

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II

Escalante – Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone slot canyons day trip

Canyonlands National Park- Horseshoe canyon

Canyonlands National Park- Salt Creek backpack

Escalante – Farewell- Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons

Video summary from our 2016 hikes (6 minutes)

Spring 2014

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The Hayduke Trail is a 800 mile hike and scramble through the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona USA. Read about our trip on this wonderful route here…Hayduke hike

2009

We had 6 months in the USA in 2009 to mainly hike the wonderful Continental Divide Trail. We also managed a few short trips to the desert south west before after the CDT though…

Grand Junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Montrose CO – Dominguez canyon

Mesa Verda National Park CO

Montrose CO – Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

Montrose CO – Dolores Canyon

New Mexico – Chaco Canyon

Arizona – Monument Valley

Canyonlands NP – Needles hikes

Moab UT – Slickrock trails mountain bike

Canyonlands NP – Islands in the Sky

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Chaco Canyon

2004

Our first visit to southern Utah and it was a bit of a revelation to us contrasting with the green and wet Scottish scenery. We did a number of hikes, scrambles and rock climbs…

Grand junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Moab- Kane Valley rock climbs

Moab – Negro Bill canyon

Arches NP – Off Balance Rock rock climb

Arches NP – Owl Rock rock climb

San Rafeal Reef

Goblin SP – Wildhorse Canyon – Crack Canyon

Capital Reef NP – Fern’s Nipple

Capital Reef NP – Sulphur Creek, Cassiday Arch

Capital Reef NP -Burro canyon, Rim Overlook trail

Escalante – Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls

Escalante – Coyote Gulch and Stevens Canyon

Escalante – Spooky and Peekaboo Gulches

Grand Gulch loop hike

Canyonlands NP – South Six Shooter rock climb

Canyonlands NP -Needles

Moab – Slickrock mountain bike

Moab – Fisher Towers, Ancient Art rock climb

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Ancient Art Fisher Towers

Moab – Castleton Tower rock climb

Grand Junction – Independance Monument rock climb

Telluride – Lizard Head peak

Scorpion Gulch

Wednesday 10th October 2018 We camped inthe town of Tropic, and had more rain and then frezzing temperatures overnight. Looking at our options, we again decided on a short hike of 3 days to hedge our bets with the weather, thinking about the flood status of the rivers.

Driving east to our familiar town of Escalante the weather did seem to brighten and warm up a little. Our destination was Scorpion Gulch, a tributary of the main Escalante river and in an area we hadn’t visited before. It involves a 23 mile drive down the dirt track of ‘Hole in Rock’ road, which was mostly dry but with some quite muddy, sticky sections where the road dipped low. We turned off on ‘Early Weed’ dirt road for maybe 5 miles to stop short of a trailhead before a rougher section. This road was in much poorer condition and we were glad of our SUV with higher clearance and wide tyres! The road dropped into a few washes which had been eroded in recent rains. For many of these we got out the car and dug ramps with dirt and stones to ease the drop off for the car. This worked fine but we were both mighty glad to leave the car, gather the gear and start hiking!

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Early Weed TH with the Henry Mountains in the distance

Our route was across a wide open plateau called Scorpion bench following the excellent directions in Steve Allen’s Loop Hikes in Escalante guide book. The guide is getting old now (published in 1997) but it still is a fantastic resource.

The air was clear after the rains, and the panoramic views to the snowy Henry Mountains and back west to the escarpment of ‘Fifty Mile Mountain’ were grand. Our navigation points included a curious little arch sat on top of a broad ridge in the middle of nowhere. From there we wound our way over slabs and through sandy patches for a couple of hours before arriving at the head of Scorpion Gulch. This canyon has steep walled cliffs of the Navajo rock layer but there is a break formed by a huge sand dune that allowed easy access down to the canyon floor.

We headed down the dry sandy canyon marked by some cool alcoves and clambered over a 2nd sand dune that fills the Gulch from wall to wall. We were surprised to see another group here- they had come in by llama (!) from a more southerly trailhead (Red Well) and were exploring from a camp above Scorpion Gulch.

