Surreal Sidestep Canyon

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regehr

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Over President's Day weekend 2018 my family (two adults, two kids 11 and 13) and our friends (two adults, one toddler) did a moderate day hike into upper Sidestep Canyon. Access is easy enough: you turn north from highway 89 onto access road K7065 at the east end of Church Wells UT and drive about 3.3 miles on easy 2wd dirt until the road decisively ends at a turnaround featuring a big sign labeled "GATE" where you can pass the cow fence.. You can read more about K7065 here. We didn't try out the upper access road, having heard it is now blocked off.

From the turnaround it is about 2 miles to upper Sidestep as the crow flies, but the track shown here ended up being more like 7 miles in total, according to my GPS:
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Here the camera is facing due north. The hiking route starts/ends at the bottom left and upper Sidestep is at the upper right. After going around a hill and back down the wash a bit, the route follows a decent trail NE and then heads off cross-country due N. On the way back we tried to shortcut to the road but got diverted by the nasty cow lagoon I hadn't realized was there.

So basically it's a couple miles of this:
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Accessing upper Sidestep isn't super easy or super hard, there are various ways in, all seem to involve steep clay and sand. Here the camera shows all of our route inside the canyon, this time the camera is facing south:
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The slot-looking feature in the image is actually pretty deep, we didn't find a way into it that was comfortable for everyone on the trip (a big Osprey baby backpack was involved). It would have been nice to find a way into the lower canyon but given a short February day, a late start, and slow hiking (the toddler often wanted to walk on his own instead of being carried) we didn't have time anyway.

As for the canyon, it is a pretty surreal place even by Utah standards.
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Up on the flats one of the boys found a worked piece of stone, perhaps part of a scraper:
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Udink

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Cool stuff! I was half-expecting to see your 4Runner out near Copper Globe and the Knob this weekend. ;)
 

regehr

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Cool stuff! I was half-expecting to see your 4Runner out near Copper Globe and the Knob this weekend. ;)
That area is high on my list now for sure! Maybe in March when my brother comes out to join me and the kids for a trip. But I had also really wanted to do the loop hike in upper Millard and also High Spur, and perhaps also Happy again, which I really liked.
 

wsp_scott

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That looks like kid heaven (except for the toddler). I envy your blue skies this time of year, we have tons of clouds and just grayness most of the time.
 

regehr

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That looks like kid heaven (except for the toddler). I envy your blue skies this time of year, we have tons of clouds and just grayness most of the time.
Yeah the kids had a great time! It was a little stressful for me, though, since instead of nice solid sandstone like we usually see, there was a ton of clay and semi-hardened sand, it would be really easy to kick out a foothold or pull down a tower of mudstone. My kids found an exit from the canyon that I wasn't willing to follow, argh. Luckily it had only one tricky move and they're some combination of better climbers and less careful than I am.
 

powderglut

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Awesome @regehr ...thanks for posting this report. This is an extremely impressive hoodoo area. I have future plans to hike into the middle White Valley and Sidestep both. Thought I had heard Sidestep wasn't very easy to drop in from the top. But......Looks like you guys did an admirable job getting in and out and...had a great day there. Bet the kids had a blast!!! Good job on the route up and back.
We did this hike from the same starting point you guys did. (This report is the "good hoodoos" in the upper left part of your map) https://backcountrypost.com/threads/toadstools-and-hoodoos-in-the-white-rock-valley.7219/
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Wow, what planet is this? Very cool. Crazy how circuitous you have to make your routes when it comes to canyons. Thanks for sharing.
 

regehr

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Awesome @regehr ...thanks for posting this report. This is an extremely impressive hoodoo area. I have future plans to hike into the middle White Valley and Sidestep both. Thought I had heard Sidestep wasn't very easy to drop in from the top. But......Looks like you guys did an admirable job getting in and out and...had a great day there. Bet the kids had a blast!!! Good job on the route up and back.
We did this hike from the same starting point you guys did. (This report is the "good hoodoos" in the upper left part of your map) https://backcountrypost.com/threads/toadstools-and-hoodoos-in-the-white-rock-valley.7219/
Awesome! I need to get back there. Too bad Kanab is such a long drive from SLC.
 

