Family trip to Blue John

regehr

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Blue John Canyon is mostly known as a technical canyon but the main fork's awesome narrows can be visited as a fairly easy day hike using the "West E/E" route mentioned on Summitpost. There's some route finding and broken country to cross but nothing difficult. There are several entry/exit points that work but in general it's a bit easier to keep walking a bit farther to the northeast instead of trying to find the earliest possible entry.

Whoops, here we seem to have wandered a bit too far east and got cliffed by Little Blue John:
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Cool patterns in the rock:
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Easy slickrock slopes on the way in. If one drainage doesn't work another one nearby probably will.
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Starting to slot up.
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Wide narrows.
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Love the light in here.
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Towards the end of the walk-through part of the main fork there are some easy climbing problems before the harder climbing problems begin. We passed a couple of 6-8' climbs and were soon stopped by a maybe 25' climb.
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Four chockstones at least a hundred feet up.
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Argh this pool wasn't there the last time I went through Blue John 4 or 5 years ago, it set up behind a dam created by a recent rock fall. It was painfully cold and smelled like it's about 8% cow shit.
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Looking back up at the dam.
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Back at the surface level there's a bit of fun slickrock.
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And plenty of chippings and one of the kids found a nice broken point.
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The other cool thing we saw was a midget faded rattlesnake, the first time I've seen one of these.
 

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Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
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I understand at least part of High Spur can also be done as a family friendly hike. Have you done that?
Love your TRs.
 

regehr

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High Spur is high on my list but the length of the drive has kept us out so far. From everything I've read the upper part is no problem.

I was hoping to also get into the corkscrew part. One possibility would be to leave a handline on the fast slide. If that doesn't seem safe, it looks like there are probably non-climbing ways to get out to the north. My kids can handle rappels but I don't want to let them do it without an adult at the top to check the rigging and also one at the bottom doing a fireman's belay -- so I can't take them on technical stuff by myself...
 

RyanP

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Hi regehr, I realize this is an old post, but I'd like to do this hike next Spring (on the way in or out from the Maze) and have a couple of questions if you can remember the details:

1. Did you guys basically follow the "West E/E" route marked on this map (https://www.summitpost.org/bluejohn-canyon-map/935464), and then just head up the canyon until it got too hard?
2. How far up the canyon were you able to hike while keeping it non-technical? Do you have a rough idea of how many miles or hours you spent in the canyon? I'm trying to get the feel for if this is more of a half-day hike vs. full-day hike.

Thanks!
 

regehr

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Hi regehr, I realize this is an old post, but I'd like to do this hike next Spring (on the way in or out from the Maze) and have a couple of questions if you can remember the details:

1. Did you guys basically follow the "West E/E" route marked on this map (https://www.summitpost.org/bluejohn-canyon-map/935464), and then just head up the canyon until it got too hard?
2. How far up the canyon were you able to hike while keeping it non-technical? Do you have a rough idea of how many miles or hours you spent in the canyon? I'm trying to get the feel for if this is more of a half-day hike vs. full-day hike.

Thanks!
Hi Ryan! It is funny that you responded to this post tonight, I'm in Hanksville right now. I had totally forgotten that I posted these pics, but was thinking about taking some friends on this exact route maybe this Saturday. If that happens, will definitely give updated information. Anyway:
- yes, it's the west e/e route. I've done this twice and took a different route each time, I suspect there are many different ways to do this.
- yes, in fact you can make it quite far up w/o running into technical climbing, but (as pics here show) there are plenty of low-grade obstacless
- this would be a half day thing for a motivated group camping nearby. if you're taking your time and driving from pavement, starts to look more like a full day.
- I strongly recommend exploring up Little Bluejohn from the bottom good stuff
- I bet that combining with W Fork in a loop would be awesome. am not going to do that this weekend since my understanding is there's a bit of sketch i there and I am down here with non-climbers. but I want to do this.

anyhow overall I super recommend this route which (at least as of last time I did it) did not have signs of a lot of people doing it, due to the reputation as a technical canyon.
 