Soon after, we arrived at green cottonwood trees and the canyon changed character as we followed a faint sandy trail high up on the south bank (RDC).  Further down we were able to hike along the wash on cool slickrock with pools and even some running water. The vegetation really thickens in the lower part of Scorpion and we donned some more clothes to scrape past some unavoidable patches of our old friend poison ivy.

The canyon blocked up at one point with a waterfall into a deep looking pool and we chose to scramble up the south bank again (RDC) and scrabble over and under some loose blocky rocks before being able to slither back into the canyon floor.

Finally we exited from the deep brush out to the bigger canyon and river of the Escalante River and we found a lovely little camp spot on the highest sand banks underneath the huge sandstone cliffs.  The plan tomorrow is to wade down the Escalante River for an hour or so then to take a scenic route back on rocky ledges, high above the floor of Scorpion Gulch on the ‘Scorpion Horse trail’.

Thursday 11th October 2018 An eventful night- it started raining hard at about 11pm and continued all through the night! We stayed in the tent in the morning listening to the Escalante River roar louder and louder as the water volume swole up in the rain and the river spilled over its main banks onto a first sandbank thankfully beneath the level of our tent.  We made a few forries out in the morning to look around and waterfalls had sprung up, pouring down the cliffs on all sides above us. It was a scary sight as we were now pretty much locked in by the river and the cliffs! Thankfully the rain started to subside around about midday and the waterfalls shrunk in size pretty quickly.

We looked at the Escalante though, and it had enlarged into a mighty brown torrent and there was no way we were heading downstream. We instead decided to have a go at retreating back out of Scorpion Gulch as the water flow had been pretty small yesterday and we only had to cross the river in a few places.

Packing the wet gear up quickly, we headed up for a good soaking through the now dripping deep brush of the lower section of Scorpion. But it wasn’t too hard and by the time we reached the slickrock and pools the sun had popped out, so we immediately spread all our damp gear out the rocks for a thorough drying session. Upper Scorpion Gulch was grand again and we stopped to watch a raven and its shadow gliding alongside the canyon walls. We hiked back up the sand dune exit and onto the plateau now dotted with pools in the slickrock. Time was getting on and we stopped to camp beside the low arch for another excellent scenic campsite view.

Friday 12th October 2018 Breakfast cooking and sitting on top of the arch was wonderful and we had an uneventful but fun short hike back to the car. What we feared now though was the drive back on the dirt road after the 12 hours of rain. It turned out to be heavy work stopping and digging ramps at about 7 or 8 washes to create a driving route through. However we made it and were glad to reach Escalante town for a shower to wipe all the mud off ourselves and our clothes. Another fine little adventure trip even though it wasn’t what we had planned!

Bighorn Canyon, Harris Wash and the ‘Cosmic Navel’

A splendid short scrambling backpack past some amazing sights in the Escalante catchment.

Wednesday 3rd October 2018 With wet weather over the last few days and more forecast, we decided to cut down our ambitious plans for a week long hike in the Escalante catchment and instead go for a 2 or 3 day loop down into the Upper Harris Wash area of Escalante.

We parked on the Sheffield Road a few miles off Highway 12 east of Escalante with an eery mist hanging over the canyons. The sun soon broke through though and we started off down into the slickrock of Bighorn Canyon. This is a tremendously colourful place with generally easy hiking broken up by some interesting scrambling down slots and bypasses round the trickier drops. We left the backpacks at the junction with the west fork of Bighorn and explored it’s narrow slot for a while past some surreal swirling rock layers.

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All too soon we arrived at the junction with the larger more open canyon of Upper Harris Wash. The temperature was still cool and this was an enjoyable hike with wide views out to the canyon walls and puffy clouds studding the deep blue sky.

We stopped beside a shady wall for a late lunch before continuing down the dry streambed seeing some people heading for Zebra and Tunnel Canyons. Soon after that Harris narrowed and a trickling stream appeared running down a mellow green avenue of cottonwoods. We noticed lots of woodpeckers along with coyote and turkey footprints in the muddy wash.

Just as the canyon widened a little we scrambled up onto the southern slickrock slopes and set up camp on flat rock overlooking the canyon in a lovely spot. We have been prefering camping on rock out here in Utah where possible as we make very little impact compared with camping on soil or sand. Our freestanding tent and inflatable sleeping mats make it easy too and it opens up the option of more interesting and often viewful sites.

