Canyonlands in winter/off-season

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OwenM

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What's the earliest/latest you'd go for ~5 nights in the Needles district(plus a day or so for some dayhikes at Arches if there's time)? As far as dates, I'm up for for anything between late January and early March.
I'd like as much solitude as possible without having to wear microspikes the whole time...
Not sure if road conditions should be a big concern or not(?). I really just need to get to and from Squaw Flats.
Thinking Peekaboo Trail to Salt Creek, in/out down to Wedding Ring Arch, plus Angel Arch, and back to Lost Canyon Trail.
Then Lost Canyon to Squaw Canyon to Chesler Park after Druid Arch.
Maybe circle back around and come back to Squaw Flat via Big Springs Canyon Trail.
Think that's about 70ish, total.
I suppose the big question is water. Does Salt Creek actually have flow? What about around Chesler Park? Do I need to be carrying my usual 1.4L, or is it going to be more like 4.1?
Temps aren't a huge deal, but trail conditions could be.
Don't I need a bear canister, too?
Thanks!

Edit: After studying the map more closely, I can make this work if the springs marked on the NatGeo map are flowing(my assumption is that they will be in winter), but it means hauling quite a bit of water between them. Any other reliable sources?
 
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Titans

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@OwenM - we just hiked about 84miles in the Needles, but it was all day hikes from Squaw Flat or Elephant Hill. I can’t answer all the questions, especially about the springs and water sources, but here is a few comments :

- I don’t know if anyone can predict how early you can go, it all depends on the weather this winter. Even Micro spikes wouldn’t help on the many (!) slickrock sections of the Needles, if there’s ice.

- if there’s been any recent Ice/snow storm, then the road conditions are worst on the paved section between rt191 and Indian Creek, because it’s much higher elevation and it melts slower up there. We drove it just after a storm last year, it wasn’t plowed at that point. It was a bit tense, but we made it down to Squaw Flat.

- all backpackers we have met in the Needles look completely wiped out (or tell us, they are really exhausted), most tend to underestimate how difficult the mileage is there and they often carry a ton of water.

- We have never seen water at Chesler Park. Some other areas, but I’m hesitant to write where in public, I can PM you. Perhaps the backcountry office can help out via the phone when you get closer?

- Peekaboo trail to Salt Creek: it’s a lot of slickrock hiking and between Lost canyon and Salt creek there’s a lot of shaded slickrock areas, where we have seen an almost invisible layer of ice on the slickrock, even in early December. There’s a few very exposed slickrock sections on that trail and if there is any ice on those sections, then you will not be able to get out to Salt Creek from Squaw Flat via the Peekaboo trail IMO.

- the connector trail between Druid Arch and Big Spring canyon has some Moki steps, and a super narrow cave/passage, again, any ice and you cannot pass. See photos I posted in the “trail photo album“. The connector trail between Chesler Park and Squaw Flat would probably be ok.

- Druid Arch in the winter. @Scott Chandler “lived to tell the tale“ so to speak, exciting RT, one of my favorites. https://backcountrypost.com/threads/druid-arch-in-winter.5436/


@John Morrow - did you see this, do you have any input?
 

OwenM

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Thank you so much. A preponderance of ice would change everything, and that's what I'd like to avoid.
I really just want to beat the crowds, so might should have said "off-season" instead of "winter" in the title.
Since I can go any time, whatever window there is with good trail conditions and minimal people is good for me.
 

Titans

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Thank you so much. A preponderance of ice would change everything, and that's what I'd like to avoid.
I really just want to beat the crowds, so might should have said "off-season" instead of "winter" in the title.
Since I can go any time, whatever window there is with good trail conditions and minimal people is good for me.
It generally clears out after Thanksgiving, when it dips towards 20F at night. :)
 

IntrepidXJ

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What's the earliest/latest you'd go for ~5 nights in the Needles district(plus a day or so for some dayhikes at Arches if there's time)? As far as dates, I'm up for for anything between late January and early March.
I'd like as much solitude as possible without having to wear microspikes the whole time...
I typically go on our first backpacking trip of the season to the Needles in early to mid March. We've had some nice temperatures at this time of the year, but last year it was pretty cold during our visit. While you can probably go later in February, the weather then is more unpredictable and would work better as a last-minute trip based on current conditions.
 

OwenM

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Headed that way week after next. Man, those temps on the 10 day forecast look glorious. Lows ~20 and highs ~40 is my idea of perfect hiking weather!
I'd appreciate some suggestions for basecamping and dayhiking, too.
After a pretty terrifying guided tour of a MRI by an orthopedic surgeon and a spinal last week, I'm carrying on, but it isn't business as usual. Probably gonna be cutting down on the miles, and taking it easy, so will most likely just leave off Salt Creek altogether.
 

Titans

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Great @OwenM - enjoy your trip! The MRI event doesn't sound so good....

Check you private messages- I wrote a list for you, decided to take it off-line.
 

Parma

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FYI, March 9th is the first night you can reserve a backcountry campsite in The Needles.
 

Titans

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FYI, March 9th is the first night you can reserve a backcountry campsite in The Needles.
Yah, I just noticed that too on the on-line permit website.
Is it self-registration "first come first serve" before that time, do you know? We met some backpackers early December, they were not really sure, where they were going to camp. But it wasn't busy back then.
 

Parma

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Yah, I just noticed that too on the on-line permit website.
Is it self-registration "first come first serve" before that time, do you know? We met some backpackers early December, they were not really sure, where they were going to camp. But it wasn't busy back then.
I honestly don't know if camping overnight before the 9th is allowed. Call the Canyonlands office and ask them.
 

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