A remote week-long trip, Late-may/Early June, Utah or the Southwest

Matt Price

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Jan 15, 2015
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Hi folks,

A friend and I have to be in Salt Lake in Mid or early June and we are hoping to do a week-long backcountry hiking trip beforehand. We can fly in to Las Vegas or SLC, so the trip could potentially be in either Northern Utah or in Southern Utah, the Grand Canyon, or anywhere else that is moderately accessible from Vegas.

What we are looking for is somewhere remote and beautiful, where we can go for a week and see very few people, preferably none, but also where:

a) there will be water to drink in May or June, and
(b) no technical skills or gear are required -- nowhere that requires an ice axe, for instance, and technical canyoneering is probably out. I'd rather not bring a rope & harnesses on a week-long hike but could do a canyon hike with short, easy rappels if it was really awesome and worth the weight & pack space.

So, this is a pretty vague question!! But I don't know that much about Utah or the Southwest, having only passed through a few times, and don't really know how to go about finding something remote there. Mountains and desert canyons both sound awesome when you live in Toronto, Ontario, so I don't really have a strong preference, though it seems from my limited research that May is a little early for non-technical hiking in the Uintas.

Thanks for your help! Much obliged!

Matt
 

DrNed

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Hi folks, A friend and I have to be in Salt Lake in Mid or early June and we are hoping to do a week-long backcountry hiking trip beforehand. We can fly in to Las Vegas or SLC, so the trip could potentially be in either Northern Utah or in Southern Utah, the Grand Canyon, or anywhere else that is moderately accessible from Vegas.

Early to mid June is still going to have snow in the mountains. In 2014 of the main highways into the Uintas opened on Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and that was kinda early. Then again, if you're looking to avoid people, pack into any of the mountains at that time of year and you'll have solitude.

So you'll want to look south - which there are plenty of great places, but someone else will have to give you advice on where to go to avoid people.
 

Nick

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Definitely a bit early for something big in the Uintas, or any of the mountains. What is your overall skill level when it comes to backpacking? It's a little tough to recommend a good week long hike in the southwest without knowing a bit more about that. 2-4 day trips are pretty easy, but longer ones usually involve piecing multiple things together and it can become more advanced, especially for someone new to the southwest. Also, how much would you want to pack into that 7-day trip? Some people just like to crush out the miles and others like a slower pace. And are you hoping to do it all as one backpack, or would splitting it out into two shorter hikes in the same area be appealing?
 

Matt Price

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Jan 15, 2015
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Thanks @DrNed and @Nick -- as I'd thought, it sounds like a Southern trip then.

Skill level: I am pretty good with a map and compass, and have done a fair bit of off-trail hiking, and am also a rock climber if rope work is required. Our last trip was 7 days on the "International Appalachian trail" in Newfoundland, which is really just an unmarked and mostly uncut GPS track up into and then across high plateau bogs and scrub. My longest solo trip was a while back, 3 weeks in the Pyrenees in May, which did require an axe and crampons & trails that were invisible beneath the snow -- my partner doesn't have those technical skills, so I really do think the mountains are out.

I've done a couple of trips in the Baja desert & small mountains there, and when we sped through the Southwest 6 years ago we did day hikes, often pretty strenuous, in a bunch of the parks so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the terrain. But I don't have tons of experience finding water in the desert (Baja trips were in the winter) -- that part of the trip definitely makes me a little nervous.

Trip length: We would like to spend the week more or less alone, is the main thing. We could divide up into a couple of trips, but if it's possible to spend the whole week out in the backcountry, that's our preference.

Pace: I think we'd like a moderate pace -- we are middle-aged, and 20-mile days are long for us, so we wouldn't want to string them together for the whole trip. And I also wouldn't mind, for instance, hiking out two days to a base camp, then doing a bunch of beautiful, remote day hikes before hiking back out on one long day (say).

