Salt Creek Canyon question

Spud

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Hi everybody -

I have a late April trip planned to Salt Creek Canyon in Needles and have a few questions about potential changes to my itinerary and whether they might make me want to plan something else.

As it stands I'm planning to go Cathedral Butte to Squaw Flat/Big Spring over 3 nights. Night one at SC1, night two in the at-large zone, night three at Peekaboo after a jaunt down to Angel Arch. Hopefully this is how it works out, as I'm really looking forward to it and have been for a while now.

I am having a little bit of trouble arranging for a shuttle down to Cathedral Butte, though. After reaching out to a few companies about shuttle options, I've mostly heard crickets back. I know that the road was not open until well into May in 2023, so the shuttle companies may not want to schedule anything out that way until they have a better idea of what this spring will look like. It's also their down season so I'm sure they are off having some fun of their own and responses will come in time.

Nevertheless, this has all got me thinking about backup plans and I'm wondering if my alternative would even be worth it. I'd enter and exit from Squaw Flat/Big Spring, and spend the first night in the at large zone as far south as I can get. Second day I would explore the lower part of the canyon and see as much rock art, ruins, etc. as I can and then return to the at large zone for that night. Hopefully I'd be able to find a suitable spot right by the junction for Angel Arch at the southern edge of the zone. Day three would be down to Angel Arch in the morning, and then hiking back to Peekaboo for the night. Day four would then be back to the car from Peekaboo.

Would this even be worth it? I'm concerned it is not enough time to see the canyon the way I would like to because most of my time would be spent hiking through the at large zone, which I understand is not as exciting or worthwhile. Since I have the permits already, would it be a better idea to shift my focus to Horse Canyon and save Salt Creek for another time when I can do it right? It would just be a matter of changing my first night reservation from SC1 to either Peekaboo or the at large zone. Hopefully this will all be moot and the weather and shuttle service planets align in my favor, but in the meantime I would really appreciate feedback from anyone who is familiar with the canyon. Thanks and happy trails to all!
 
There's nothing wrong with your backup plan and would be worth it IMO. I've also got permits for April, and we will be starting at the gate near Cave Spring and spending a few days between there and SC4. There is plenty to see and find all throughout the canyon if you spend the time to look around.
 
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There's nothing wrong with your backup plan and would be worth it IMO. I've also got permits for April, and we will be starting at the gate near Cave Spring and spending a few days between there and SC4. There is plenty to see and find all throughout the canyon if you spend the time to look around.
Thanks for taking the time to respond, Intrepid. That's great to hear, and maybe I'll see ya out there.
 
There's nothing wrong with your backup plan and would be worth it IMO. I've also got permits for April, and we will be starting at the gate near Cave Spring and spending a few days between there and SC4. There is plenty to see and find all throughout the canyon if you spend the time to look around.

Yes, I completely agree with Randy here ... your 'backup' plan sounds great ... in fact, it may actually be a better option, for two reasons: firstly, although the walk from Cathedral Butte to SC1 is nice, there isn't a great deal to see in this section, so you'd be avoiding this; secondly, your full day of exploration in the lower canyon will be done without having to carry your pack and gear, which should make the day more enjoyable. Oh, and you'll also be saving yourself several hundred dollars, by not taking a shuttle :)

I'm sure you'll have a great trip, whatever option you take.

For a potential shuttle ride out to Cathedral Butte, you may want to contact the fantastic folks (Amber and Caleb) who run the Needles Outpost, which is located just outside the park.
 
Yes, I completely agree with Randy here ... your 'backup' plan sounds great ... in fact, it may actually be a better option, for two reasons: firstly, although the walk from Cathedral Butte to SC1 is nice, there isn't a great deal to see in this section, so you'd be avoiding this; secondly, your full day of exploration in the lower canyon will be done without having to carry your pack and gear, which should make the day more enjoyable. Oh, and you'll also be saving yourself several hundred dollars, by not taking a shuttle :)

I'm sure you'll have a great trip, whatever option you take.

For a potential shuttle ride out to Cathedral Butte, you may want to contact the fantastic folks (Amber and Caleb) who run the Needles Outpost, which is located just outside the park.
Thank you, Scot! I had researched some previous threads on here about the shuttle situation and did contact Needles Outpost before posting. Their auto reply said it would likely take them awhile to respond so we will see what happens with that.

I am pretty encouraged by these responses, though. And like you said, saving a couple hundred bucks isn’t a bad thing either.

I agree good times will be had no matter what! Thanks again.
 
Hi- You might want to contact the folks at the Blanding and Monticello visitor centers to see if they can recommend anyone to do the car shuttle. Another option would be to contact the Needles District office of Canyonlands. Maybe they know someone. While I agree that your backup plans sounds good, Salt Creek between SC1 and Angel Arch is really pretty amazing and getting a permit is not always easy...
 
Hi- You might want to contact the folks at the Blanding and Monticello visitor centers to see if they can recommend anyone to do the car shuttle. Another option would be to contact the Needles District office of Canyonlands. Maybe they know someone. While I agree that your backup plans sounds good, Salt Creek between SC1 and Angel Arch is really pretty amazing and getting a permit is not always easy...
Thanks, Diane! I'm going to lean in on trying to get the shuttle situation resolved I think - as my original plan it's what I have been excited about and looking foward to the most. I appreciate the leads!
 
