Help plan a February weekend in southern Utah!

LarryBoy

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Looking for ideas planning a backpacking trip over Presidents Day Sale weekend (February 14-16) in southern Utah. If I had my druthers -

  • 30-45 miles
  • Relatively warm (i.e. no camping at 7000 feet). Bringing the 20 degree bag would be much nicer than having to haul the zero degree bag.
  • Trailhead accessible to an AWD vehicle with standard clearance.
  • No technical canyoneering
Last year's Presidents Day Sale trip was Coyote Gulch, which is obviously pretty difficult to top. Still though, there are a million cool things to explore. Any suggestions?
 

Joey

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Apr 1, 2014
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February can be hit or miss with weather, water, snow, and ice. Every year is different. I've done some great trips that time of year in both Island in the Sky and the Needles District of Canyonlands. Very few people. Usually mild temperatures (but not always). Islands gets very little backpacking traffic, despite being one of the most spectacular places in North America. Try the Alcove Spring/Taylors Canyon/Upheaval Dome loop. You can add miles by hiking the White Rim road up to Wilhite Canyon. Very little traffic on the White Rim Road this time of year. There are several more loops you can do in Island in the Sky from the White Rim road, such as Gooseberry Canyon, Monument Basin, and Murphy's Point/Hog's Back loop. You can also do several routes from White Crack. In the Needles, the permit office usually isn't open yet, so you can write your own permit. Water is flowing in Salt Creek, and there is little competition for campsites in places like Chesler Park

Or try some of the canyons on the NE side of the Escalante River. Little Death Hollow/Wolverine, with a side trip down to the Escalante. Or try Silver Falls/Choprock, with side trips to Harris, Neon, Ringtail, and so forth (you can knock yourself out with miles there). I've done those in mid February in shorts. Snow and ice are usually in the canyons, depending on the year. You just never know. I generally don't find it too hindering to a trip.

30 to 45 miles in 3 days is a stretch. The days are starting to get longer by mid February, but still short. Hiking in wash bottoms, or on snow and ice can definitely slow down your pace. Personally I would go for something shorter.

Some February/March photos from the above mentioned areas:

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I'll leave you with a video from Island in the Sky. The route is maybe longer than what your looking for (and later in spring), but could be cut down to a smaller loop.

 

Nick

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Two more thoughts:

Buckskin and the Paria to Lee's Ferry (~38 miles, shuttle required).

Some variation involving Hackberry Canyon and that area of GSENM. Might be better with two cars, but lots of options.
 

LarryBoy

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Joey you and I are on the same wavelength. I'm actually headed to Salt Creek in a couple weeks. I was thinking about doing Little Death Hollow/Wolverine loop last Thanksgiving, but got scared off by the probability of ice in the slot. Islands district sounds like it might be worth consideration - your photos/video/experience looks awesome!

Nick - it was my impression that Buckskin/Paria involved significant stretches of water walking. What's the water temperature like? If it's originating high in the mountains, that could be a chilly experience. Hackberry Canyon might be worth a gander as well.
 

Nick

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Nick - it was my impression that Buckskin/Paria involved significant stretches of water walking. What's the water temperature like? If it's originating high in the mountains, that could be a chilly experience.

Two words: neo socks. Buckskin itself is usually dry other than possible pools from past floods, but no flowing water. Once you reach the Paria, you'll walk in shallow water, but you'll also be in a much more open canyon and at a very low elevation.

With that said, I'd never do it in February, but you asked for BIG ideas. ;)

@cirrus2000 did it on the 1st of March a few years back. It looked cold.
 

Mullet

Searching for a paradise....
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Dec 28, 2014
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Let us know about the conditions down in salt creek, I wanna go soon!!
 

steve

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The closest ive ever come to drowning was at calf creek falls. I've been in cold water before, but that was paralyzing. It was like breathing through a coffee straw.
 

WasatchWill

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The closest ive ever come to drowning was at calf creek falls. I've been in cold water before, but that was paralyzing. It was like breathing through a coffee straw.

Glad I'm not the only one. Still, I'm going to shoot for the upper falls this summer and see if it's just as cold.
 

JulieKT

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I did a trip in Ticaboo Creek area early March one year. Still very chilly at night and early mornings, but I would recommend that area in a heartbeat. Be surprising if you run into many people, and it's just breathtaking out there. I have a few pics posted here.

Also maybe poke around the end of Hole-in-the-Rock Road *if* you can make it. They usually grade the road in February, I think??? You're a lot lower in elevation way down there, and can explore around a lot. There are technical slots in the area, but you don't have to go into them at those parts and can still have a great time exploring.

The closest ive ever come to drowning was at calf creek falls. I've been in cold water before, but that was paralyzing. It was like breathing through a coffee straw.
He speaks the truth. Coldest. Water. Ever. Even on the hottest summer day.

Glad I'm not the only one. Still, I'm going to shoot for the upper falls this summer and see if it's just as cold.
I went to the upper falls once in early April and they weren't bad at all. I mean, I didn't dunk myself in, but I splashed around and don't recall my feet freezing off. I have no idea why they didn't seem as cold as at the lower falls pool. Maybe because that one is usually mostly in shadow???
 

WasatchWill

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I went to the upper falls once in early April and they weren't bad at all. I mean, I didn't dunk myself in, but I splashed around and don't recall my feet freezing off. I have no idea why they didn't seem as cold as at the lower falls pool. Maybe because that one is usually mostly in shadow???

That and I'm guessing it's shallower. At least the most upper part where the water spreads over a nice slab of sandstone it could be warmed a bit.

Aside from lower calf creek, coldest water I've messed with was when I was a scout attending camp up at glacier fed New Fork Lakes in the Winds. Our troop drew the 6am swim check/test.

Never again.
 

LarryBoy

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I did a trip in Ticaboo Creek area early March one year. Still very chilly at night and early mornings, but I would recommend that area in a heartbeat. Be surprising if you run into many people, and it's just breathtaking out there. I have a few pics posted here.

Also maybe poke around the end of Hole-in-the-Rock Road *if* you can make it. They usually grade the road in February, I think??? You're a lot lower in elevation way down there, and can explore around a lot. There are technical slots in the area, but you don't have to go into them at those parts and can still have a great time exploring.


He speaks the truth. Coldest. Water. Ever. Even on the hottest summer day.


I went to the upper falls once in early April and they weren't bad at all. I mean, I didn't dunk myself in, but I splashed around and don't recall my feet freezing off. I have no idea why they didn't seem as cold as at the lower falls pool. Maybe because that one is usually mostly in shadow???

Yeah I'm pretty sure HITR is graded in February. I was on it last February and it was fine. Course, it only takes one storm to mess it all up again.

Ticaboo looks pretty doggone interesting. If the road is good enough at that time of year, it could be a very cool place indeed. Any beta regarding routes, water sources, etc out there? Quick google search didn't turn up much.
 

Nick

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I day hiked into south south fork Ticaboo last winter. It was awesome, but yeah, water sources seemed rather deficient. I'd love to hear more about that from anyone who knows. But if it's anything like the other canyons in the area, it should seep out here and there, just so hard to head out into blindly. I have plans to explore up Ticaboo via boat this year.
 
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