Little Book Cliffs Wilderness Study Area


Jan 7, 2015
It's been unutterably gorgeous around here lately, and I've been slowly amassing gear and hiking time; this weekend, I decided, it was finally time for me to try my first "real" backpacking trip. I'm still pretty new to this activity and haven't been the most active person in the past, so in preparation for a longer trip that's forthcoming I've been trying to hit the trail every weekend and had, I felt, built up enough stamina to try an overnight carrying everything that I needed on my back.

So, I took a long weekend and packed up on Friday, convinced my friend Charlie to meet up with me at the campsite, and about 2:00 headed out to the Little Book Cliffs Wilderness Study Area. I found out the hard way that the new battery charger I'd ordered for my camera was for the wrong type of battery (d'oh!) when I went to take the first picture, so once again these are cell phone pictures and I apologize in advance.

It was a splendid day. Temperatures were in the mid 60s and there was a bit of a breeze. I got to the trail head and strapped on my pack as a group of ladies who had been riding their horses in the area were packing up. One of them jokingly offered to rent me a horse for the trip! Apparently I looked like I was carrying quite a load. Oh well; I told them I was training, and set off. I followed an old fire road up to the crest of the first hill, and was greeted with a great first sight, a mountain that probably has a real name but that I call "Pyramid Mountain".


My friend Trevor and I got lost in the maze of horse trails here one time, so I've cemented where on this particular feature I need to aim when headed for the parking lot. In this photo you can see a bit of the maze the horses have created with their trails.

2015-04-10 15.31.08 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

The fire road descends into Main Canyon itself and then proceeds to cross the seasonal stream named Jerry Creek numerous times. I counted 11 crossings on my way back to the trailhead the next day, and there are more as you continue up canyon. Jerry Creek was less than a half inch deep in most places, and I was glad I'd brought enough water to not have to worry about filtering more.

2015-04-10 19.18.44 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

I stopped twice to rest, once at this cool rock that almost looked like it had been eaten by termites.

2015-04-10 19.41.37 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

After an hour and a half or so, I found a site that had a pre-made fire ring and so stopped to set up camp. This is looking back the way I'd come, towards the Grand Mesa in the distance.

2015-04-10 19.29.38 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

These little orange flowers were blooming all over the place and made a nice contrast to the regular high desert palette.

2015-04-10 19.12.02 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

It was moderately gusty, so I fully staked down my tent, which I don't usually do. I kind of thought it looked a bit like a starfighter of some kind.

2015-04-10 18.42.23 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Here's the obligatory loaded pack, at rest, photo.

2015-04-10 16.38.01 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

As the last bit of sun hit the canyon walls, my friend Charlie showed up. We hike at very different paces (she's a lot faster than I am!), so she'd gotten a later start and met me at camp. Here's the canyon at twilight:

2015-04-10 19.19.01 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

and Charlie with a reasonable pack. She didn't even bring a tent, just slept in a mummy bag. She said it was great for about five hours and then she got cold, and it did get chilly that evening.

2015-04-11 09.42.59 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Before dinner, we explored a bit further up canyon.

2015-04-10 19.19.20 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Then we made dinner, hung out around the camp fire for a bit, and retired.

Next morning we made coffee and sat around for a while waiting for the sun to get to us. When it did, it was gorgeous.

2015-04-11 10.10.57 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

2015-04-11 10.19.49 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Then I packed up and we headed out, back the way we'd come.

2015-04-11 09.43.23 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Apparently several hikers have gotten lost in this area, so the BLM has been trying to keep things clear. Their signage is definitely more visible now.

2015-04-11 10.09.59 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

2015-04-11 11.14.28 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

The trail is a broad, sandy two-track for most of the way.

2015-04-11 10.11.07 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

The hiking is pretty flat until you get to the trail head, then there's a brief section of steep upclimbing before the final, glorious descent. Here are some of the horses I saw (probably saw 15-20 all told), while I'm paused to breathe on the way up.

2015-04-11 11.35.56 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

I'd left a bag of Doritos and a liter of water in the truck as motivation, so when I finally saw the parking area I hoofed it a bit faster.

2015-04-10 15.25.35 by andyhamilton519, on Flickr

Once I got to the truck, I'd finally made it! My first backpacking overnight was successful! I didn't get eaten by bears or cougars or die of exposure, hypothermia, or dehydration. Things are looking good. I'd definitely come out this way again.

Thanks for bearing with me!
Looks like a great first trip. Don't worry about the overly large pack size, that's to be expected in the beginning. You'll refine what to bring and what to leave home as you go on more trips. You'll also enter the never-ending process of replacing pieces of gear with lighter/smaller stuff as you go along. The important thing is you got out there and had fun.