Southwest in April Questions

AKay09

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Hey, I am looking into attempting my first solo hike this year and was thinking late April could be a good time to do it. I am looking to do a 4 day hike somewhere in southern Colorado, Utah or northern Arizona. I'm not sure how clear of snow southern Colorado would be but it would be a closer drive for me (Chicago burbs). So anyone have any good suggestions for a 4ish day loop hike out there? I would like to keep it under 10miles a day and obviously water would be nice but I imagine that's not always easy. I've been looking at Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon so far.

Also I have never been out to the desert so either way it will all be new and cool to me I imagine!

Thanks!
 

Miya

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Oooooh if you go to Arizona, in the Grand Canyon National Park, there is Havasu Falls! I think it is only 10 miles in though. But I am sure there are many other trails nearby. I haven't been, but it is on my bucket list! Shouldn't be too crowded if it is in April.

 

Shirt357

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IF you can get permits still, April in Canyonlands is awesome. I was there last year for 3 nights and loved it. Also, hitting up the Grand Canyon (again, if you get permits) South Rim should also be nice and very doable. With Canyonlands, you could either basecamp from one site (hard to do if permit situation is tight) or do one of several loops. I did a loop as to get a new place to crash nightly. Canyonlands will require you to most likely carry more water than you are used to. When I was there last year, only one spring near Druid Arch had water.
Some places in NM and CO will depend on the snowpack too. If we start getting alot more then it can take a while for the higher elevations to clear out enough. Though I was able to camp up in the Pecos last April, so it just depends.
 

AKay09

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Miya that place sure does look amazing, I'll have to look into that trail!

Yeah I guess I didn't think about how easy it would be to get a permit at this point. I'm so used to going up north more where you can't even apply until March or so. If I could find a few nice options I'd be willing to make the drive and go for a walk-in.
 

LarryBoy

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What about Dark Canyon? A really neat canyon, fairly easy navigation, reliable water. It's not a loop but you can make it as long or short as you want.
 

AKay09

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What about Dark Canyon? A really neat canyon, fairly easy navigation, reliable water. It's not a loop but you can make it as long or short as you want.

Thanks for the suggestion! Looks like a really cool place, definitely will add it to the list. Do you know if fires are allowed there?
 

Nick

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Thanks for the suggestion! Looks like a really cool place, definitely will add it to the list. Do you know if fires are allowed there?

They definitely aren't allowed once you get into the GCNRA boundary until you get below the high water mark of Lake Powell.
 

Nick

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More to the point, fires, with a few very rare exceptions, are just a bad idea in the desert in general.

I wanted to say that but didn't come up with the right words without sounding like a jerk. Thanks.

Big exception of course when you're car camping before starting your backpacking trip and you bring all your wood and use an existing pit. :)
 

AKay09

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Haha okay wasn't sure exactly was just checking. Like I said I've never been down in the desert. Makes sense though! :thumbsup:
 

LarryBoy

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Haha okay wasn't sure exactly was just checking. Like I said I've never been down in the desert. Makes sense though! :thumbsup:
Yeah for sure man! As far as I'm concerned, there's three principal problems with fires in the desert:

1) There's very little available wood, making campfires completely unsustainable. Woody plants grow very slowly in the desert (see for example Bristlecone Pines that are four thousand years old, yet only a foot in diameter) and one or two campfires can quickly denude an entire area of hundreds of years worth of tree growth.
2) It makes ugly, permanent scars on the land. If you're in the forested hills of the eastern United States, campfire scars heal pretty quickly. There's lots of microbes in the soil and moisture to feed them. So even if you're a doofus and create a new fire ring instead of using an existing one, those scars will heal pretty quickly, just because plenty of leaves fall on top of it, which turns it into duff, which eventually turns it into healthy black topsoil. Not so in the desert! Ash and smoke stains from Ancestral Puebloan cultures, ca. 1250 or 1300 AD at the very latest, are still clearly visible all over the place. That's seven hundred years.
3) If your fire burns out of control, you're screwed. The ambient moisture in the plants and humidity in the area (or lack thereof) means that any fire that gets out of control quickly becomes unmanageable. Doesn't really matter if you have access to water, you probably won't be able to bail fast enough to keep plants from burning who only see 8 inches of rain per year. Add in constant desert winds and warm temperatures, and boy howdy, you're in for a rip-roaring blaze. Plus, you're remote enough that you won't be able to alert authorities in time, nor will they be able to respond quickly enough to stop anything from getting out of hand.

