Salt Creek plus...

Janice

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Dec 5, 2017
Messages
805
I know a lot of you are very experienced in the Needles, and I've read lots of reports here and elsewhere. I'm seeking advice for a possible spring break trip in 2023. I know that water will be dependent on winter conditions and we won't know that until later, but I'll need to put in for a permit on November 10 and will just have to hope for decent snow this winter. Obviously we'll have to shift gears if that's not the case. A few notes:

1) We'd like to do a backpacking trip longer than 3 nights. It will be roughly April 7-14.

2) We're happy to hike for many hours a day, but we're slow (well, I'm slow) and I'm not strong enough to carry more than 2 gallons of water at a time. (That may be pushing it.)

3) We know we'll need bear canisters and wag bags, and we're ok with that.

4) I realize we might not get these permits, but in general, does this seem feasible? Or does it seem like way too much to try?
Day 1 - Shuttle to Cathedral Butte and start down Salt Creek - camp SC1 or 2
Day 2 - camp SC4 (or 3 if necessary)
Day 3 - camp Salt/Horse open zone
Day 4 - hike to Squaw Flat TH, go to car there, drink a lot of water, and refill all our bladders - then head out Big Spring and camp BS1 (or 2 if necessary)
Day 5 - hike to Chesler/Elephant area and hike Chesler loop, including Joint Trail, and camp maybe at EC2 or CP1 or wherever we can get a site
Day 6 - hike back out to Squaw Flat TH, perhaps with out-and-back to Druid Arch that morning or the prior evening

The woman on the phone at Needles Visitor Center initially said we'd probably want to stop after the Salt Creek backpack, but when I told her we wanted something a little longer she was really helpful and described her preferences to extend it (with our mid-trip water & food refill at the car). But I'm eager to hear what you BCP experts think. Yes? No? Other suggestions?

Thanks so much for any advice.
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
Joined
Feb 3, 2017
Messages
910
We were just in the Needles about 2 weeks ago and were told by the park ranger that the flooding that wiped out Hwy 211 also wrecked a good chunk of the trail in Lost Canyon. Don't know if it is has been fixed yet.
 

Janice

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Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
805
We were just in the Needles about 2 weeks ago and were told by the park ranger that the flooding that wiped out Hwy 211 also wrecked a good chunk of the trail in Lost Canyon. Don't know if it is has been fixed yet.
Helpful - will check on it. Thanks so much!
 

SteveR

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Joined
Sep 22, 2016
Messages
706
We were just in the Needles about 2 weeks ago and were told by the park ranger that the flooding that wiped out Hwy 211 also wrecked a good chunk of the trail in Lost Canyon. Don't know if it is has been fixed yet.
Interesting to know. Our tentative plan would see us in Needles and vicinity in about a month, with a loop using part of Lost on the dayhike agenda. Anything else to add regarding trail conditions after the flooding?
 

Janice

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Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
805
Interesting to know. Our tentative plan would see us in Needles and vicinity in about a month, with a loop using part of Lost on the dayhike agenda. Anything else to add regarding trail conditions after the flooding?
I called, and the ranger said someone's there today checking on things and that if I call back in a day or two they should have info.
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
Joined
Feb 3, 2017
Messages
910
Interesting to know. Our tentative plan would see us in Needles and vicinity in about a month, with a loop using part of Lost on the dayhike agenda. Anything else to add regarding trail conditions after the flooding?
The ranger I talked to at the time said that the cairns were destroyed and the trail had been washed out. But @Janice should get more recent information as noted above.
 

John Morrow

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Joined
May 22, 2015
Messages
975
SC1 is shaded with juniper. SC2 full open sun. SC3 much more interesting exploring than SC4. SC4 is a stop along the route mostly, though a bit of exploring through the saddle above but avoid crypto is tough
 

Janice

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Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
805
SC1 is shaded with juniper. SC2 full open sun. SC3 much more interesting exploring than SC4. SC4 is a stop along the route mostly, though a bit of exploring through the saddle above but avoid crypto is tough
Great to know - thanks so much. Fingers and toes crossed that we get the sites!
 

OwenM

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Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
343
The rangers will tell you there has never been a single drop of water anywhere in Canyonlands
:roflmao:
Sorry that I don't have anything of substance to add, but that cracked me up.
The first time I asked a ranger anything there was also the last time.
They did tell me there was water in Salt Creek, though. Said it was flooded and inaccessible, which apparently happens when it hasn't rained in a month...

I've only been down from Peekaboo to SC4, mainly to visit Angel Arch, but really enjoyed it. Water was not an issue this past December, though the pools were all frozen.
SC4 isn't great by Canyonlands standards, but not horrible if you have it to yourself.
FB_IMG_1663707234644.jpg


FB_IMG_1663707229924.jpg
 

TrailScot

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2019
Messages
85
I know a lot of you are very experienced in the Needles, and I've read lots of reports here and elsewhere. I'm seeking advice for a possible spring break trip in 2023. I know that water will be dependent on winter conditions and we won't know that until later, but I'll need to put in for a permit on November 10 and will just have to hope for decent snow this winter. Obviously we'll have to shift gears if that's not the case. A few notes:

1) We'd like to do a backpacking trip longer than 3 nights. It will be roughly April 7-14.

2) We're happy to hike for many hours a day, but we're slow (well, I'm slow) and I'm not strong enough to carry more than 2 gallons of water at a time. (That may be pushing it.)

3) We know we'll need bear canisters and wag bags, and we're ok with that.

