The Maze: Spanish Bottom to Water Canyon

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Nick

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This is the first of 3 trip reports I'll be posting from my trip into The Maze over Memorial Weekend.

Check out the other trip reports from this trip:

Part 2: Shot Canyon to Pictograph Fork
Part 3: The Maze Overlook and Jasper Ridge

This trip was a long, long time in the making. I actually booked these permits in July of 2011. When I called in to see if they were any available, the ranger on the phone kind of laughed at me. I guess The Maze just isn't as high demand as some other places. So I booked our spot and waited...

The original plan was to do a car camp-backpack hybrid trip with the focus being on The Fins section of The Maze. It's the one area that we didn't really get down into on the 2011 Maze trip. We were going to drive into the Golden Stairs campsite and hike down to the Mother & Child and then out through Ernie's Country to access The Fins. Then exit out the top of Sweet Alice Canyon which is the only exit from The Fins to Land of Standing Rocks I know of, then road walk back to Mother & Child and hike back up to Golden Stairs to spend one last night with a cooler, good food and good moon-lit views of The Maze below. Sounded like a good plan, right?

But as the date got closer, I thought more about a couple we had ran into last year that had come in via jetboat out of Moab. I had called earlier to inquire about doing that but the guys at Tex's said that they would only do the hiker shuttle if they were going down to pick up canoes and I still hadn't booked the dates. But with a few months to spare, I called and booked 5 slots on the jetboat to Spanish Bottom and switched my Maze permit to all backpacking.

Now that the background info on the trip is out of the way, on to the trip itself. Below is a map of the entire route we hiked over the 4 days. It tracked out to be 38 miles with the small side trips and explorations that we did. Keep in mind that with the jetboat timing, you really only have 2 full days and 2 short days to work with so you have to be ready to do big mileage on the middle days. Our first day was about 8 miles and last was 5 or 6.

We spent night 1 in Water Canyon, night 2 at the bottom of the Maze Overlook and night 3 on the ridge between Jasper Canyon and The Maze. This first trip report will cover up to that first night in Water Canyon.


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[/parsehtml]We made it down to the Moab area a little after dark on Thursday night. We wanted to be close by and ready to go in the morning since we had to be at Tex's Riverways at 7:30am. We were going to camp at a known spot on the road into Arches but we hit some extremely slow road construction that was blocking the turn onto that road. To make it even worse, they splattered my Tacoma with tar as we drove through. I'm still trying to figure out how to remove it. :mad:

After getting shut down on our known spot, we went a bit further and turned down the road to Butler Wash. It was getting late and we weren't finding any spots so we just found a spur road with some flat spaces to sleep and camped there. No fire or anything but it worked out okay. It was pretty windy though.

The next morning we were up bright and early getting our bags packed for the next 4 days. We had a nice sunrise at camp.
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From there we were it was straight to Moab. We arrived at Tex's around 7:15. They took the keys to our vehicles and parked them in their back lot and loaded us up on an old school bus for the drive down to the Potash boat ramp.
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The Potash boat ramp. We waited here for like an hour for the boat to arrive. I guess they had problems filling it up or something. Pretty lame, seems like it would make sense to fill it up the night before if it's going to set things back an hour...
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But finally, the boat arrived!
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And we were on the river. It was really windy and hazy this day which made for a choppy ride but it was still pretty nice. Definitely better than the ride back. More on that in the last trip report.
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whitwilli had the right idea, hide from the wind...
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A section of river in The Loop.
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Looking up into The Green River at the confluence. You can see the difference in the waters between the Green and the Colorado.
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Spanish Bottom with The Dollhouse looming above.
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The boat pulled right up to some crude stairs cut into the dirt wall at lower Spanish Bottom, we hopped off, and they were gone. Quick and easy.
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Now the not-so-easy part, the hike from Spanish Bottom to The Dollhouse. The trail starts mellow but soon it turns into about as steep a trail as I can imagine without becoming a literal climb.
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Crinoids
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First view into The Dollhouse
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Since I was the only one who had been here before, I decided to lead the group on a longer route through the Dollhouse before continuing on towards Water Canyon. This is the view down into Surprise Valley along the trail.
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We dropped our packs and took the 1/4 mile spur trail out to check out these nice granaries.
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The next section of the trail took us through some cool joints.
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It got too skinny for packs in this spot so Whitney got into position above to pull packs out for us.
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We eventually crossed back through the main Dollhouse road where we would have come out on the more direct trail. We ran into a guy there who was out solo checking things out. He had driven out there in an FJ Cruiser. We talked for a minute and continued out on the Confluence trail towards water canyon before stopping for a break in the shade at Beehive Arch.
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The next section of trail was rough going. The wind was pretty intense yet it was still SO hot out. We took a much needed break in a little refrigerator slot along the trail to cool down. That's lostlandscapes singing for us. :facepalm:
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A nice little climb just up the trail from the refrigerator.
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We decided not to hike out to the overlook since we had seen pretty much all of that already today. And of course the fact that you can't actually SEE the confluence. The fields of crypto are amazing out here.
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Descending into Water Canyon
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This is where the trail crosses Water Canyon and also where the spring is. Last year, the water was flowing from above, pouring off of the cliffs. This year, dry as a bone above the spring.
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We climbed down and made our way to the source where we enjoyed the cool, clean water. We just sat our nalgene bottles all over and let the water pour directly in from the dripping moss above. It was also nice to stick our heads under the flow after the long, hot hike. Hopefully some of the other guys will post some pics as I was too wet to get out my camera. :D
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After dinner, a few of us climbed up to a cliff to check out any sunset that might occur. Not very eventful but still a pretty sight.
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Coming up next: Water Canyon, Shot Canyon, The Land of Standing Rocks and the descent into The Maze via The Plug.

