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Shot and Water Canyons, UT

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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,449 feet
Accumulated Gain 643 feet
Avg Time One Way 4-6 hous
Kokopelli Seeds 8.14
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
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60  2017-09-28 Steph_and_Blake
86  2016-05-19
The Maze - Colorado/Green Confluence
Author Steph_and_Blake
author avatar Guides 100
Routes 63
Photos 2,548
Trips 184 map ( 820 miles )
Age 73 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
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Preferred Oct, Apr, May, Mar → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Winter
Sun  5:18am - 7:34pm
Official Route
2 Alternative

Worth a Shot
by Steph_and_Blake

The plan was to hike, from the Chimney Rock trailhead, down Shot Canyon, traverse over to Water Canyon, up and out Water, and back to the beginning trailhead. We'd talked with a few Hans Flat park rangers (the folks in charge of the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park) in advance to gain knowledge of the hike, especially the section pertaining to climbing out of Water Canyon. We understood that there would be a couple sections with considerable exposure, but nothing technical in terms of rock climbing. They did suggest taking along a 30-foot length of rope as there's one section that requires friction-climbing up a 30 degree slab of slickrock that tends to intimidate people. Didn't sound too difficult...

The Hike
From the Chimney Rock parking area you first locate the third trailhead from the left. This is the one for Shot Canyon. All three are cairned and you can see the worn trail for each trailhead. At times the trailhead going into Water Canyon is marked, sometimes not. It wasn't when we were there.

Initially, the cairned trail has you gradually descending over white benches of slickrock. At this point it's unclear which canyon is actually Shot and you're hiking among juniper, Mormon tea, and sagebrush with expansive views of the Maze. About 35 minutes into the hike (0.8 miles) is when you start the serious descent into Shot. You have your choice of going down sandstone stairs (supposedly put in place by a sheep herder) or down a jumble of rocks. Both look very steep until you're right on top of them. Once down this section you traverse to the right and then descend down switchbacks to get to the canyon floor. Be slow and deliberate on the switchbacks as the soil and rocks are loose.

Once down the switchbacks, the well-worn trail takes you across the sandy bottom of Shot. The going is easy at this point and allows for ample picture-taking and oohing and aahing at the colorful rock formations. About 3 miles into the hike you'll see a lot of dark gray bedrock. On the right is a small side canyon entering Shot that also has a floor of the dark gray bedrock. It's here that you want to take a right turn out of Shot. After about 150 feet in this side canyon, watch carefully for cairns on the left. You'll climb up a crack in the rock and continue to follow the cairns. Eventually you come to a dark gray "wall" that you scramble up, making your own switchbacks to ascend, and then turn left at the top of the wall. The cairns then lead you to a saddle of sorts. This is where you get your first glimpse of Water Canyon. Good spot for lunch, too.

From the saddle you descend down another set of custom-built sandstone stairs and then down a series of short pour overs. Once past the pour overs, you turn right to go up Water Canyon. Note that up to this point the trail is, as the rangers put it, "minimally maintained" and sometimes the cairns are nothing but 2 - 3 fist-sized rocks. From here on you really have to pay careful attention to find the cairns and, honestly, I'd hesitate to go up Water Canyon without a GPS device as there are numerous side canyons. If your intent, like ours was, is to complete the loop and hike up and out of Water Canyon you could waste considerable time trying to find the right fork of Water. We had determined the correct fork in advance after a lengthy discussion with one of the rangers and had plotted out our course on our Garmin program.

The going is slower up Water as the faint trail stops and starts. Sometimes you're picking your way around prickly pear, sometimes you're slogging through the sandy canyon floor. The last fork is at 5.4 miles and is, actually, a "T". On the left is a 25-foot vertical dryfall. On the right, the direction you want to go, is a much more manageable pourover. A short distance after the "T" you come to the head of Water. Look for cairns and a trail on the left (south) side of the canyon. An easy scramble gets you onto a ledge. Here's where it got tricky...As best we could see, there's a 12 - 15 foot climb that's completely exposed. Another hiker that we spoke with the next day said, in a very serious voice, that while the climb is not technical (no need for ropes and plenty of hand and foot holds), it would be "really, really bad" if you slipped. The drop would be well over 50 feet. We felt it was too risky for us and, frustrated, turned back and re-traced our steps. The same hiker also mentioned a tree branch that you must shimmy up to get out. We wouldn't know.....If you're unsure if you can make it up and out of Water, start early and take extra food and water as you've got 6 miles to go if you turn around. Good luck and be safe!

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2017-10-04 Steph_and_Blake
  • Needles District - 1
    area related
    Needles District - 1
  • Needles District - 2
    area related
    Needles District - 2

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
Information is listed below

Canyonlands National Park
Vehicles: $10 (Good for 7 days)

Map Drive
Strictly 4x4

To hike
Heading north on Highway 95 from either Blanding or Mexican Hat, take the turnoff for Hike. Top off your gas tank there. Get back on Highway 95, heading north towards Hanksville. Almost immediately after crossing the Colorado River, take a hard right onto Route 633. Take this for about 48 miles to the Chimney Rock parking area, following the (minimal) signs to Doll House. The drive from Hite to Chimney Rock takes about 4 hours and requires a high-clearance, 4x4 vehicle and, at times, rather technical driving skills. A permit is required to camp in the Maze. The usual National Park fees are applicable.
page created by HAZ_Hikebot on Oct 04 2017 4:45 pm
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