With expansive views over the Dirty Devil River and a beautiful slot canyon, Happy Canyon makes a great non-technical hike in the Robber’s Roost area.
There are multiple routes to get into Happy Canyon, but the shortest route begins near Poison Spring Canyon. From Hanksville, head south on Highway 95 for approximately 17 miles and turn left on to the Poison Spring Canyon road. This road can be driven by a sedan for the first couple of miles, but then it becomes narrow and rocky, with sporadic water pools. Most of the time you could probably drive the Poison Spring road with a carefully driven sedan, but the puddles can sometimes be deep, and the canyon can sometimes flood…very dramatically. A high clearance vehicle is recommended, but don’t head down here if it’s raining.
Continue down Poison Spring for about 11 miles, and turn left. This road crosses over the wash and continues up on a bench. This road becomes much rockier than Poison Spring, and sometimes boulders can fall from the cliffs above, blocking the road. As of May 2013, though, the road was open all the way to the trailhead. Continue down this road for about 6 miles (17 miles from the highway) and park near 38.11113,-110.40663.
There is no fee for parking at the trailhead.
From the trailhead, just continue down the old road as it gets narrower and narrower and finally becomes just a trail. Along the way, you will see some old signs of mining, as well as lots of petrified wood. The first 3 miles of the trail are easy to follow and easy to hike, with expansive views of the Dirty Devil River. After about 3 miles from the trailhead you will come to the point where you descend to the Dirty Devil at 38.14034,-110.40607. There should be cairns on the right side of the trail indicating where the turn is. Turn right here and begin the descent to the river. While the descent is steep in places, it’s not too difficult, and there is nothing technical about it. Just follow the trail and cairns down to the river.
You arrive at the Dirty Devil directly across from the mouth of Happy Canyon. The river is rarely more than knee-deep, but it’s a good idea to bring sandals or water shoes for the crossing. Once across, just head into the wide mouth of Happy Canyon. The narrows begin soon after entering the canyon and continue for almost an hour. There are no technical sections in this part of Happy Canyon, but you may encounter shallow pools of water. Just continue as far as time allows and then backtrack the way you came to return to the trailhead.
It’s also possible to continue further up canyon to make the hike into a backpacking trip.
Permits & Regulations
No permits required.
As mentioned, don’t drive into Poison Spring when it’s raining…this canyon can flood dramatically...just look at the flood levels on the trees nearly 10 feet up. Parts of this road are covered in ice in the middle of the winter. The first part of the hike can be hot in the middle of the summer. The Dirty Devil can run high in early spring.
Relevant Books & Maps
Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau – by Michael Kelsey