KevinD

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Wow that place looks neat! Seems like a great playground for the kids! Thanks for sharing
 

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cmgz

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I’ve been there three times and probably taken 3 different routes down into the canyon. It’s such a fun place and the white slots are otherworldly. The sagebrush slog is something less than fun though. Going through the side Canyons to reduce it is better.
 

regehr

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I’ve been there three times and probably taken 3 different routes down into the canyon. It’s such a fun place and the white slots are otherworldly. The sagebrush slog is something less than fun though. Going through the side Canyons to reduce it is better.
Thanks for the info! I'd have loved to walk one of the side canyons but wasn't 100% sure we wouldn't run into an obstacle.
The slog on cowed-up flats was no fun for sure.
 

cmgz

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Thanks for the info! I'd have loved to walk one of the side canyons but wasn't 100% sure we wouldn't run into an obstacle.
The slog on cowed-up flats was no fun for sure.
Oh you can run into obstacles for sure, but it's still fun and there's usually a way around. You had a toddler though so that's a lot different. If you go up the wash you started up into you'll run into a small dam, not too hard to get up. Then you can decide to keep going up, or head to the right up the white slickrock after awhile. It leaves less of the tedious sage hills. I also put on a few pictures of the slots and the side canyons once you're down into it. Hope you get back when the kids are bigger!
Here was our last track in which we did hit a dead end then went around. The dead end was a really nice cave like area though.
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WasatchWill

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What a fun looking area to explore. Also looks like Goblin Valley and Fantasy Canyon got together and had kids.
 

Titans

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Sidestep Canyon and ‘Colorful canyon’ have been on our list for exactly a year, since we visited Wahweap Hoodoos and saw two people return from a side creek (going up to Sidestep Canyon). @regehr TR here is how I found BCP.
Today was the day, but we had a very late start. We hiked up as suggested by @cmgz - and yes, the dam is still there! I think we could have gotten across it, but we were wondering if we could get back down. We backtracked and figured out how to bypass it.
Further up its full of just stunning and surreal white canyons, wow. We hiked into the various canyons as far as we thought was comfortable- but the water was running down the walls and the water started to flow slowly when we were there.
We backtracked again and ended up ascended White Rocks canyon just about opposite of Chimeny Rock and we went all the way to the rim just opposite of this very visible formation. Yeah! Then it was getting late, but we still hiked through the sage brush to the Jeep rd and dropped back into ‘Colorful canyon’. Whoa!!!! Surreal- Colorful rim and Colorful Hoodoos.
So that was awesome- but we were short of time and had to walk back quickly through the sage brush, cow poop and - those cows do mess up the trails and they certainly didn't get the memo about crypto soil.
So we were so (!) close to Sidestep Canyon on the other side of the Jeep road, but we ran out of time. But now we know for the next time.
We parked just past the 2 cow water holes. I would nickname that location the “Blue Clay Polder” parking. Very tricky. Its was still semi wet there, though it looked dry, our shoes got a thick layer on right away. Do not go close to there if its really wet. Park after the first coral but before you reach the two cow water holes.

Thanks @regehr for posting this TR !
That was fun! One day very soon we will get to sidestep Canyon

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Titans

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It's apparently going to take us several attempts to get fully down into the deepest slot canyon looking stuff in upper Sidestep canyon :rolleyes:
Now we know how to get to Sidestep fast, but it's not super trivial to get from the mid level of the canyon all the way down.

This is the view from the overview point (no further access is possible from that view point). After that we went around to the right side where @regehr and his family went down. That got us down to the "mid level" formations with some hoodoos, see second photo
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part way down- but it's very steep just in front of me and everywhere. We searched around and it's possible to get further down, but all edges are all very crumbly in that area... we shall see, maybe one day!
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Cool hoodoo....
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We returned and explored more in "Colorful canyon", that area is beaming with very colorful rocks and hoodoos and it's easier for us to access. We might the next time also try to explore more of the white slot canyons beyond the dam in previous photos- ideally on a dry winter day.
 

regehr

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we also could not find a way into the inner slots but also they were mucky so we didn't try that hard! I feel certain this can be done though, since there's so much surface area in there....
 

Titans

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we also could not find a way into the inner slots but also they were mucky so we didn't try that hard! I feel certain this can be done though, since there's so much surface area in there....
Agree, it can be done, we just need lots of time to explore and maybe more experience than Rick and I have..... it's a very unusual and cool surreal looking area. We need to start earlier one day, so we have enough time to explore. Those winter days are so short. :rolleyes:
 

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