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regehr

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Hey also @Reef&Ruins, since then we've done High Spur as a family hike and it is super awesome, just a great slot canyon. The drive sorta sucks, it's not difficult but bummmmpy and slow past Hans Flat. Would be best to camp out on the spur somewhere instead of driving in and out same day like we did. We did not make it to Kelsey's "fast slide" but spent a good half-day in there and had a blast. This was I think 2 years ago so my kids would have been 11 and 13. Probably fine for younger kids too, with appropriate supervision. We were in there on a windy day and sand from the rim kept blowing down on us. Also felt a couple drops of rain at one point not cool!!
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Hi Ryan! It is funny that you responded to this post tonight, I'm in Hanksville right now. I had totally forgotten that I posted these pics, but was thinking about taking some friends on this exact route maybe this Saturday. If that happens, will definitely give updated information. Anyway:
- yes, it's the west e/e route. I've done this twice and took a different route each time, I suspect there are many different ways to do this.
- yes, in fact you can make it quite far up w/o running into technical climbing, but (as pics here show) there are plenty of low-grade obstacless
- this would be a half day thing for a motivated group camping nearby. if you're taking your time and driving from pavement, starts to look more like a full day.
- I strongly recommend exploring up Little Bluejohn from the bottom good stuff
- I bet that combining with W Fork in a loop would be awesome. am not going to do that this weekend since my understanding is there's a bit of sketch i there and I am down here with non-climbers. but I want to do this.

anyhow overall I super recommend this route which (at least as of last time I did it) did not have signs of a lot of people doing it, due to the reputation as a technical canyon.
This is awesome info, thanks! I'll have between half a day and a full day, so this sounds perfect. I'll make sure to explore up Little Bluejohn; thanks for the recommendation. Have fun on Saturday, and let us know how it went!
 
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RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Hey also @Reef&Ruins, since then we've done High Spur as a family hike and it is super awesome, just a great slot canyon. The drive sorta sucks, it's not difficult but bummmmpy and slow past Hans Flat. Would be best to camp out on the spur somewhere instead of driving in and out same day like we did. We did not make it to Kelsey's "fast slide" but spent a good half-day in there and had a blast. This was I think 2 years ago so my kids would have been 11 and 13. Probably fine for younger kids too, with appropriate supervision. We were in there on a windy day and sand from the rim kept blowing down on us. Also felt a couple drops of rain at one point not cool!!
I was originally considering exploring the non-tech part of High Spur as well on this trip, but I was scared off by the road since I will be driving an Outback. I'm assuming the road does indeed require high-clearance/4WD? If so, if I could even drive 5 miles or so up the road from Hans Flat, then I would be willing to ride my bike the rest of the way... does the road get rough immediately after Hans Flat, or not until further up the road toward High Spur?

Thanks again for all the tips over the last day or two on these two threads!
 

regehr

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I was originally considering exploring the non-tech part of High Spur as well on this trip, but I was scared off by the road since I will be driving an Outback. I'm assuming the road does indeed require high-clearance/4WD? If so, if I could even drive 5 miles or so up the road from Hans Flat, then I would be willing to ride my bike the rest of the way... does the road get rough immediately after Hans Flat, or not until further up the road toward High Spur?

Thanks again for all the tips over the last day or two on these two threads!

Alas, as I recall, the rough part starts not far from Hans Flat, and after that it slowly gets better. I never put my 4runner into 4wd on this stretch, it really isn't difficult, it's just super bumpy and somewhat high clearance. I don't have a good sense for what it would be like in a Subaru, sorry!
 

regehr

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If you make it up this road, make sure to stop and look down into Millard Canyon, it's impressive! Also there are hiking routes down into Millard, I have not managed to do this but @Udink has. I'd love to get back here and spend more time.
 

Udink

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Alas, as I recall, the rough part starts not far from Hans Flat, and after that it slowly gets better. I never put my 4runner into 4wd on this stretch, it really isn't difficult, it's just super bumpy and somewhat high clearance. I don't have a good sense for what it would be like in a Subaru, sorry!
That all sounds about right to me as far as the Spur Road is concerned. Just after you take the fork that leads to the High Spur exit there's a steep hill that can be challenging. It's steep and sandy with a sandstone break-over right at the top. After that there can be some deep ruts running perpendicular to the road. All that being said, eight years ago a friend and I took his Honda Element all the way to the High Spur exit (well, above the exit). But that has a lot better approach and departure angles than a Subaru.