Thursday 4th October 2018 Massive pyrotechnics last night as thunderstorms gradually came closer accompanied by torrential rain. So glad we pitched the tent above the canyon floor!

In the morning Harris Wash had flooded from a trickle of clear water to a muddy torrent about 15 meters wide. Crossing the river now looked impossible but at least the rain had stopped and the sun was out again.

[Click here or the image below for a short video clip]

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After a pleasant breakfast in the sun we scrambled out of the canyon to the south and followed slabs pitted with fresh pools of water to then descend back to Harris at the 2WD trailhead. The river is wider here and levels appeared to have dropped allowing us to wade across to the north side fairly easily. Cattle trails gave quick progress along beside the line of cottonwoods but the cows have grazed heavily and the vegetation looked pretty damaged.

Soon enough past Red Breaks canyon we picked up a jeep track heading northwards under a lovely clear sky and cumulus clouds. Our target was a geological oddity and wonderful sight given various names such as the Cosmic Navel or Volcano.

A cold southerly wind at our backs assisted us up to the volcano sitting near the top of a slickrock hill. Wow! -a huge hole in the rock filled with red sand and a rock island sitting inside. Its not really a volcano but is believed to be an old river meander or abandoned meandor (rincon) raised up through time to the top of the hill.

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After exploring around the volcano we headed north over a beautiful undulating sea of slickrock before reluctantly descending to Big Spencer Flats and picking up a dirt road. This was a long walk back to the car but the clear air and panoramic views made up for it to round off a superb hike!

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Upper Muley Twist and the rim route

Monday 9th October 2017 Back at the town of Escalante we camped at Escalante Outfitters on a cold and windy night. We have a couple of days before we need to return to Escalante as Martina has a Skype interview arranged for a job back in Scotland.

We decide to go for a loop hike in Steep and Hot canyons, north of the Burr Trail road and have a leisurely morning shopping, drinking coffee, writing cards and preparing our food for an overnighter.  Two dusty looking hikers arrived at the Outfitters who looked like Haydukers and sure enough it’s Bert Gils from Belgium and Monique Weir from New Zealand. We had a great chat and they sound like they are having an incredible hike and are looking fit and in good form. Making us feel more than a little jealous of their long hike and the stunning scenery of the Hayduke that awaits them as they head on westwards.

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Monique and Bert

Later on we drive along the Burr Trail and descend a shallow wash into Steep Creek. It’s choked with old spiney and scrapy willow but we hack our way through heading northwards upstream. After about an hour we decide that the potential scenic benefits of this hike possibly don’t merit the bushwacking! If this had been part of a longer thru hike we would have kept at it but since this was just an overnighter we turned back, with thoughts on heading into hopefully scenic Upper Muley Twist canyon instead.

Back to the car at 5pm we drive another 25 miles east to the Upper Muley 2WD Trailhead in beautiful crisp low light and start hiking north. Firstly along a 4WD track into the canyon then just following the dry bed of the canyon. Some great arches on the way too.`

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We dry camped around 7pm on sand just next to the dry wash and settled in for a cold starry night.

Tuesday 10th October 2017 Minus 5 in the bell end of the tent in the morning and we set off further up canyon with easy hiking wearing all our clothing layers! the canyon walls close in nicely as the wash twists it’s way along. More great arches and an owl flies by. We drop our backpacks at an arch on the west and explore the slot canyon heading up onto the plateau to the west (we think this is part of Jamal’s Hayduke alternate route to Escalante).

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Martina forming an arch on the side canyon

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Good Moon Rising

Back in the main Upper Muley Twist canyon we head up further to a narrow slot and a climb up a 20 foot dryfall where we haul the rucksacks up using our cord that we carry. The canyon dead ends a short way after this though so we lower ourselves back down again and retrace our steps for about 300m to see a cairn marking an exit from the canyon that we missed in our excitement!

This cairn marks a fun contorted route along the east wall of the canyon scrambling around obstacles before heading more directly up east onto the rim of the ‘waterpocket fold’ itself.  We were now on a rocky ridge overlooking Strike Valley to the east with beautiful wavy rock layers and distant views out east to the Henry Mountains and Tarantula Mesa. A series of cairns followed the ridge line southwards with wonderful hiking and views before, too soon, we descended back down into Upper Muley Twist and back down to the car.