Apologies for the small diatribe; hope this lends some useful perspective. Instead of sitting around the campfire, I love crawling in my sleeping bag (the day/night temp variation out there is enough that it feels great, even on the hottest days) and observing the brightest, most majestic stars to be found anywhere. I love the desert and hope you will as well!!
 

AKay09

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Oh wow yeah thanks for the all that info! Definitely some stuff I didn't really think about. Makes me want to get out there even more to see some of these old plants and the old smoke stains. I'm always up for learning new things so again thank you for the information, I really appreciate it!
 

AKay09

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I think I have a decent plan for the Needles. Starting on May 1st I would hike 3.5ish to Lost Canyon 2, then 5.5ish to Elephant Canyon 3 and then 4.3ish to Big Spring 2. Day 4 I would hike a short mile and a half out or so. Looks like these sites are all available still, it's not a lot of miles but being my first time backpacking in the desert and with little water that is probably for the best. Does this seem like a good trip with some good views and site seeing? I would probably wonder around a bit during the day as well and check out Druid Arch.

Thanks!
 

Shirt357

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I would note that even though you are listing a mileage amount that is very doable as far as distance goes, that you should remember hiking in the Needles is not just a trail with switchbacks :) . I can say that with a backpack on plus the water you will need, it will be a good workout. To give you a reference, last time I went I started by parking at Squaw Flat and hiked to SQ2 in Squaw Canyon. Next day went over to CP4 in Chesler Park and then last night was at EC1 in Elephant Canyon. I can tell you it was a good workout and more than I expected. It is alot of sliprock, ups and downs, etc. So while your route is doable, I am just saying to definitely be prepared.
I can tell you that The Needles have incredible views and some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. I enjoyed my nights at each campsite too as it was peaceful with amazing sunsets and sunrises. Considering where your campsites are at, if you are wanting to see Druid Arch, I would recommend stashing your backpack somewhere when you hit the trail for it and then pick your pack up when you get back... save some weight and energy. Just my two cents.
 

LarryBoy

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I would note that even though you are listing a mileage amount that is very doable as far as distance goes, that you should remember hiking in the Needles is not just a trail with switchbacks :) . I can say that with a backpack on plus the water you will need, it will be a good workout. To give you a reference, last time I went I started by parking at Squaw Flat and hiked to SQ2 in Squaw Canyon. Next day went over to CP4 in Chesler Park and then last night was at EC1 in Elephant Canyon. I can tell you it was a good workout and more than I expected. It is alot of sliprock, ups and downs, etc. So while your route is doable, I am just saying to definitely be prepared.
I can tell you that The Needles have incredible views and some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. I enjoyed my nights at each campsite too as it was peaceful with amazing sunsets and sunrises. Considering where your campsites are at, if you are wanting to see Druid Arch, I would recommend stashing your backpack somewhere when you hit the trail for it and then pick your pack up when you get back... save some weight and energy. Just my two cents.
It's still super short mileage - but that's not a bad thing if you like to stop and take pictures, take side trips, etc. Plus, it will likely be pretty warm during the first week of May - probably best to siesta underneath a shady rock for a couple hours in the middle of the day.

Honestly, it sounds like a blast. Rangers should have water info when you pick up your permit. Have fun!
 

Jackson

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I think I have a decent plan for the Needles. Starting on May 1st I would hike 3.5ish to Lost Canyon 2, then 5.5ish to Elephant Canyon 3 and then 4.3ish to Big Spring 2. Day 4 I would hike a short mile and a half out or so. Looks like these sites are all available still, it's not a lot of miles but being my first time backpacking in the desert and with little water that is probably for the best. Does this seem like a good trip with some good views and site seeing? I would probably wonder around a bit during the day as well and check out Druid Arch.