Continue reading part 2 here: The Maze: Shot Canyon to Pictograph Fork

Featured image for home page:
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Check out the other trip reports from this trip:

Part 2: Shot Canyon to Pictograph Fork
Part 3: The Maze Overlook and Jasper Ridge
 

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gnwatts

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Very cool Nick.
Some friends and I talked last night about canoeing/sea kayaking from Potash to Spanish Bottom, have Tex's pick up our boats, and back pack out via the Maze.
This has inspired me.
Greg
 

Nick

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Very cool Nick.
Some friends and I talked last night about canoeing/sea kayaking from Potash to Spanish Bottom, have Tex's pick up our boats, and back pack out via the Maze.
This has inspired me.
Greg
Sounds like an awesome plan and always happy to help with some inspiration. :)
 

AdamE

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Apr 18, 2012
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Great photos and descriptions, Nick. Nate and I did this route he week before, and each of us has pledged to do our trip reports soon. That initial slog up to the Doll House is a tough way to start the trip!

That spring at Water Canyon was incredible, and we each vied to fill the gravity filter since it would mean a chance to soak and cool off! Our campsite was about 100 yards upcanyon from the seep, under a beautiful alcove and we stayed there 2 nights.

BTW, did any of you guys find a tan hard eyeglass case with rimless glassses in them somewhere between the Water Canyon springs and the climb up Shot Canyon? They fell out of my backpack somewhere between there and I had to make do with sunglasses for the rest of the trip and the trip home (nothing like having to use the facilities in Picto Canyon in the middle of night wearing sunglasses or wandering through SLC airport like a movie star! Cheers. Adam
 

Nick

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Thanks, Adam. That spring was great. We didn't even bother filtering it. Yummmmm!! Didn't see any sign of your glasses, unfortunately. We did find a nice tobacco pipe though. :lol:
 

AdamE

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Apr 18, 2012
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Oh well. Only thing we found along the way was an empty iced tea bottle, which we used to gather water from puddle/spring at Picto Confluence, and an empty beer can at Spanish Bottom!
 

david466

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Awesome reviews of the maze. This is my first post, I know this thread is a bit old, so hopefully you get this. I am heading to the maze for the first time at the end of April. How many hours did it take to get to your first campsite? We are taking the shuttle just like you did in this review. We only have 2 nights, so have to cut out some mileage, just curious how long it took, so we can figure out how much ground we can cover.
 

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Nick

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Hi @david466. Welcome to BCP. Thanks for bumping this, I love reliving old trips, especially great ones like this! I'd be happy to help - just don't forget to come back and post some pics for us from your adventure! :)

I just went through my photos and looked at time stamps, here is some info on various points:

7:51 AM - The shot of us on the bus, somewhere between Moab and Potash
9:16 AM - Loading the boat at Potash (would have been quite a bit earlier if the boat had been on time)
11:06 AM - Dropped off at Spanish Bottom
11:31 AM - After tending to some special business (see my last post in the series), we were starting up the switchbacks toward Dollhouse
12:46 PM - Arrived at The Dollhouse after taking a break for lunch near the top of the switchbacks.
1:14 PM - Arrived at granaries on optional hike that you could skip, took a little break here
2:00 PM - Connected with 4WD road and started down trail toward Confluence and Water Canyon
3:03 PM - Beehive Arch. Took a break a little while later in a cool cave.
5:06 PM - Descending the steep part into Water Canyon
5:35 PM - Arrived at dryfall above the spring in Water Canyon

We took a leisurely pace with a few breaks and of course the optional side trip to the granaries and surprise valley overlook. Hope that helps. Let me know if you need any more info.
 

Blandine

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Mar 11, 2015
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Hello,

this thread is really inspiring.
I'm preparing a 5 days trip in the Maze (end of april) and all the information you give is so useful!
Do you have coordinates for the spring in Water Canyon? Is it easy to find?
 

Nick

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Hi @Blandine. Welcome to BCP. The Water Canyon spring is easy to find. It's right under the dryfall where the trail crosses the bottom of Water Canyon. If you look at my map above, it's right where we camped the first night. Here: 38.201366,-109.932380


View larger map.
 

Nick

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Happy to help. Don't forget to come back and post some pics from your adventure! :)
 

Chuck the Mauler

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Any issues with exposure? I'm doing the same trip and one of the guys tagging along is not fond of heights. He's been to the Tetons and Glacier with me so I guess exposure is the only question.
 
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Nick

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Any issues with exposure? I'm doing the same trip and one of the guys tagging along is afraid of heights. He's been to the Tetons and Glacier with me so I guess exposure is the only question.
The worst part of this entire route is the climb up to the Maze Overlook. Everything else should be a-okay, but still pretty dramatic at times.
 

Chuck the Mauler

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The worst part of this entire route is the climb up to the Maze Overlook. Everything else should be a-okay, but still pretty dramatic at times.
But that was a side trip not needed as part of the figure 8 loop, correct?
 

frahminator

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Loving this trip report!

We are considering doing a similar loop in late April 2017, but starting from the Overlook. In your opinion, would this work?
1st night stay at your Day 3 campsite
2nd night near Dollhouse / Spanish Bottom
3rd night at your Day 1 campsite (Water Canyon)
4th night back at the Maze Overlook campsite

Couple of questions:
1) As backpackers I assume Doll House campsites are off limits. Is it foolish/impossible to camp down on the Spanish Bottom?
2) Water Canyon to Maze Overlook seems like a REALLY long day. Any thoughts on breaking that up into two days? Maybe set up Camp somewhere near The Plug or something before heading back north to The Maze Overlook?
 

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