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Escalante loop- Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante-Brigham Tea Bench-Boulder

Thursday 5th October 2017 We left Kanab campsite and drove on one of our favourite drives up through Orderville lined by beautiful autumnal cottonwoods and sparkling cold sun, then over the high plateau past Bryce canyon and onto Escalante town through stark but beautiful scenery. We asked at the ranger station about the state of Death Hollow river level as the river had defeated us last year with its deep, cold, fast flowing water. The ranger had one report of a team that had turned back recently at the crux narrows  but we decided to head in anyway as the autumn has been dry and we expected the water levels to be reasonably low.

We left the car at a windswept and dusty turn off about 2 miles west of the town of Boulder in mid afternoon at the eastern trailhead of the Boulder Mail Trail. Having hiked the west portion of this trail last year and finding it to be superb we were so glad to be back now on the eastern side.

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An easy hike to start on good trail winding its way through pinyon – juniper scrub before we dropped height onto slickrock and to cross Sand Creek with running water and lush cottonwoods, greenery and even some aspen. From there we continued west on slickrock before a bigger drop down rock into stunning Death Hollow. It was evening now and our thoughts were to finding a campsite before dark and we waded downstream in and out of the river of Death Hollow before finding the same site as last year on sparkling white sand on the canyon floor underneath ponderosas. Wonderful!

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Into Sand Creek

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Dropping down into Death Hollow itself

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Camp in Death Hollow

Friday 6th October 2017 Now for the descent down Death Hollow to the Escalante which had defeated us last year. The river bed here is filled with hard wearing volcanic boulders in many places making for tougher going than many of the canyon rivers here abouts. That plus the ubiquitous outcrops of poison ivy along the river banks slowed us down initially. The scenery was superb though with towering walls and the green canyon floor filled with tall ponderosas.

As we continued the going got easier and steady as we often followed faint trails on the banks between river crossings. The water warmed up into the day making the river crossings easier too. Often the bed of the stream was slickrock sandstone layer. It occasionally dropped off into potholes or deep clefts though such that we had to keep concentrating. We passed the junction of Mamie Creek which was a useful marker point and stopped for a bagel lunch on a beach with sparkling blue pools.

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Lunch before the Death Hollow narrows

Next up was a section of narrows which were exciting! The water roared through a subway shaped slot with rock overhead forcing us down to a crawl and a sloping slippery ledge under the water for feet. A mistake would have made for a cold swim but we both made it and from then on Death Hollow was more mellow but continually beautiful. Saw some canyon wrens, dippers, blue jays, woodpeckers, 2 snakes and a buzzard!

We made it to the junction with the Escalante River at 3pm and noted that the Escalante had much less flow than Death Hollow.  We continued down the Escalante with some trails, river crossings and bushwacking to camp near the Natural Bridge. What a great day!

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Death Hollow

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Death Hollow

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Escalante Natural Bridge

Saturday 7th October 2017 A cold night. Our shoes and socks froze overnight and we had a slow start waiting for the sun to hit us and thaw us out. We walked downstream along and across the Escalante river which was broader and more open here with sagebrush flats but still fringed by red rocky cliffs.

We crossed Highway 12 and saw a few people here around the trailhead, soon leaving the road and people though on a good mellow trail. Stopped to watch a canyon wren dart about on the rock only a couple of meters away. It had a white breast and long curving beak- good for extracting insects from cracks in the rock? There are a few well marked river crossings but mostly this section of the Escalante down to Boulder Creek is easy and relaxing hiking. Golden cottonwoods lined the river.

At Boulder Creek we hit a huge pile up of wood and flood debris which had formed a large island with rapids through the wood. Just beyond was a fresh downed cottonwood tree, with distinctive beaver teeth marks. Impressive!

Half an hour later we found our exit point from the river on the ‘Brigham Tea Bench as described by the Steve Allen guide and stopped for lunch in the shade from the now hot sun at about 2.15pm.