Thanks!
You're going to have an awesome time. Plenty of great views and scenery and plenty of time to soak it up!
 

AKay09

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I would note that even though you are listing a mileage amount that is very doable as far as distance goes, that you should remember hiking in the Needles is not just a trail with switchbacks :) . I can say that with a backpack on plus the water you will need, it will be a good workout. To give you a reference, last time I went I started by parking at Squaw Flat and hiked to SQ2 in Squaw Canyon. Next day went over to CP4 in Chesler Park and then last night was at EC1 in Elephant Canyon. I can tell you it was a good workout and more than I expected. It is alot of sliprock, ups and downs, etc. So while your route is doable, I am just saying to definitely be prepared.
I can tell you that The Needles have incredible views and some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. I enjoyed my nights at each campsite too as it was peaceful with amazing sunsets and sunrises. Considering where your campsites are at, if you are wanting to see Druid Arch, I would recommend stashing your backpack somewhere when you hit the trail for it and then pick your pack up when you get back... save some weight and energy. Just my two cents.

Yeah I was expecting it could still be a bit of a challenge and a different type of trail than what I am used to. If I do go through with that route I would for sure plan on going to check out Druid Arch and would yeah probably stash the pack somewhere or maybe try to set up camp early and then head there later. Thanks for the tips and info! Good to hear it is a beautiful area!


It's still super short mileage - but that's not a bad thing if you like to stop and take pictures, take side trips, etc. Plus, it will likely be pretty warm during the first week of May - probably best to siesta underneath a shady rock for a couple hours in the middle of the day.

Honestly, it sounds like a blast. Rangers should have water info when you pick up your permit. Have fun!

Yeah I don't think I have a problem with the shorter mileage especially if it is going to be pretty warm. I love to take pictures and would probably really enjoy not being rushed and just getting to enjoy the new scenery. Thanks!


You're going to have an awesome time. Plenty of great views and scenery and plenty of time to soak it up!

Awesome, good to hear! Thanks!
 

AKay09

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Well I changed up the plan a little bit and put in for a permit today. I moved up the date for the start to be April 24th and I will hike in from Squaw Flat and hike into LC2 for night 1, then hike to CP3 (sadly could not get CP1) then hike to EC1 for night 3. I will think about which route I'll take for this as I would like to go around Chesler Park but will see how the weather is and how much water I want to carry around. Either way I think I will have plenty of time to do some exploring. After all that I will hike out on day 4 and begin my 20hour drive back to Chicago! :eek:

Can't find much info on CP3 or EC1 so if anyone knows if they are awful or if they should have water I would love to know! Thanks!
 

Shirt357

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Well, CP3 is not a horrible site as I was right down the path at CP4. You still get great sunset views and a good rock face area to put up your tent. There is no water near the sites though. EC1 is also a good site I thought and I enjoyed it as well. Sadly I do not have picks of EC1 as my camera was giving me issues. I did send you a PM with a link to Google Maps that will let you look at pics others have taken. I could not think of a correct way to post it on the board itself.

April was a great time and perfect temps when I was there. I did find that the only trail that had many people on it (though not tons) was the trail through Chelser Park to Druid Arch. Thankfully, the CP sites are not on the main trail, so you will not have people just walking past your site when you are at CP3.
 

AKay09

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I
Well, CP3 is not a horrible site as I was right down the path at CP4. You still get great sunset views and a good rock face area to put up your tent. There is no water near the sites though. EC1 is also a good site I thought and I enjoyed it as well. Sadly I do not have picks of EC1 as my camera was giving me issues. I did send you a PM with a link to Google Maps that will let you look at pics others have taken. I could not think of a correct way to post it on the board itself.

April was a great time and perfect temps when I was there. I did find that the only trail that had many people on it (though not tons) was the trail through Chelser Park to Druid Arch. Thankfully, the CP sites are not on the main trail, so you will not have people just walking past your site when you are at CP3.

Awesome good to know. Guess I'll just have to bring a good bit of water on day 2. Does EC1 have water? Thanks for the linke too I'll check it out for sure!

Good to hear I won't have people walking past my site at CP3. I had that happen to me in Michigan and was really annoying ha
 
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