Salt Creek between SC1 and Angel Arch is really pretty amazing and getting a permit is not always easy...
That section of Salt Creek is indeed amazing, but in my opinion it would also be rushing it to do it all in one day. Most of the amazing stuff in there is found by taking time exploring off of the main trail. I would personally hold off on a Salt Creek through hike until I had enough days to take my time
 
Our 3.5 days in Salt Creek from Cathedral Butte TH to Peekaboo were fantastic, and even though we knew there were things we missed, we were so happy to see the wonderful scenery, art and structures that we did have time for. I really hope you get to do your original plan!

And @Diane Greer I was so excited to see your name here today. I'm in the middle of planning our SW CO trip and your amazing website descriptions are open on my computer AND your book that I borrowed from the public library is sitting next to me right now. (Sorry I didn't buy it - I love libraries!) Your information is sooooo helpful! :)
 
That section of Salt Creek is indeed amazing, but in my opinion it would also be rushing it to do it all in one day. Most of the amazing stuff in there is found by taking time exploring off of the main trail. I would personally hold off on a Salt Creek through hike until I had enough days to take my time
Haha it's so wild that an 8-10 mile section of trail would be so rich with stuff that a day isn't enough! I definitely know I won't be able to see everything but at this point I have the permits and have structured the rest of my trip around this hike, so, might as well do it. I will certainly be back to explore more. It's kind of the balance for me that is always tricky to manage - do I take the time to really see the details of one particular spot, or do I spread my time out more and explore a larger area? Anyway, thanks for the input!
 
until well into May in 2023,
2023 was a record high snowpack year in the Blue Mountains. I was swimming in normally dry waterfalls in the creek bed of Woodenshoe Canon in June. There was still snow in late May at 9000 feet.

The Cathedral Butte road is normally easy for 2WD cars in April. (Assuming you have experience with the challenges of Utah backroads, including deep sand and deep, fast running water.)

alternative would even be worth it. I'd enter and exit from Squaw Flat/Big Spring, and then hiking back to Peekaboo for the night. Day four would then be back to the car from Peekaboo.
It's not enough time, but that's how I went the first time. I've never done a shuttle because it's a fairly short hike—40 miles or so all the way through—and it's worth seeing from both directions. The scenery is dense in the lower, northern canyon if you poke around a bit. Maybe not as obvious as the other half, but it's full of natural and archaeological interest.

Ever since the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance fought a decades long court battle to close the horrible road at Peekaboo, wildlife in both parts of the route has exploded and it's dense with diversity of birds, wildflowers, and more. Even bears and cougars.


firstly, although the walk from Cathedral Butte to SC1 is nice, there isn't a great deal to see in this section
The Cathedral Butte to SC1 section is amazing with huge views at the top and a long swamp section at the bottom. It's special to get to see so much wetland in the desert and the different wildlife there. You'll see a lot of bear sign and if you're lucky, you might even see a bear in April. The Park Service keeps a route marked through the swamp, but your feet will get wet.

you may want to contact the fantastic folks (Amber and Caleb) who run the Needles Outpost
Endorsed.

That section of Salt Creek is indeed amazing, but in my opinion it would also be rushing it to do it all in one day. Most of the amazing stuff in there is found by taking time exploring off of the main trail
Agreed. It's a place you come back to, not a place you see all at at once.

The first time, though, will be full of so many amazing things everywhere you look that you don't really need to start exploring off the main path until the second visit.
 
2023 was a record high snowpack year in the Blue Mountains. I was swimming in normally dry waterfalls in the creek bed of Woodenshoe Canon in June. There was still snow in late May at 9000 feet.

The Cathedral Butte road is normally easy for 2WD cars in April. (Assuming you have experience with the challenges of Utah backroads, including deep sand and deep, fast running water.)


It's not enough time, but that's how I went the first time. I've never done a shuttle because it's a fairly short hike—40 miles or so all the way through—and it's worth seeing from both directions. The scenery is dense in the lower, northern canyon if you poke around a bit. Maybe not as obvious as the other half, but it's full of natural and archaeological interest.

Ever since the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance fought a decades long court battle to close the horrible road at Peekaboo, wildlife in both parts of the route has exploded and it's dense with diversity of birds, wildflowers, and more. Even bears and cougars.



The Cathedral Butte to SC1 section is amazing with huge views at the top and a long swamp section at the bottom. It's special to get to see so much wetland in the desert and the different wildlife there. You'll see a lot of bear sign and if you're lucky, you might even see a bear in April. The Park Service keeps a route marked through the swamp, but your feet will get wet.


Endorsed.


Agreed. It's a place you come back to, not a place you see all at at once.

The first time, though, will be full of so many amazing things everywhere you look that you don't really need to start exploring off the main path until the second visit.
Thank you, Brian! I'm really looking forward to this trip that much more as people keep responding to this thread. It looks like I have my shuttle situation all set, so just need the weather to cooperate now.
 
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