What's your rain forecast comfort zone for canyon hiking?

mtchristy

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Mar 24, 2022
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I've been planning my personal "spring break" trip to Southern Utah for a few months now and am supposed to leave on Saturday from SW CO. My plan was to backpack into Harris Wash in GSENM Monday morning and come out Tuesday, but the forecast is calling for scattered showers Monday afternoon and most of Tuesday at this point.
I am well aware of the dangers of flash-flooding in desert canyons. I've also been in lots of desert "rainstorms" where it barely sprinkles.
My question: at what point do you personally decide a canyon hike in wet weather is not worth the risk? As far as I can tell from the NWS tabular forecast at this point, a total of .1" inches might accumulate during that time frame. If forecast and reality are in sync, that's no worry, but forecast and reality are often not in sync, especially in the spring.
Would you go for it or find an alternate? I'll have my dog with me so have to stay out of the National Parks.

(If anyone's curious, the rest of my trip itinerary includes: Saturday 3/26 - trachyte creek tributaries, Sun - Upper calf creek falls, Mon/Tues harris wash, Wed - slots off of upper harris, thurs - hackberry or paria canyon, friday - TBD, Saturday 4/2 - buckskin gulch)
 

IntrepidXJ

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Jan 17, 2012
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It all depends on how narrow the canyon is (and for how long) and what kind of escape routes there are and how big of an area the canyon drains. For Harris Wash, there would have to be a significant rain or storm system in the forecast to make me avoid it.
 

mtchristy

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Mar 24, 2022
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It all depends on how narrow the canyon is (and for how long) and what kind of escape routes there are and how big of an area the canyon drains. For Harris Wash, there would have to be a significant rain or storm system in the forecast to make me avoid it.
That's good to know. One of the guidebooks I have says harris is very flash-flood prone because it drains a huge area and therefore can funnel an unexpected amount of water. However I doubt that the amounts that are predicted would be enough to do anything more than tamp down the dust. Thanks for your response!
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
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Best sources are local guides. Had planned a trip to Buckskin and Hackberry after a backpack in GSE (Coyote Gulch). Had a good sized rain the day before. Checked with guides in town who said steer clear. Entered lottery for The Wave and won. Knew a rental SUV couldn't make it safely and 3 of 4 guides wouldn't attempt it. Had a great time with the one that said he'd try it. A bit gnarly getting in, but highly memorable trip.
 

regehr

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Mar 28, 2012
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There's so much to do down there that I generally find it easy to switch plans to avoid this sort of forecast, but this particular forecast + the structure of Harris Wash wouldn't worry me too much.

We had a memorable Escalante trip some years ago where we sort of hightailed it up the HitRR as a big monsoon storm moved in. Luckily the surface is so packed down that it remained drivable even with significant standing/running water. But within a day or two, the HitRR had about a 20 foot deep cut in it, I think someone even posted pics of that event here, but I don't know how to find them.
 

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