9 Days Solo Escalante Loop in October (water advice) - Stevens Canyon, Baker Route over Waterpocket fold, Halls Narrows to Moody Canyons

wildwesthikes

Moronic Kitton Mittons
Joined
Sep 22, 2020
Messages
6
Hello there, I realize this is a long post but it's about a remote desert area in a year seemingly without rain. :)

Bit of a shot in the dark really. My route is solid; the issue is water. Has anyone been up through Stevens Canyon, up the Baker route over the waterpocket fold and up around the lower Halls Creek area in the past few weeks? I just got off the phone with both Capitol Reef NP & Escalante Interagency Center, and got some disconcerting remarks from both regarding water in this incredibly dry year without a proper monsoon.

My original route plan:
9 - 11 days loop beginning October 12th. Starting with Coyote Gulch, connecting up to Stevens Canyon, taking the Baker Route east over the Waterpocket Fold. Then loop north up Halls Creek through the narrows. Connecting with the Hayduke route over Red Slide west into the Moody Canyons. Back to the Escalante and then up 25 mile wash back to the car.

But... of course. Plans continuously foiled by the year without rain.
Info I got from rangers is that they don't have much info on Stevens Canyon...
They said to me: "don't rely on water pockets up top this time of year in a normal year". "Halls Creek should "probably" be ok..."
Lol, when they say this about a perennial creek you know it's bad. They also said the Fountain Tanks just south of Red Slide should be OK, but that they are really low, scummy and may be difficult to access. Ugh.

The main water sources I am concerned with are the spring in middle Stevens Canyon (probably the most important water source of the trip), Halls Creek Narrows (2nd in importance) and Fountain Tanks. Otherwise I know there is good water always in the Escalante and Coyote gulch. Unsure about 25 mile wash but it's not that far a walk from the river to the car.

I recently watched Norwegian Xplorer's Youtube video where he hiked alongside Joey from MyOwnfrontier from October 2019. On that trip, water was an issue for them but they still found big pools in the spring at Stevens and water in a pocket up top. It's possible they got lucky. I'm not relying on this, of course. I'm in Phoenix, AZ and do a lot of desert backpacking and I know how tenuous water availability can be in these parts.

Not looking great for an October excursion to the eastern side of the Escalante. This route spends at least 5 days away from a major water course. The most I can portage is about 3 days H2O before I decide it's just not worth it. Would appreciate any water specific replies regarding this route plan, particularly recent reports from locals (?). I did not see anything from the past year about the more remote south-eastern Escalante in trip reports. If I can't get bulletproof info on this it might be prudent to file this idea away till spring and go somewhere else this Oct.

Thanks in advance!
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,442
If you're worried about Fountain Tanks, you could try a routing a little farther north through Lower Muley, skirting Colt Mesa, and down Choprock. Route is really "out there" but beautiful. @Jammer has info on his site. I haven't taken the guidebook Hayduke through that area, but Choprock is supposed to be a more beautiful than Moody anyhow.

The big advantage of this route is the reliable water at Muley Tanks and in Choprock. I'd expect the Colt Mesa piped trough to be dry this year, but you can definitely get from Muley Tanks (and/or the likely water in lower Muley) to lower Choprock without dying of thirst.

I would not be concerned about Halls Creek being completely dry. I can't imagine there won't be at least some water, though the quality is..... variable. Bring a few coffee filters to strain out the worst of the gunk.

I don't remember anything about the spring in Middle Stevens so can't comment on it. Not sure what pace you're planning on moving at, but with a pretty light (sub-10 baseweight) load and decent but not thru-hiker level of fitness, I was able to make it from the beginning of Halls Crk Narrows to the lower part of Coyote in 2 long-ish days (probably the effort equivalent of on-trail 20's-25's). There's some thrashing through tamarisk along Halls Creek that will slow you down and the route-finding is a bit complex on the top of the Fold, but overall you can make decent miles through the stretch.

The only thing I'd maybe recommend is to start your loop on the Halls Creek (or even at the Moody road) side and go counter-clockwise so you have plenty of water along the Escalante while you're still carrying many days of food. Then the drier east side when you've got less food weight so you can carry more water.
 

Jammer

❤2Hike
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Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
641
I don't have any personal info, but... I did read Skurka's post about a recent trip (northern Escalante region) and he said it was very dry, but the group was still able to get some scummy water from a few bigger potholes (ie it's not 100% dried up out there.) I don't have much experience hiking in the fall, but I really can't imagine middle Stevens or lower Hall's Creek and its side feeds being completely dry. Definitely report back if you go!
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
512
I was going to suggest Norwegian Explorer's video TR. He's @VikingEarl on here. It has been an exceptionally dry summer/fall so far. For context the Escalante River gauge is reading 0.41 CFS today; in mid-Oct 2019 it was ~1.5-1.75 CFS. I'd be hesitant to do their route right now.

If you're open to an alternative, I can recommend
Stevens/Fold loop where you're less likely to encounter water problems. There's a major spring after the Baker exit and part of the hike is along the Escalante River.

p.s. Not sure what kind of filter you have, but I cut a prefilter for my Sawyer out of metal reusable coffee filter (less waste that way).
 

regehr

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Mar 28, 2012
Messages
1,370
yowza... I was hoping to be in Boulder Creek and Deer Creek in coming weeks, hope they're running somewhat...
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,580
I don't have any personal info, but... I did read Skurka's post about a recent trip (northern Escalante region) and he said it was very dry, but the group was still able to get some scummy water from a few bigger potholes (ie it's not 100% dried up out there.) I don't have much experience hiking in the fall, but I really can't imagine middle Stevens or lower Hall's Creek and its side feeds being completely dry. Definitely report back if you go!
He runs routes so fast he would have missed many water spots
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
512
yowza... I was hoping to be in Boulder Creek and Deer Creek in coming weeks, hope they're running somewhat...