4) I realize we might not get these permits, but in general, does this seem feasible? Or does it seem like way too much to try?
Day 1 - Shuttle to Cathedral Butte and start down Salt Creek - camp SC1 or 2
Day 2 - camp SC4 (or 3 if necessary)
Day 3 - camp Salt/Horse open zone
Day 4 - hike to Squaw Flat TH, go to car there, drink a lot of water, and refill all our bladders - then head out Big Spring and camp BS1 (or 2 if necessary)
Day 5 - hike to Chesler/Elephant area and hike Chesler loop, including Joint Trail, and camp maybe at EC2 or CP1 or wherever we can get a site
Day 6 - hike back out to Squaw Flat TH, perhaps with out-and-back to Druid Arch that morning or the prior evening

The woman on the phone at Needles Visitor Center initially said we'd probably want to stop after the Salt Creek backpack, but when I told her we wanted something a little longer she was really helpful and described her preferences to extend it (with our mid-trip water & food refill at the car). But I'm eager to hear what you BCP experts think. Yes? No? Other suggestions?

Thanks so much for any advice.

Hi Janice,

This sounds like a great itinerary; first things first: you’ll have a fantastic time in the park.

If you logon to recreation.gov as soon as your hiking days in April become available, you should be able to get the sites you want I think.

I’d agree with John Morrow that SC1 is preferable to SC2. SC3 is nice and close to generally reliable water, but I do like SC4, since it’s tucked away and quite cosy. Also, in the springtime, there is often water close by.

For Salt Creek, even if you can’t get precisely the sites you want, there isn’t anything to worry about. For example, in a worst case scenario, SC1-4 are all unavailable. This is very unlikely, but on Day 1 you camp on the southern boundary of the park with water you carry in. Then on Day 2 you fill up at Kirk Spring and hike 12 miles into Salt/Horse Zone and camp there. This zone has 4 daily permits available, and so is generally easier to book.

For water availability in Salt Creek, you can 100% rely on Kirk Spring, and it’s very likely there will be water at Upper and Lower Jump at that time of year. However, the backcountry Rangers will be able to tell you the day before you set off what the current water situation is. It’s unlikely you’ll need to carry large amounts of water through here.

As you probably know, the EC/CP/BS sites are very popular, but there are several of each and they are all fairly close together, so you probably don’t need to be too picky on what you can get here. Even, getting a single site for several nights is fine (and possibly preferable) since it means you don’t need to pack up your gear every day, and most destinations in this area can be done as day hikes.

I’d definitely recommend a trip to Druid Arch when you are there.
 

Janice

Member
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Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
805
As you probably know, the EC/CP/BS sites are very popular, but there are several of each and they are all fairly close together, so you probably don’t need to be too picky on what you can get here. Even, getting a single site for several nights is fine (and possibly preferable) since it means you don’t need to pack up your gear every day, and most destinations in this area can be done as day hikes.
Super helpful info about Salt Creek, water availability, Druid, etc. - thank you so much.

After reading responses and doing some more research, I have 2 new questions that I would love to hear from any of you about:

1) On Day 4, if we prefer not to go back to our car to restock water and instead head to a campsite with a water refill somewhere nearby or along the way (coming from Peekaboo), do there tend to be reliable water sources in the canyons somewhat close to Peekaboo (in addition to Lost - SQ/BS)? I realize there's no guarantee of water, but if I have a few campsite options that would be good when trying to reserve.

2) Speaking of reserving, does anyone know if it's ok to have one of us (me) reserve Day 1-3 Salt Creek sites for our group (probably 3 or 4 people) while at the same time our friend reserves sites for Days 4-5 in the other part (SQ/BS/EC/CP/Lost)? I assume that would increase our chances of getting sites, but I don't know if that's allowed; do you have to put names of all people in the group, and would the system reject our reservation if it's done in two parts with the same names?

Thanks for all the advice. We really appreciate it!
 

TrailScot

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2019
Messages
85
Super helpful info about Salt Creek, water availability, Druid, etc. - thank you so much.

After reading responses and doing some more research, I have 2 new questions that I would love to hear from any of you about:

1) On Day 4, if we prefer not to go back to our car to restock water and instead head to a campsite with a water refill somewhere nearby or along the way (coming from Peekaboo), do there tend to be reliable water sources in the canyons somewhat close to Peekaboo (in addition to Lost - SQ/BS)? I realize there's no guarantee of water, but if I have a few campsite options that would be good when trying to reserve.

2) Speaking of reserving, does anyone know if it's ok to have one of us (me) reserve Day 1-3 Salt Creek sites for our group (probably 3 or 4 people) while at the same time our friend reserves sites for Days 4-5 in the other part (SQ/BS/EC/CP/Lost)? I assume that would increase our chances of getting sites, but I don't know if that's allowed; do you have to put names of all people in the group, and would the system reject our reservation if it's done in two parts with the same names?

Thanks for all the advice. We really appreciate
 

TrailScot

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2019
Messages
85
Hi Janice,

Regarding campsite booking, the system works on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than a lottery basis, so you wouldn’t be increasing your ‘chances’ by booking under 2 different names; you just need to grab your preferred sites, for the dates you want, when they become available on recreation.gov

Also, when you book the sites online, this is just the first part of the process. In order to get your backcountry permit, you will need to visit the Backcountry Office in the park on the day before, or the morning of your start date. The Park Rangers are super-friendly and professional, but they will ask you several questions about your itinerary before they issue the final permit.

For water availability, the Ranger will then be able to give you the most up to date information for the various canyons. So, maybe at that point, you could decide if you need to return to your vehicle to resupply. It’s probably good to have this as a backup in case there isn’t enough water available.
 
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