A friend did the horse thief route in the Grand Canyon 20 or so years ago. It looks beautiful, and if it was just a little shorter and less well-known I'd be inclined to try that. She did it in the winter, and her husband lost 2 toes in a cold snap -- so I really don't know what that route is like as the weather turns summery and brutally hot in the inner canyon.

Thank you, folks! We really appreciate the help!
 

uintahiker

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Look into East Clear Creek near Camp Verde Arizona. It would be backpacking, but also swimming in parts through a nice canyon. Late May- Early June would be prime.
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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Dark Canyon. Go in from Sweet Alice Road and loop Youngs and Lean To Canyon, spending some quality time in Dark Canyon proper exploring down to the river. Might see a few people in the lower reaches. Other higher elevation options are Woodenshoe/Peavine Canyons to access Dark. A week would be a tease down there.
I was hoping to do the Youngs/Lean To/Dark Canyon loop in May but it looks like I'l spending all my time in the GSENM. You should do this hike and bring back a detailed trip report with lots of photos :)
 

Bob

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Look into East Clear Creek near Camp Verde Arizona. It would be backpacking, but also swimming in parts through a nice canyon. Late May- Early June would be prime.

Shh......... be trying to get there for a lot of years...... you been through ECC?
 

Nick

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I second BJett's recommendation. Big miles and big solitude out there. Great loop options. I haven't done any of it yet, so I can't offer any insight, but these books could:

Canyoneering 2 has at least one good one in that area and several other week long trips around the SW. It says technical, but that is kind of debatable.
Ron Adkison's GSENM Book has some loops detailed in the Dark Canyon/Woodenshoe area.

And for big routes in the Escalante area:
Canyoneering 3: Loop Hikes in Utah's Escalante by Steve Allen

Escalante is a great place to put together some longer routes, but that time of year you'll definitely run into people here and there near the more popular canyons. Some of the routes in the lower east side of the Escalante like Steven's and Fold would likely provide the solitude and adventure you seek.

The point-to-point starting in Halls Creek in Capitol Reef and climbing over the Waterpocket Fold down into Steven's and then exiting at Crack in the Wall near Coyote Gulch would be epic if you could arrange the shuttle.

I imagine there are some good week long routes on Cedar Mesa that don't see a lot of traffic. Maybe Bob or Greg could offer insight there.
 

Matt Price

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Wow, my Internet goes out for three days and when I come back there's so much good stuff! Thanks guys!

@Nick, I have ordered all of those books, because, who doesn't need a bookshelf full of places you long to go to? Unfortunately they will take a while to come in up here. Meanwhile I have some followup questions if you guys have time:

@uintahiker, can you say more about East clear Creek? I couldn't immediately find out a lot online.

@BJett, @Nick, thanks especially for the Dark Canyon suggestion, which looks really great. I will read up about it and get back to the forum as soon as I learn a little more. Same for the Escalante canyons.

@Nick, I am also really intrigued by a point-to-point that goes through Capitol Reef, though I am not quite sure what the route you describe entails. I guess a little more familiarity with the territory is called for -- when I have real Internet again I will try to do some more definitive research. I appreciate all the help -- if you have more to say, please keep it coming, I am listening! Thanks,
Matt
 

fiber

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May 18, 2013
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My Bogley trip report got messed up, but here are a few pictures from the Youngs and Lean To Canyon loop off of Dark Canyon. It is not an easy trip, but you are not going to see anyone once you get out of Dark Canyon. There may be a few people in Dark Canyon, but not normally. I would only recommend the loop if you are an expert backpacker, as there are a few places where you hike over very loose high angled terrain. It is easy to lose your footing and slide off a cliff to your death. Water isn't much of a problem on this loop.

In the Desert a GPS is often not useful. I have been in situations where I am in the exact right place, but still have trouble finding the way down. There were a couple of places like that in the Youngs/Lean-To loop. Being able to read the terrain and pick-out routes down steep, loose boulder fields is a must for most multiday desert hiking trips in Utah.
 

