The hike at Angel Cove along the Dirty Devil River is insanely beautiful, wonderfully remote, and a great winter hike. The trail ventures across desert landscapes and long stretches of slickrock, and I’ve never even seen another car at the trailhead.
Getting to the trailhead requires driving on typical desert dirt roads, which means that it would probably be impassable after a storm. There are a couple of sandy spots, but the road should be passable by a passenger car in good conditions.
To get to the trailhead, drive south on Highway 95 from Hanksville. At mile marker 10, turn left onto the road signed for Angel Landing. There should be signs for the turns to Angel Landing/Angel Cove. The trailhead parking is located at 38.30576,-110.54857.
There are no fees to park at this trailhead.
From the trailhead, this trail starts out across the desert, winding its way down to the Dirty Devil. After a while, the sand gives way to slickrock, and much of the route down to the river stays on the slickrock. Just try to keep up with the cairns as the trail affords wonderful views of the Dirty Devil, Beaver Canyon, and much of the Robber’s Roost area. The trail isn’t too difficult to follow and it’s not too steep. There are a couple of steep sections on the slickrock, but they shouldn’t pose any problems.
After about a mile from the trailhead, the trail reaches a great overlook of Beaver Canyon and then cuts back towards the Dirty Devil, eventually dropping out of the slickrock and onto a desert shelf above the river. Follow the trail straight on towards the river, and soon you come to a choice: you can down-climb a short 5 or 6 feet at a small cliff band to access the Dirty Devil, or you can continue north, paralleling the river along the desert shelf. I did the down-climb once, and we used a short length of rope to lower our packs. The down-climb was exposed just enough to make us uncomfortable trying it with the packs on. On the climb back up, we also used the rope to raise our packs.
So, if you don’t have a rope or don’t want to do the down-climb, or the river is partially frozen, then continue north above the river. For the next mile or so, the trail runs below the main rim of the canyon, but on a shelf above the river. This part of the trail was interesting because really pretty rocks decorate the desert floor. After a mile or so, the trail climbs back on to some slickrock, and presents some great, precipitous views of the Dirty Devil. The trail follows along the slickrock above the river for a quarter mile or so, and then drops down onto another shelf, and then finds its way down to the river just south from Robber’s Roost Canyon. I have hiked this trail a couple of times, and both times I turned around just before the trail dropped down to the second shelf, which was roughly 3.5 miles from the trailhead. As an out-and-back hike, just turn around and head back to the trailhead when you’re ready to call it a day.
That’s the route if you stay on the shelf, but if you decide to drop down to the river, you can also make your way to Robber’s Roost Canyon. By dropping off the shelf, just north of the mouth of Beaver Canyon, you can hike down to the river right at the mouth of Beaver Canyon. As mentioned, the down-climb off the shelf is a little challenging and may require a rope to drop packs and to use as a hand-line, but it’s not too bad. Once at the river, be careful of quicksand along the banks while crossing over to the other side of the river. We’ve been here a couple of times in the winter, though, when the river was partially frozen, making it unsafe to cross, which is why we usually stay on the trail on the shelf. Once across the river, though, turn north and follow the trail along the Dirty Devil. Again, it’s a total of about 3.5 miles from the trailhead to the mouth of Robber’s Roost. You could try to find the trail back up onto the shelf on the west side of the river, just south of Robber’s Roost Canyon, but I’ve never done that, so I’m not sure what the climb up is like. Or you can turn-around and backtrack to the trailhead.
Robber’s Roost Canyon also offers an extended backpacking trip into a non-technical canyon in its lowers reaches. I’ve not yet hiked much into Robber’s Roost, but the area is so pretty that this backpacking trip is high on my to-do list.
Permits & Regulations
No permits or fees are required.
This is a very remote area. Don’t go here if the roads are wet, and don’t go here if you’re not comfortable or experienced in the remote desert. This trail would be very hot in the summer.
Relevant Books & Maps
Utah Hiking – Buck Tilton