I was in lower Death Hollow a few weeks ago and surprised to find any water in that section of the Escalante River; Death Hollow was flowing as usual. There was also water in Pine Creek (Box Trail).
 

wildwesthikes

Moronic Kitton Mittons
Joined
Sep 22, 2020
Messages
6
Thank you all for the replies! You have given me good insights and ideas. At this point due to the unknowns for a possibly dry Stevens Canyon, I don't believe it's worth carrying on the order of 8-10 liters water for this one along with all that food weight. I think this trip will be relegated to a backup and have now set my sights on the San Juans / Weminuche in a couple weeks instead.

Though I have to say if they get a fall miracle drought crusher storm... I'd rather deal with a dryish southern Utah than a snowy Colorado!

So Escalante or CRNP would be back in the running, haha. It's nice to have options - but would be two shorter trips that don't involve the long stretch over Stevens which I believe would have sure water in April. I like the long trips but too many unknowns here in this dry year.

I should have also mentioned that I film my hikes with a ton of long-shots. This slows MPHs down about 30% and adds 1-2 miles per day. So the idea of doing thru-hiking level days is not possible here. Otherwise yeah I'd probably get between the Escalante & Halls creek in a couple days - but that just isn't my style. Thanks again you all are a tome of knowledge for this area and I'll probably hit y'all up in spring for a similar route plan. :)
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
233
I know you're planning on making a full loop out of this, but if you're interested in doing a shorter one-way route, I'd love to do the one-way route from Coyote Gulch to Halls Creek Narrows next Spring if you (or anyone else) is interested in doing a key/car swap (each going the opposite direction, taking as many days as you want, but ending the same day and meeting up somewhere like Hanksville afterward to swap cars back again). I may start a new post at some point here to see if anyone is interested.

I just did my first trip in the Weminuche several weeks ago, and it was awesome! I'm sure you'll have a great time with either of your plans as long as weather/conditions permit...
 
Last edited:

norwegianxplorer

Norwegian Xplorer
Joined
Apr 1, 2018
Messages
50
Hello there, I realize this is a long post but it's about a remote desert area in a year seemingly without rain. :)

Bit of a shot in the dark really. My route is solid; the issue is water. Has anyone been up through Stevens Canyon, up the Baker route over the waterpocket fold and up around the lower Halls Creek area in the past few weeks? I just got off the phone with both Capitol Reef NP & Escalante Interagency Center, and got some disconcerting remarks from both regarding water in this incredibly dry year without a proper monsoon.

My original route plan:
9 - 11 days loop beginning October 12th. Starting with Coyote Gulch, connecting up to Stevens Canyon, taking the Baker Route east over the Waterpocket Fold. Then loop north up Halls Creek through the narrows. Connecting with the Hayduke route over Red Slide west into the Moody Canyons. Back to the Escalante and then up 25 mile wash back to the car.

But... of course. Plans continuously foiled by the year without rain.
Info I got from rangers is that they don't have much info on Stevens Canyon...
They said to me: "don't rely on water pockets up top this time of year in a normal year". "Halls Creek should "probably" be ok..."
Lol, when they say this about a perennial creek you know it's bad. They also said the Fountain Tanks just south of Red Slide should be OK, but that they are really low, scummy and may be difficult to access. Ugh.

The main water sources I am concerned with are the spring in middle Stevens Canyon (probably the most important water source of the trip), Halls Creek Narrows (2nd in importance) and Fountain Tanks. Otherwise I know there is good water always in the Escalante and Coyote gulch. Unsure about 25 mile wash but it's not that far a walk from the river to the car.

I recently watched Norwegian Xplorer's Youtube video where he hiked alongside Joey from MyOwnfrontier from October 2019. On that trip, water was an issue for them but they still found big pools in the spring at Stevens and water in a pocket up top. It's possible they got lucky. I'm not relying on this, of course. I'm in Phoenix, AZ and do a lot of desert backpacking and I know how tenuous water availability can be in these parts.

Not looking great for an October excursion to the eastern side of the Escalante. This route spends at least 5 days away from a major water course. The most I can portage is about 3 days H2O before I decide it's just not worth it. Would appreciate any water specific replies regarding this route plan, particularly recent reports from locals (?). I did not see anything from the past year about the more remote south-eastern Escalante in trip reports. If I can't get bulletproof info on this it might be prudent to file this idea away till spring and go somewhere else this Oct.

Thanks in advance!
Hey, Norwegian Xplorer here, sorry about the late reply, just wanted to point out ( a little late) that the water hole we found on «top» was all the way up at Cliff point, so a half or nearly a day worth of hiking up from the Baker Trail to the north. The spring in Middle Stevens canyon is the only one I would have hope for, it was over a 100 days since rain on our trip so we had to get right on top of the spring before we found the water.
 

wildwesthikes

Moronic Kitton Mittons
Joined
Sep 22, 2020
Messages
6
Hey, Norwegian Xplorer here, sorry about the late reply, just wanted to point out ( a little late) that the water hole we found on «top» was all the way up at Cliff point, so a half or nearly a day worth of hiking up from the Baker Trail to the north. The spring in Middle Stevens canyon is the only one I would have hope for, it was over a 100 days since rain on our trip so we had to get right on top of the spring before we found the water.

That is good information thanks! I didn't realize Cliff was such a long walk up from the baker line but I had never measured the distance before. That looked like a badass campsite you guys had up there. It is encouraging you found water in Stevens on a 3+ month dry spell but I'm still not banking on it. Btw if you guys ever head out to southern AZ for trips, let me know and I will be happy to provide local knowledge.
 
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