Matt Price

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More thanks to everyone. I am slowly working my way through Canyoneering 3, and waiting for Canyoneering 2 to arrive from whatever far-away place it's coming from. There is a lot of great stuff in the Escalante! I notice some of the coolest looking loops have short 4th or 5th class sections; one thing I am trying to determine is whether it's worth the extra weight to bring along a small amount of climbing gear. Thanks @fiber for the pics, I must say that loop looks spectacular; I can only piece together a little bit from the online DC topos I've found, but as soon as the book comes I will try to understand a little better how hard the route is. I am a pretty good routefinder, and have experienced something like what you described, very occasionally in the desert (more in the mountains). But I certainly know people who are better at it,

I will check in again soon when I'm able to work my way through this stuff.

@Bob's links to East Clear Creek & Beaver Creek also look really cool, totally idfferent trips, argh, so much to do!

Again, many thanks.
 

Bob

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Ha ........... I, along with others have pages of places done and places to go.......... no time..

Fiber is right, Dark Canyon is nice. Don't bypass Fable Valley off of Sweet Alice tho......
 

fiber

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@Matt Price be aware that many of the 3rd/4th/5th class sections in Steve Allen's books cannot be protected. Sandstone in Southern Utah is often very smooth with no features to place gear. I have been in situations where my partner wanted a belay, but I was unable to secure the rope to anything. In this particular case, we were half way up a 300 foot poor off (class +3). The sand stone was too steep for me to use my body as an anchor. She had to climb the route without any protection, even though we had a rope. Nuts and Cams would not have helped, only a bolt kit.

In most cases, the leader climbs the route to the top without protection. Then either body belays or secures the rope to a nearby tree or rock.
 

WasatchWill

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Here's a great video highlighting the route from the Fold to Coyote via Halls Creek and Stephens Canyon.

 

LarryBoy

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Wow, my Internet goes out for three days and when I come back there's so much good stuff! Thanks guys!

@Nick, I have ordered all of those books, because, who doesn't need a bookshelf full of places you long to go to? Unfortunately they will take a while to come in up here. Meanwhile I have some followup questions if you guys have time:

@uintahiker, can you say more about East clear Creek? I couldn't immediately find out a lot online.

@BJett, @Nick, thanks especially for the Dark Canyon suggestion, which looks really great. I will read up about it and get back to the forum as soon as I learn a little more. Same for the Escalante canyons.

@Nick, I am also really intrigued by a point-to-point that goes through Capitol Reef, though I am not quite sure what the route you describe entails. I guess a little more familiarity with the territory is called for -- when I have real Internet again I will try to do some more definitive research. I appreciate all the help -- if you have more to say, please keep it coming, I am listening! Thanks,
Matt
Do some research on the Hayduke Trail. Really just go and buy the guidebook. I'm thinking Nick's suggestions of a route over the Waterpocket Fold would be pretty great. Start at the top of Lower Muley Twist canyon, head through Halls Creek, over the Waterpocket Fold, down the Escalante, and out Coyote Gulch.

Depending on how desolate you're looking for, Maybe Paria Canyon?
 

Matt Price

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Jan 15, 2015
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Hey folks,

I am back after a very long delay and a lot of starts and stops along the planning process. We now have dates! May 22-29. We are hoping to do the Dark Canyon route described in Canyoneering 2 -- it looks tough, but also doable, and it's great to have a guidebook to help us in an unfamiliar area (I would love to get to know the desert well enough to strike out on my own, but for this trip a little help will be nice).

I'm a little worried about water! What do you think, @Bob , @fiber , @Nick , everyone? The guidebook suggests Jan-April as dates, and I know there was very little snowpack this year. Will there be enough water for us to survive this hike? We can carry 2 days of water but probably not a lot more than that.

Thanks once again to everyone! I would never have found out about Dark Canyon without you guys
 

JoshuaDyal

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Mar 16, 2015
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186
Eh, nevermind. I'm responding to posts too early in the thread that as I keep reading it, are moot.
 
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