Owl & Fish Creek Canyons


Jan 17, 2012
Friday – Sunday, April 29 – May 1, 2016

Bright green cottonwood trees line the wash in Fish Creek Canyon under a stormy sky.

This weekend Diane and I had taken Friday off work so we could head down to Cedar Mesa on a three-day backpacking trip into Fish Creek Canyon and Owl Creek Canyon. We had originally planned on driving down Thursday evening after work, but with rainy weather in the forecast we decided to stay home Thursday night and left very early on Friday morning. We passed through Moab just in time to stop for breakfast at the Moab Diner and then continued on to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station to pick up our permits. After watching the video and grabbing our permits we finished the short drive to the trailhead and got ready to start the hike.

The weather forecast was calling for rain and thunderstorms the entire weekend, but we decided to take our chances and hoped for the best. In terms of the weather, we lucked out on Friday and Saturday as we only had to duck into an alcove or under a ledge to get out of an occasional rain shower that usually didn’t last very long. However, on Sunday it began to rain pretty steadily overnight and wouldn’t stop until we were almost back to the trailhead, soaked and cold.

The beginning of the hike as we made our way to the rim of Fish Creek Canyon.

Diane stands at the edge of Fish Creek Canyon before we started our steep descent to the bottom.

The first ledge we had to down-climb was the trickiest, but it wasn’t too bad.

The views of the canyon weren’t too bad as we made our way down the steep and loose trail.

We spotted a few ruins during our descent and climbed up the other side of the canyon to check them out.

Someone had placed a couple very large pieces of pottery on the doorstep of this ruin.

Two pieces in my hand for scale.

This was probably the only ruin I was able to photograph all weekend when it wasn’t overcast out.

Diane hikes ahead of me along Fish Creek. This was really a beautiful canyon.

I spotted this boulder along the trail that had a few petroglyphs of sandals carved into it.

Our campsite for the next two nights at the confluence of Fish Creek and Owl Creek Canyons.

A little evening light along the trail that goes up Owl Creek Canyon.

We spent Saturday hiking down-canyon from the confluence past the mouth of McLoyd Canyon. I was hoping to cover more ground on this day and hopefully make it to the point I turned around when I hiked up Fish Creek Canyon a few years back, but we were slowed down by thick brush and a beaver dam that backed up the creek for a ways. It took us a while to find a route through this section of the canyon. Still, we managed to find and visit a number of ruins throughout the day.

Sunrise in Owl Creek Canyon.

A view from the confluence. Owl Creek on the left, Fish Creek on the right.

A morning reflection below our camp.

We climbed up to the first ruin we spotted on Saturday.

This little doorway was hidden under a large boulder.

Another small ruin we found after spending a little while getting past a beaver dam and through the brush.

Lines carved in the sandstone that would have been inside this structure.

Diane climbing up a ledge to visit the largest complex of ruins we would see all day.

A large rectangular room with a bunch of white and green handprints to the left.

A couple more doorways nearby.

Here’s an overview of the large complex of ruins we visited.

There was a great view over the vibrant green cottonwoods in Fish Creek Canyon from up here.

This granary blended in so well with it’s surroundings that I didn’t even notice it until I was standing right next to it.

Even though it’s pretty plain, Diane found the largest potsherd we would discover on this trip.

Sunday was the day of rain. It started raining overnight and continued to rain during our entire hike back up Owl Creek Canyon. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t really a fun day. We had to take the tent down in the rain and put it unto our packs wet. Then we had to hike almost 7 miles in a steady rain. After the first quarter mile we were both pretty much soaked through and the temperature out was a little chilly. We pretty much just put our heads down and kept moving to keep warm. We didn’t get to enjoy this canyon at all, so we will have to return again in better weather. I only took two photos the entire day (and they aren’t good photos) since I couldn’t keep my camera dry, plus my hands were too cold to operate the camera anyway.

I had to take a quick photo of Nevills Arch in the rain as we hiked below.

I also took a photo of this waterfall that we had to bypass. The steady rain meant that the creek was flowing pretty high and there were plenty of other waterfalls spilling over the rim of the canyon, too.

>> Owl & Fish Creek Canyons Photo Gallery
>> The Original Trip Report on ADVENTR.CO


Jul 5, 2014
Wow those stormy skies look surreal! Yeah, rainy days on the trail can definitely suck, they do make the post hike meal in dry clothes and socks seem that much better though.


Mar 19, 2014
Great report. I did that hike in the opposite direction but I think it's best to do Fish first. It was August and that hike out of Fish and to the TR was grueling.


Mar 13, 2014
Thanks for sharing the great trip report and nice pics! Fish/Owl was at the top of my list for this spring. Unfortunately, I became I'll and needed surgery so that wiped out the season. I hope to get there in the fall. :)

Kevin Timm

New Member
Jun 14, 2016
Nice write up and great photos. I did the trip a few years ago with my boys when they were 7 and 10. It was a rough bushwhack in spots
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