A faint trail climbed up rock slabs to a dessicated wooden ‘line shack’- an old cabin complete with an old bed and table. From there we headed north on a mix of sandy flatlands and swirly slickrock following a wide bench between the high escarpment on our left and the canyon of the Gulch on our right/east. It was hot and sometimes tiring on the sand but the wild atmospheric open views were a great contrast to the canyon walking.1007-IMG_2508-escalante-river1007-IMG_2514-escalante-river1007-IMG_2516-escalante-river-beaver1007-IMG_2519-brigham-tea-bench-line-shack

We decided to keep going into the evening to reach a series of rocky pools on the other side of a saddle on our western escarpment. Made it there to a wonderful campsite on a small patch of sand amongst rippled rock with a string of pools below us descending down the rock slabs. Crystal clear starry night and totally quiet- another great day!

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Sunday 8th October 2017 Warm still air in the morning (8C) and we left the tent to scramble up the creased slabs to the north. The slabs were too steep to be taken direct but zig zagging and following lines of weakness allowed us to reach the summit with multiple pinnacles. What a spot!- which didn’t look like it sees many visitors at all but with extensive views across this remote sandstone area with the higher slopes of Boulder Mountain to the north.

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Back at the tent we decided to also have a look at the water line dropping westwards before packing up and leaving the campsite. Numerous potholes and vegetated pond oasis’s made it another lovely area to explore.

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After a superb start to the morning we continued hiking north along the slabby eastern side of the dome escarpment until it faded away and we turned west to follow shallow washes into Deer Creek. Just before Deer Creek we hit an obstacle of a 30 foot cliff but after a bit of hunting around we found a slender tree trunk lying against the cliff and were able to shimmy down to the bottom. A bit more scrambling through bush, across Deer Creek then up walls on the west side aided by some juniper trees and we emerged onto a trail heading northwards upstream.  Relaxed hiking past autumnal cottonwoods followed before we hit the Burr Trail tarmac road at a campsite and picnic tables.

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From here we hiked north west on the Burr Trail towards Boulder town on tarmac. Paved road is not our favourite hiking but at least the scenery out here made it very pleasant and there was very little traffic although a supported cycle group came past at one stage. Eventually we caved in and hitched back to the car beyond Boulder. But what an excellent 4 day loop, with lots of scenic interest, variety, scrambling and a few side trips. Recommended!

More photos here

Loop hikes in Utah’s Escalante by Steve Allen – the bible to the Escalante area, a brilliant guidebook and a must buy. But getting rather dated (published 1997).

Jamal’s Across Utah description including part of this loop in a Hayduke alternate looks superb.

 

Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons

Monday 17th October 2016 With only three days left before we were due to fly out of Las Vegas back to Scotland and quite a lot of driving to do to get to Vegas, we deliberated on how to best use our remaining time. Eventually we opted for a two-day backpack in the Escalante area again – this time down Wolverine Canyon to Horse Canyon then back out via Little Death Hollow canyon – famed for it’s long narrow slot section.

Our approach to this loop was from the small town of Boulder and a drive along the tarmac Burr Trail road before turning off down the Wolverine dirt road. This was fine for a while but after a few miles it dropped into a dry sandy river wash and we were afraid of scraping the undercarriage of our nice shiny rental car. So we chose to abandon the car and start walking a bit earlier than intended!

This stop gave us 5 miles of hiking down a dirt track before reaching the canyons but the open pinyon juniper scenery was pleasant and we enjoyed the walk. Leaving the dirt track, we headed cross-country into Wolverine Canyon on gravelly, colourful Chinle rock layers and hit upon a fantastic area of petrified logs. Some of the biggest trees were about 20 meters long and one meter in diameter. The detail of bark and growth rings were amazing. Seemingly, these were conifers buried by volcanic ash and sediment around 250 million years ago and silica from the ash penetrated inside or ‘petrified’ the wood.

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Continuing down Wolverine was easy following a dry sandy wash with red Wingate sandstone cliffs towering above. The canyon gradually narrowed and meandered with a number of massive alcoves and cool scooped holes in the walls.

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The wind was gusting and kicking up sand as we exited Wolverine and hit Horse Canyon. Rather disappointingly there were 4WD vehicle tracks in the wide wash which spoiled our wilderness feeling a little. Hiking down canyon we were pleased to see some water surfacing in the bed and pretty soon there was enough of a trickle for us to stop and load up with water for the night and all of the next day.

