Old guys backpacking in Dark Canyon

Joined
Jan 16, 2022
Messages
9
I recently returned from a backpacking trip into Dark Canyon with an old friend. We entered into the canyon via the Sundance "trail" on Sunday, Apr 3. (I use quotes around the word trail, because it's more of a route than a trail, if you ask me.) For those who aren't familiar, the Sundance "Trail" descends from the canyon rim over a large scree and boulder field for about 1400 ft, give or take. The total descent from the rim to the bottom of the Sundance took us about an hour and a half. It required frequent stops to try to determine where the best route would be, always looking out for cairns to lead the way.

After reaching the bottom of Dark Canyon proper, we hiked upstream for a brief distance and camped by some Cottonwoods. This campsite was scenic, but was full of stickers that looked like little goat head stickers. Not the sort of place you'd want to go walking around barefoot.
20220404_072019.jpg


On the second day, we decided to hike up canyon to Young's Canyon, which we had heard had a nice place to camp. We packed up on Monday morning and set off, thinking that the estimated distance of 6 miles would take us 2-3 hours. Unfortunately, we had some difficulties in navigating the canyon. A few miles up from Lost Canyon, pour offs require that you get up on the ledges above the bottom of the canyon to ascend. My hiking partner decided to try the left side (looking up river), and I hiked up on the right side, following some cairns, and a somewhat decent trail. My friend encountered some rough going on the left side, and it took us quite some time to get up the canyon.
RightSideStruggles.jpg

At one point, Jacques had to climb up a log, and onto the rock, then foist his pack up behind him to continue.
ClimbingOut.jpg

We were both exhausted by late afternoon, and decided to make camp instead of continuing on to Young's Canyon. I don't have pictures of the Monday night camp, but it was decent. I give it three stars.
On Tuesday, we continued up canyon and arrived at the mouth of Young's canyon after a 2 mile hike. This was a very nice camp site, and a nice place to relax and enjoy the canyon's beauty.
20220405_163228.jpg


We explored around in the lower reaches of Young's Canyon, and were impressed with the hikers who were using that route to continue on towards the Needles District of Canyonlands, NP.
On Wednesday, we decided to hike down canyon to camp at the mouth of Lost Canyon. Since we had learned a few lessons on route finding in Dark Canyon, going back down turned out to be much easier than when we came up canyon. The total distance was about 7.75 miles, and it took about 4 hours for the two old guys to make the hike.
The camp at the mouth of Lost Canyon was quite nice, with sheltered spots in the Cottonwoods for tents.
LostCanyon.jpg


On Thursday, we decided we would hike all the way down to the Colorado River, then back up to camp as near to the bottom of the Sundance Trail as we could. This is because the Sundance Trail faces east, and in early April the sun starts hitting the trail by around 7 - 7:30, and we really didn't want to have to haul our old selves up that thing in the hot sun.
Back to the hike from Lost Canyon to the Colorado, we decided we would just leave our backpacks near the junction to the Sundance trail, and hike out and back to the Colorado. This turned out to be a good thing, because the full day was about 11 miles, with 4000' of climbing. And, although it was nice to get all the way down to the Colorado, the bottom third of a mile of Dark Canyon was sandy/muddy and a completely different character. I think this is due to the fact that Lake Powell used to back up into the bottom of Dark Canyon, allowing silt and sediment to accumulate there. The mud and muck at the Colorado river itself was actually quite stinky. There were bubbles coming up through the mud here and there.


20220407_153818.jpg


20220407_152429.jpg

We returned back to the junction of Dark Canyon and the Sundance trail and camped nearby, ready for an early start on Friday.
20220407_190929.jpg


We got up around 6 on Friday, had a quick breakfast, some coffee, and started the long hike up that hill.

Overall, this was a great trip, even for old guys.
20220405_101936.jpg

Happy Trails!!!
 

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RyanP

Formerly bob32
Joined
Mar 1, 2015
Messages
425
Nice. That area has been high on my to-do list for some time now. How crowded does it get these days? (I assume you had the place mostly to yourself, since it was mid-week).
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2022
Messages
9
We didn't see a whole lot of people. We ran into one group of three (2 from NH, one from VT), a couple who were hiking the Hayduke trail, a family of 4 from Seattle, and a couple of other groups over the 6 days. Highly recommend this area for getting away from crowds
 

kc masterpiece

New Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2022
Messages
4
Thanks for the report we are heading out that way next week doing a loop of Youngs and Lean-To starting from Sweet Alice road.