Here's a timelapse video I shot two years ago from the Deadman trailhead to Hans Flats which shows the entirety of that road. Starting at about the 1:00 mark (which is where I took my Grand Cherokee out of 4WD) is the farthest you'd have to drive if heading into a non-technical section of High Spur.

 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Thanks @regehr and @Udink! I tend to err somewhat on the side of caution when it comes to the drive, so I don't think I'll attempt that road unless the rangers happen to say that it's in particularly good condition when I'm there. I definitely don't have a shortage of things to see in that area as it is!
 
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regehr

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Well, we didn't make it to Bluejohn on this trip, there's an almost five-year-old with us and we were afraid this would be too long of a hike for him. We hiked Crack Canyon today, which is super fun, though not as cool as Bluejohn overall.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Well, we didn't make it to Bluejohn on this trip, there's an almost five-year-old with us and we were afraid this would be too long of a hike for him. We hiked Crack Canyon today, which is super fun, though not as cool as Bluejohn overall.
Nice, I just did crack canyon several weeks ago. I agree that it is very fun. I'm impressed that you got a five year old down the obstacles though! (I thought that 99% of the canyon was a super easy walk-through, but the other 1% (just two short downcimbs really) was pretty tricky; I would have turned back if the handlines weren't there. Having that canyon all to myself was sure a nice contrast to the hordes in little wild horse! If you're ever passing by the area, I would highly recommend the first mile or so (the non-tech part) of lower leprechaun as well.
 

regehr

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Nice, I just did crack canyon several weeks ago. I agree that it is very fun. I'm impressed that you got a five year old down the obstacles though! (I thought that 99% of the canyon was a super easy walk-through, but the other 1% (just two short downcimbs really) was pretty tricky; I would have turned back if the handlines weren't there. Having that canyon all to myself was sure a nice contrast to the hordes in little wild horse! If you're ever passing by the area, I would highly recommend the first mile or so (the non-tech part) of lower leprechaun as well.
My group was mostly non-climbers and it definitely took a bit of teamwork to get everyone through the obstacles :). Great you had it to yourself, there were quite a few people in there on Halloween, maybe a half dozen groups including a very loud group of 15-20 young people wearing costumes and carrying drinks, it was party time I guess. A weekday would have been a better choice. LWH must have been a total zoo, I've been avoiding it since they paved the road and put in the bigger parking lot.
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
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Feb 3, 2017
Messages
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Hey also @Reef&Ruins, since then we've done High Spur as a family hike and it is super awesome, just a great slot canyon. The drive sorta sucks, it's not difficult but bummmmpy and slow past Hans Flat. Would be best to camp out on the spur somewhere instead of driving in and out same day like we did. We did not make it to Kelsey's "fast slide" but spent a good half-day in there and had a blast. This was I think 2 years ago so my kids would have been 11 and 13. Probably fine for younger kids too, with appropriate supervision. We were in there on a windy day and sand from the rim kept blowing down on us. Also felt a couple drops of rain at one point not cool!!
I'm guessing you followed the Kelsey directions to get in and such. My kids are close to the ages you mentioned so they'll probably be OK.
 

regehr

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I'm guessing you followed the Kelsey directions to get in and such. My kids are close to the ages you mentioned so they'll probably be OK.
Well, I would not say that I use Kelsey for directions, if you see what I mean. But yeah, I read his stuff plus a few other sources, probably mainly Road Trip Ryan. IIRC there's a nice little place to park where the rough road forks off to the NW and you just walk downhill from there. There's even a sign at this junction though I don't remember what it says. I do not remember the routefinding being challenging.

We turned around before getting to anything we couldn't easily reverse. I would love to see the sections of this canyon below the "fast slide" obstacle, and would be happy for any specific information about non-technical exits to the north in between the fast slide and any more technical stuff downstream of there.
 
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