Happy Canyon Backpacking - Utah


Nov 27, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and decided to check out a place that has been on my list for some time, Happy Canyon. Just like most folks, due to the remoteness of the canyon I unfortunately only had a couple of hours to shoot the narrows before I had to head back toward camp, but none the less it was a great trip. Here's a brief overview.

I started out on Poison Springs Road well after dark and made it about five miles down the road before ice-flows over the road had me too worried to continue. I spent the night camped next to a sandstone wall that the next morning I found to contain some gratified rock art. After checking out the rock art I packed up and headed on my down Poison Springs Canyon Road toward the Black Jump. For this trip I decided that a bike would be helpful to aid my approach so hoisting my 40+ pound pack I pedaled my way down the sandy road. I have to say that this was my first experience carrying a pack on a bike and I'm really not sure if it was more of an aid or a hindrance. I ended up pedaling most of the way barring a few really sandy spots on Poison Springs Road.

Once at the Black Jump I ended up pushing my bike most of the way up the mining road that veers up toward the North along the Dirty Devil River Canyon. My legs were pretty much done by this point so after a ways up the road I stowed my bike behind some rocks and continued on foot, eventually making it to the First Point, as it is locally known, around 1530. My original plan was to camp much nearer the descent to Happy Canyon however my legs were cramping from all the pedaling through deep sand so I decided to call it a day and leisurely set up camp.

I woke up early the next day, a little before dawn and headed down the road toward the descent spot, eventually reaching the dirty devil river about 1000. The crossing went well and the water was about mid-thigh depth, the main obstacle being watching for ice chunks floating down the river toward me. On the other side I dried off and sunned myself for awhile before exploring the Narrows of Happy Canyon.

I enjoyed about three hours of shooting in the canyon before I figured I had to start heading back to camp. The canyon was beautiful and I think that with more time available I could have found some really nice shots. As it was I still managed to come away with a couple decent images.

After the canyon I figured the crossing at the Dirty Devil would be deeper due to snow-melt. The water ended up coming up to the bottom of my shorts and it was definitely more powerful. I still made it across without incident. And the climb back up the drainage toward the road was without incident as well. From river to camp I ended up making good time, only taking about two hours.

The evening was spent eating and rehydrating with dark brown Dirty Devil River water... mmmmm...

The next morning I packed up and headed back toward my truck, still parked near the rock art on Poison Springs Canyon Road. The trip back took me about five hours.

All in all I believe I ended up hiking/biking about thirty miles in three days and had about three hours to shoot the narrows. The trip was a great introduction to the area but in the future I think I will plan it a little different so I have more time in the canyon. Still a great trip all in all.

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Beautiful photos, Ryan! That sounds pretty epic getting out there. I think I'd prefer to just walk over trying to pedal through that sand! I'd love to see some pics of that ice flowing down the Dirty D if you have any.
I was down there on Sunday trying to get to the canyon myself. Decided crossing the river would probably be too cold and getting back in the dark would be no good, so I turned around after driving 7 miles down the poison spring canyon road. I will be back once it warms up and your pictures have only strengthened my resolve!
Nick - It was definitely epic, and next time I think I would probably just walk instead of ride as well! I'll look through my snapshots of the river to see if I caught any of the ice chunks or not. At that point I was pretty concentrated on getting across and seeing Happy Canyon so I wasn't shooting the river in particular. If I find any by chance though I will share them with you!

Pixie - Thanks!

Christian - It's a pretty epic place but well worth the journey! I plan on going back again once things get warmer and dry out. The ice flows across Poison Spring Road definitely add some logistical concern to the trip. Well worth the effort though! Good luck!
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