What was the water quality like in Dark? Crystal clear waters or chocolate thunder?
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2022
Messages
9
Thanks for the report we are heading out that way next week doing a loop of Youngs and Lean-To starting from Sweet Alice road.

What was the water quality like in Dark? Crystal clear waters or chocolate thunder?
The water was quite clear in Dark Canyon. It was nice to not be worried at all about my filter getting clogged.
Have fun on your trip! That sounds like a great adventure. On a side note, the Seattle group we ran into mentioned trying to access the roads on the north to Lean-To was a problem, either too muddy or snowy. I didn't really ask too much, but they did mention that was their intent, and instead had to come down the Sundance. That may have changed by now, but thought it might be worth mentioning.
 

kc masterpiece

New Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2022
Messages
4
The water was quite clear in Dark Canyon. It was nice to not be worried at all about my filter getting clogged.
Have fun on your trip! That sounds like a great adventure. On a side note, the Seattle group we ran into mentioned trying to access the roads on the north to Lean-To was a problem, either too muddy or snowy. I didn't really ask too much, but they did mention that was their intent, and instead had to come down the Sundance. That may have changed by now, but thought it might be worth mentioning

Thanks for the info. We are still going to give the road a try and will detour to sundance if needed. We have two pretty beefed up land cruisers and broke the road in last year. Sounds like it will be a fun drive.
 

PA Hiker 123

New Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2022
Messages
1
I recently returned from a backpacking trip into Dark Canyon with an old friend. We entered into the canyon via the Sundance "trail" on Sunday, Apr 3. (I use quotes around the word trail, because it's more of a route than a trail, if you ask me.) For those who aren't familiar, the Sundance "Trail" descends from the canyon rim over a large scree and boulder field for about 1400 ft, give or take. The total descent from the rim to the bottom of the Sundance took us about an hour and a half. It required frequent stops to try to determine where the best route would be, always looking out for cairns to lead the way.

After reaching the bottom of Dark Canyon proper, we hiked upstream for a brief distance and camped by some Cottonwoods. This campsite was scenic, but was full of stickers that looked like little goat head stickers. Not the sort of place you'd want to go walking around barefoot.
View attachment 109021

On the second day, we decided to hike up canyon to Young's Canyon, which we had heard had a nice place to camp. We packed up on Monday morning and set off, thinking that the estimated distance of 6 miles would take us 2-3 hours. Unfortunately, we had some difficulties in navigating the canyon. A few miles up from Lost Canyon, pour offs require that you get up on the ledges above the bottom of the canyon to ascend. My hiking partner decided to try the left side (looking up river), and I hiked up on the right side, following some cairns, and a somewhat decent trail. My friend encountered some rough going on the left side, and it took us quite some time to get up the canyon.
View attachment 109023
At one point, Jacques had to climb up a log, and onto the rock, then foist his pack up behind him to continue.
View attachment 109024
We were both exhausted by late afternoon, and decided to make camp instead of continuing on to Young's Canyon. I don't have pictures of the Monday night camp, but it was decent. I give it three stars.
On Tuesday, we continued up canyon and arrived at the mouth of Young's canyon after a 2 mile hike. This was a very nice camp site, and a nice place to relax and enjoy the canyon's beauty.
View attachment 109025

We explored around in the lower reaches of Young's Canyon, and were impressed with the hikers who were using that route to continue on towards the Needles District of Canyonlands, NP.
On Wednesday, we decided to hike down canyon to camp at the mouth of Lost Canyon. Since we had learned a few lessons on route finding in Dark Canyon, going back down turned out to be much easier than when we came up canyon. The total distance was about 7.75 miles, and it took about 4 hours for the two old guys to make the hike.
The camp at the mouth of Lost Canyon was quite nice, with sheltered spots in the Cottonwoods for tents.
View attachment 109028

On Thursday, we decided we would hike all the way down to the Colorado River, then back up to camp as near to the bottom of the Sundance Trail as we could. This is because the Sundance Trail faces east, and in early April the sun starts hitting the trail by around 7 - 7:30, and we really didn't want to have to haul our old selves up that thing in the hot sun.
Back to the hike from Lost Canyon to the Colorado, we decided we would just leave our backpacks near the junction to the Sundance trail, and hike out and back to the Colorado. This turned out to be a good thing, because the full day was about 11 miles, with 4000' of climbing. And, although it was nice to get all the way down to the Colorado, the bottom third of a mile of Dark Canyon was sandy/muddy and a completely different character. I think this is due to the fact that Lake Powell used to back up into the bottom of Dark Canyon, allowing silt and sediment to accumulate there. The mud and muck at the Colorado river itself was actually quite stinky. There were bubbles coming up through the mud here and there.


