Buck Canyon was the first technical canyon I did without accompanying an experienced canyoneer. I chose this canyon because it only has one easy rappel. While this is a long day hike, the canyon is nice, with some deep, narrow sections, some wide, open sections, some desert hiking, and two arches. While this canyon is technically easy, it is still a navigation challenge, so leave yourself plenty of time to hike the canyon, and be competent with desert and canyon route-finding.
The trailhead for Buck Canyon is located deep in the very remote Robber’s Roost area. To reach the trailhead, head south down Highway 24 towards Hanksville, UT, from I-70. Just past the turn for Goblin Valley State Park, turn left (east) on the dirt road towards Hans Flat. This road works its way east across the San Rafael Desert, and is generally in good enough shape to be driven by a car. However, after a storm or when covered in snow, this road can be impassable by any vehicle. After about 15 miles from Highway 24, turn right. Continue on this road for a little over 8 miles and then turn right at the intersection. Continue on this road for a little under 6 miles, and park at 38.39463,-110.54602. There is a noticeable parking area right beside Buck Canyon.
There are no fees to park at the trailhead.
To make life easier later in the day, mark a waypoint of the trailhead on your GPS or phone. From the trailhead, walk left to head up canyon and find a place to climb down into the canyon. We didn’t have much trouble finding an easy climb down into the canyon. Once into the canyon, turn right and head down canyon. About 15 or 20 minutes from the car is the one rappel. The rappel is only about 25 feet, but the slung boulder was a little way above the rappel, and we pulled our rope after the rappel, so we took a 100-foot rope. Since the only rappel is so close to the trailhead, and this is a circuit route, it’s possible to leave the rope and come back to get it. If you do that, 80 feet of rope should do the trick. I don’t like leaving my gear, though, so we pulled the rope. The rappel was fairly straightforward.
Once down the rappel, the canyon continues through some deep sections, with a couple of challenging down-climbs. The down-climbs aren’t vertical, and aren’t exposed, but they’re tight and twisty, making them a little challenging. After the second down-climb, you reach the short narrows section. The narrows aren’t much more than 100 yards long, but they were pretty. After the narrows, just continue down the deep canyon.
A little less than an hour and a half from the narrows, a fork of Buck Canyon comes in on the left at about 38.35940,-110.55539. Turn left here and head up the fork. There are two arches up the fork, just up from the intersection.
There is a dryfall on this fork that must be passed on the right, climbing up a steep sand hill. After half an hour or so, there is fork in the canyon. Take the left fork and begin looking for a way to climb out of the canyon up onto the desert floor. We had to poke around for a while to find a good way out, but we didn’t have any problem climbing out. The only problem at this point was that my wife was tired and thirsty, and the navigation to get out of the canyon was just challenging enough to be stressful for her. So just take your time, stay hydrated, and trust that there is a way out of the canyon.
Once out of the canyon, just cut north straight across the desert towards your car. If you made a waypoint of the trailhead, just navigate towards it. There was a shallow canyon we had to hike into and back out of on the way, and we reached Buck Canyon after about 30-40 minutes of desert walking. Once back at Buck, we were on the opposite side from the car, so we had to find a way to climb back into the canyon. This was more challenging than expected, because my wife was spooked by the down climb. There was a cairn at the canyon rim directly across from the trailhead, but I didn’t think the down climb looked safe there, so we went about 100 yards up canyon at a point where a sand hill reached almost up to the canyon rim. “Almost” is the key word here…there was a drop of about 8 feet down to the sand. I didn’t have much trouble climbing down, but my wife was spooked, and it took some convincing to get her to climb down. She made it, though, and we walked down the sand hill, headed the 100 yards back down canyon to the same spot where we had climbed down from the trailhead, and climbed back up to the car.
While this canyon doesn’t have a lot of narrows or a lot of technical aspects, the route-finding needed to do the circuit cannot be underestimated. I would allow about 7 hours to do the hike, but you should be able to do it in about 6 hours or so. With an hour and a half drive from Hanksville, and about 2 hours from Green River, plan accordingly.
Permits & Regulations
No permits or fees are needed for this hike.
The road out to the canyon can be impassable from rain or snow, so don’t get stuck out here. This is the desert in the middle of nowhere, so have plenty of gas before you turn off the highway, and be sure you carry plenty of water.