Backpacking Maze - Please Critique


Feb 2, 2023
I'm planning a trip into the Maze during the week of Thanksgiving 2023. Permit, flight, rental all booked. If anyone wants to expose any holes in my itinerary I'd really appreciate it! You never know what you don't know and I've never been to the Maze.

11/17: Fly into SLC and rent a 4 door Jeep Wrangler from Enterprise. Pick up partners who are also flying in, stop at Harbor Freight to purchase an inexpensive cargo basket to go into the 2" receiver of the Jeep. Also purchase a cheap fuel can that we will fill in Green River just before heading in. Then drive to Green River for the final inventory, hot showers & hotel beds.

11/18: Drive down to Horseshoe Canyon and explore all day, possibly to include Blue John canyon. Then camp on BLM land south of Horseshoe Canyon, or the HC trailhead area if it's quiet.

**we will need to cache the cargo basket and fuel can either at the Ranger Station (I'll call and ask before) or hidden off of Roost road before we get into the Park...don't want to drag the basket on the Flint Trail etc**

11/19: Drive to Hans Flat and be there when the ranger opens up to get the permit & final water report. Drive to Maze Overlook and camp. Should drink enough alcohol where we won't miss it for a few days.

11/20: Drop in and veer towards Pete's Mesa and Shot Canyon at full water capacity and camp around upper Shot. Or on the South end of Pete's if the wind isn't bad?

11/21: Work through Shot and refill water at Water Canyon then camp around Beehive Arch. Can't camp too close to Doll House right?

11/22: Refill water at river either before or after exploring Doll House. I'll have containers and alum but I'm torn on when to refill here given the 1000' drop and climb. We will want to start working toward Land of Standing rocks to camp that night and won't get water again until the end of the Plug for our final night. I am finding it hard to lead on this particular day.

11/23: Work back through the Plug route and visit Harvest Scene. Utilize the spring beneath Maze Overlook for our last backpacking night. But there will also be more water, food, and of course alcohol up at the vehicles tempting us to hike out that evening.

11/24: Hike out early and Drive back to SLC to stage for flights home on the 25th. Pick up the stashed basket and fuel can along the way

I definitely went into this not wanting to plan out the 4 nights down in the Maze too much. But the sources of water are few and far between and I've got partners I'm responsible for.

I'm hoping for any pointed questions, unfiltered comments, or completely different ideas!
The exercise of writing out the post has me thinking better already. I wonder if it's legal to camp in a Doll House vehicle campsite as backpackers? This would give me much more water flexibility.
I think your dates are a little risky considering the distances you and your partners are coming. I did a trip into the Maze November 14-19, 2017, which seemed risky to me but I probably have one of the shortest drives into the area as anyone on this forum so it wasn't really a big deal. I lucked out with nice weather that year. I'm sure you've considered the weather, though.

I can confirm that a two-door TJ Wrangler rental with highway tires can make it from Hans Flats to the Doll House and back out (or at least could in 2012). Not sure about a four-door. But just going to the Maze Overlook is a fair bit easier. Good call on leaving the cargo basket and empty fuel can near the ranger station (I've done the same thing). The pull-out on the south side of the road about 0.1 miles west of the ranger station should work. It's on BLM land and the rangers can't tell you what to do there (i.e., don't mention it to them).

I think that time of year the river water should be quite filterable after settling. Not much turbidity in November.

Southern Comfort 100 proof is fairly palatable by itself. It's my go-to backpacking/river trip booze, no need for a mixer. But then again you might need that motivation to get back up to the Maze Overlook on your last day. :)
Thank you for the reply. Yes I've considered the weather have enough backup areas saved to still salvage a good trip in nearly any direction from SLC. Stayed in a camper in Hanksville during a December storm once. Being from Louisiana it reminded me of a hurricane!

Thanks for sharing your experience with fuel and cache!

I emailed canyres@nps about backpackers In a Doll House campsite. Good to know it might be possible to just add a dash of alum and filter quickly in the afternoon if the river isn't chocolate. Who knows until we see it.

Edited to add: going to prepare for getting down to 10 degrees based on what I've seen. But hoping for 30s!
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Remember ................................ daylight is very short in November.
11/20: Drop in and veer towards Pete's Mesa and Shot Canyon at full water capacity and camp around upper Shot. Or on the South end of Pete's if the wind isn't bad?

This sounds like a fun trip ...

As you say, the scarcity of water sources in The Maze makes planning quite tricky ... a return trip from the Dolls House to the river sounds feasible though

I wonder if there might be an alternative: for Day #2, where you take the Pete's Mesa route out of the canyon, you could possibly carry an extra day's water and cache it around Chimney Rock before you descend into Shot Canyon; you could then pick this up on Day #4 on your way to The Plug.

This plan certainly isn't ideal either, since it involves a heavy carry for a few miles at the start of Day #2, but at least you wouldn't have any further concerns about water for the rest of your trip.
All but one of us has experience with the long nights. I kind of relish it for stargazing and reading by headlamp. But the reminder is certainly helpful when planning real daily mileages.

I love the idea of a water cache at Chimney Rock for stress relief.

Thank you both!
I just got a reply from NPS that it's cool for backpackers to reserve vehicle campsites. I feel like this just got easier due to my original apprehension about having to camp so far from the river like it shows in grey. Camping at Doll House and then Chimney or Standing Rock (with access to water cache) seems like something that could work with ease.


Updated draft:
11/19: Drive to Hans Flat for permit. Drive to Maze Overlook & Camp.

11/20: Drop in, visit the Harvest Scene, and proceed down Pete's to camp just above Chimney.

11/21: Leave water cache at Chimney then proceed down Shot. If water report has Water Canyon wet we can camp there. If dry everything changes and we likely bypass the Shot/Beehive route to Dollhouse.

11/22: Explore Doll House & Spanish Bottom then camp at Doll House 3.

11/23: Start heading back out stopping at Chimney for the cache and proceeding to camp at Standing Rock.

11/24: Hike out through the Plug route and Drive back to SLC to stage for flights home on the 25th.
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Doh! I can't camp on Pete's Mesa per NPS and don't want to go down into Shot as it gets dark. This part is just as fun as the trip.

Draft 3 (really more but you guys haven't seen them)

11/19: Maze Overlook

11/20: Chimney (leave water for return)

11/21: Doll House 3

11/22: Doll House 3

11/23: Standing Rock

11/24: Hike out.

This one seems boring and goes against some of the things I had in mind. But it's more predictable and gives us much more time in the Doll House. Surprise Valley is a place that's pulling at me very hard and I think I want to spend some time there.
I believe that the camping restriction is for the mesa itself, which is a couple of miles north of the canyon exit.

You should be absolutely fine to camp along the 'Pete's Mesa Route' heading south from the exit towards Chimney Rock and Shot Canyon. I have camped along here a couple of times and it is one of my favorite spots in the area, with incredible sunset views.

The map below shows the location of Pete's Mesa where the restriction exists.

Maze Petes Mesa v1.png
I see the route vs the Mesa thank you! After sleeping on it this seems more predictable with a group of 5 and limited sunlight.

11/19: Camp Maze Overlook

11/20: Standing Rock

11/21: Doll House 3 with a cache at Chimney en route

11/22: Doll House 3 with time to explore and filter from river

11/23: Maze At-large Zone somewhere off Pete's Mesa Route

11/24: Hike out.