We passed the vehicles that had made the tracks, parked at a point where the canyon narrowed and it was trail only from there on. It appeared as if this was a trail maintenance crew with horses. After about 10 minutes more we came to the junction with Little Death Hollow Canyon and hiked up, on the look out for a campsite. Martina found a great spot on a raised slab about 3 meters above the dry canyon floor. With a full moon it was a brilliant last wild camp of the holiday for us…

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Tuesday 18th October 2016 A grand moonlit, quiet night with the moon doing a traverse along the length of the canyon, so we saw it all night. Today we were to ascend Little Death Hollow Canyon which has a long, narrow slot section which we were looking forward to.

We started up a slot with deep muddy pools and slippy, slabby walls. This got us both wet and dirty. We began to think that recent flash floods meant that we were going to find more mud and water on the way ahead. For two hours the canyon stayed tight and narrow and….muddy. On a few occasions we had to crawl under boulders jammed in the canyon walls and unfortunately that meant getting stuck into some slime and dirt. It was all  fun despite both of us picking up some scrapes and bruises and the eventual opening  of the canyon came too soon!

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The remaining hike was more mellow as a trail began to form in the now wide canyon floor. But it was still scenic and we stopped at a petroglyph panel on a large boulder before arriving at the canyon trailhead on a dirt road.

All that remained now was about 3 hours of hiking north on the dirt road back to our car. Another excellent backpack which could probably be done in a long day (especially with a high clearance vehicle) but the overnight camp was definitely worthwhile for us.

More photos here….

Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II

Saturday 8th October 2016 Choprock canyon provided us with a pleasant, quiet and still night. In the morning we left our camping gear and decided to explore down the Escalante river to Neon canyon – intending to return to the tent and hike up Choprock canyon in the afternoon to camp.

First we had some cold river crossings and tough bushwhacking down the Escalante. We are learning that the rivers are a lot colder in the morning before they heat up from the sun later in the day!

After about an hour we came across more signs of trail and easier hiking- probably because we had passed Fence canyon which is another access point for hikers from the Egypt trailhead. Soon after that we stopped at a large petroglyph panel with a mix of older Anasazi art and more recent ‘Cowboy’ drawings.

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We turned into Neon, a side canyon on the left/east side- it was leafy, about 30 meters wide with muddy pools of water and the most striking red walls imaginable. There was poison ivy around but it’s easy to recognise as it is shrubby and had turned to autumnal colours whilst the rest of the shrubby plants were still green. At least it was very visible and easy to avoid.

We hiked and waded for about 20 minutes up the beautiful twisting canyon before reaching a dead end- the ‘Golden Cathedral’. Here there was a pool of muddy water underneath a huge cave system pierced by two large holes where water must pour in times of rain. Reflected light against the walls created a stunning scene.

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We sat around for a while before heading back to the tent, agreeing that this canyon was so good that we would return again as part of a future hike someday.

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Returning to the tent without incident, we packed up and headed up Choprock canyon. We dropped the backpacks again to explore the south fork, which was again scenic, but we found it had a bit too many deep pools to encourage us to go too far!

Choprock canyon itself though narrowed to give about an hour of tremendous hiking with the walls only a few meters apart.

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The canyon opened up a bit after that and with some seeps of spring water appearing we pitched the tent at the junction with the north fork (or poison ivy fork). What a magnificent day for scenery!!

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Brian explored the north fork in the evening and then we were treated to a slow motion spectacle of the moon gradually lighting up the canyon.

Sunday 9th October 2016 We awoke at 6.30am to get an early start today as we knew we would be heading out into open and potentially hot territory on our return back to the car. The canyon widened further as we headed upwards but still with steep rock walls of wingate sandstone about 400 meters apart. The going was easy up the gravelly meandering wash and we made good time. We heard canyon wren and saw some jackrabbits, ravens and coyote tracks but mostly the canyon was silent.

We climbed steadily up into the grey and purple chinle rock layer to the watershed amongst pinyon-juniper, before finding a scrambly route down through a short rock layer to the Moody dirt track. There was a massive petrified log protruding from the rock here studded with glistening crystals.

The Moody track provided an easy hike for a few miles back to the car to complete another great and varied loop hike!

More pics from this and our other Escalante hikes are here…

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