View attachment 109029

View attachment 109030
We returned back to the junction of Dark Canyon and the Sundance trail and camped nearby, ready for an early start on Friday.
View attachment 109031

We got up around 6 on Friday, had a quick breakfast, some coffee, and started the long hike up that hill.

Overall, this was a great trip, even for old guys.
View attachment 109032
Happy Trails!!!
Great trip report!! Doing a trip second week of May, starting at Woodenshoe trailhead, then down Dark Canyon and out Sundance Trail to Sundance trailhead. Wondering how water was in Dark Canyon up to Young's Canyon?. Also any sign of water in Dark Canyon above Young's Canyon?
 

Nethos

Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2017
Messages
136
There is usually water for a few hours past the confluence with Youngs per Steve Allen. I was in the canyon this week through Young's and would expect that to be true based on what I saw. Beyond that would not expect flowing water but I believe there is a spring or two. Definitely at the Scorup cabin IIRC. Someone else may be able to speak better to that. May will be hot, it was pretty hot this week IMO. Manti La Sal probably has some info too if you talk to the right ranger.

Sent from my Pixel 4a using Tapatalk
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2022
Messages
9
Great trip report!! Doing a trip second week of May, starting at Woodenshoe trailhead, then down Dark Canyon and out Sundance Trail to Sundance trailhead. Wondering how water was in Dark Canyon up to Young's Canyon?. Also any sign of water in Dark Canyon above Young's Canyon?
That sounds like a great trip! I'd love to hear details about the shuttle. I wasn't sure if taking the Woodenshoe Road all the way would make sense, or if you should just get out to Hwy 95, and spin out the miles.
As far as water, in early April it looked like there was still plenty in Dark Canyon, where that creek met Youngs Canyon, but not as much water as there was from Youngs down to the Colorado River. I'm guessing that the quality might be a little better in the higher reaches of Dark Canyon, even if the quantity is somewhat less. From what I've read, the water will be more of an issue in Woodenshoe Canyon, but there's Cherry Creek, then a spring a little further on, like around 7 miles or so. And I thought it was said that Dark Canyon is perenial from Woodenshoe down, but I can't say for sure. I haven't actually been there, just looked into it, and was hoping to make that trip happen.
 

JethroT

New Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2022
Messages
3
I'm curious about any signage along the Dark Canyon. People always talk about Young Canyon and I don't see it named on my Nat Geo map. Is there typically signage along the canyon to HELP me navigate (yes, I will have the map and compass). Thanks
 

canadug

Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
83
There is no signage at all down in the canyon. There is only a sign at the trailhead. For the most part there are no trails just paths that sometimes take some backtracking on to find the correct way forward.

A picture from our trip in mid-March of this year. We saw two people on our first day but no one for the next six. Those ledge 'paths' were unbelievably cool and fairly exposed in places. You do not want to slip anywhere on those paths or it is game over. Will absolutely return for more exploring........Mind blowing place.
tempImagejENBq9.jpg
tempImagejENBq9.jpg
 
Last edited:

Nethos

Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2017
Messages
136
I'm curious about any signage along the Dark Canyon. People always talk about Young Canyon and I don't see it named on my Nat Geo map. Is there typically signage along the canyon to HELP me navigate (yes, I will have the map and compass). Thanks
Youngs is marked on the USGS topos. There is zero signage in the canyon, including from the trailhead to the top of the Sundance trail. It would be hard to get "macro" lost once in the canyon, but easy to struggle with micro navigation if unfamiliar with traveling in these kinds of canyons.
 

JethroT

New Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2022
Messages
3
Are the nighttime temps in Dark Canyon similar to Monticello or Blanding or should I expect warmer/cooler? Just trying to plan on my packing and the Ranger District in Monticello doesn't answer.
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
.
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,708
Are the nighttime temps in Dark Canyon similar to Monticello or Blanding or should I expect warmer/cooler? Just trying to plan on my packing and the Ranger District in Monticello doesn't answer.
Depends. If you're in the upper end of the canyon, it should be similar to Monticello or Blanding. If you're in the lower end of the canyon, should be similar to Moab or Hite.
 
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