5-day October backpack in southern Utah


Mar 20, 2013
I am so excited to find a community of dedicated backpackers that know so much about Utah! I am planning a 5-day backpacking trip for several friends in October. We would like to stay on the Colorado Plateau, and probably in southern Utah.

Here are some routes I've been considering.
Dark Canyon - Woodenshoe/Peavine Loop or Youngs/Lean-To Loop
Parunuweap Barracks (too short? too cold in October?)
Escalante - I'm having a tough time picking a route here. Most of the loops sound a bit shorter than what we'd like, and I'm concerned that some of the routes might be too cold in October.

Other recommendations? Thoughts? What would you do?

Our top criteria are: beautiful canyon scenery, solitude, good camping. No cows would be a huge plus. No dry camps would also be preferred. Ruins and rock art are not our highest priority, although we're certainly not opposed.

Here are some routes we have done before: Buckskin/Paria to Lee's Ferry, Escalante Route in Grand Canyon, Thunder River/Deer Creek in Grand Canyon, Salt Creek in Canyonlands, Chocolate Drops route in the Maze, Coyote Gulch, Neon/Ringtail. So, we are looking for something new.

I feel a little like goldilocks.... I want something "just right!" But honestly, 5 days on the trail is going to feel wonderful, no matter where. It's been a while!

Thanks all, and happy trails!


Aug 9, 2007
Welcome to backcountrypost, Rebecca! Stoked to have another backpacker on board! :)

My .02 on your ideas:
Dark Canyon - Woodenshoe/Peavine Loop or Youngs/Lean-To Loop
I haven't done it, but that seems like a really good one for that time of year and the time you have. I'm doing lower Dark Canyon here in a couple weeks but the loop options look awesome.
Parunuweap Barracks (too short? too cold in October?)
Yep, too cold, in my opinion and it would be even colder down in that deep, dark, wet canyon in October.
You could put together a pretty wicked 5-day trip in the lower/east Escalante. Steven's and Fold Canyons combined with a bit of Coyote Gulch could be excellent and what an excellent time of year to do it too. Do you have Steve Allen's Canyoneer 3? It's like a bible for that area and has some awesome 5-7 day routes planned out in detail. Check it out.

There's also a pretty sweet route I've seen posted around here that goes from Capitol Reef over the Waterpocket Fold, down Steven's Canyon and comes out at Crack in the Wall in Coyote Gulch. Requires a shuttle but that would be a sweet trip.

Another really good option would be to head into The Maze and do some really big loops that get you into the other areas. Depending on how you get into it (4WD or jet boat), that could easily eat up 5 days and be amazing in October, especially if you worked a night or two in The Fins/Ernie's Country into the mix. I did a 4-day last spring via jet boat into Spanish Bottom. It was about 38 miles and took us on an incredible set of loops through all but The Fins. The jet boat is a great way to get in too, just $100 round trip per hiker from Tex's and then you don't have to drive through Teapot Canyon. Or if you don't want to jet boat and don't want to drive through Teapot, you can always start from the Golden Stairs and drop down at the Mother & Child. Still requires 4WD but not nasty technical 4WD like Teapot Canyon does.

Check out my 3-part trip report from that trip here:

And lostlandscapes sweet video from the same trip:

If you want more info on routes in and out of the various areas of The Maze and how they could be tied tied together, I'd be happy to share more info on that.


Mar 20, 2013
Thanks for your thoughts, Nick.

I have considered the Maze, but am a little concerned about the availability of water that time of year. Unless there's a really good monsoon, it seems like it could be pretty dry. I'll dig into your trip reports for some thoughts. It might be a good plan, too, if we end up with one of those giant storms over the region that could shut down some of the tighter canyons.

You know, I must not have seen Canyoneering 3, because I looked at one of his books and I don't remember it having longer routes. I'm sure it's available at the Moab library, so I will check that out.

Grand Gulch..... you know, I've actually been warned away from it by a good friend that I trust. He thought the canyon scenery was not as pretty as in many other places. I know that is probably akin to blasphemy, but he has done a lot of backpacking. His wife will be one of my trip mates.

Really at this point I am looking for a bunch of options, and then the ladies will decide where we go. One of our friends has moved off the plateau and is living in Alaska, so I bet she will have final say.

Thanks for these ideas. I'll check out that Capitol Reef to Coyote route, too. Any other opinions, I'm happy to hear them! Plus, the more "research" I do, the more I get to enjoy the trip in advance. :)
I ha
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