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Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop, UT

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Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
4 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 7.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,124 feet
Elevation Gain 424 feet
Accumulated Gain 683 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.92
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
7  2018-04-20 chumley
2  2016-09-24 TheMazzicMan
12  2014-04-06 Sun_Ray
40  2013-10-18 CannondaleKid
40  2013-03-30
Author CannondaleKid
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 137
Photos 20,503
Trips 1,903 map ( 15,629 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May → 8 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:07am - 6:16pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Up one canyon, down the next.
by CannondaleKid

Overview: This is a relatively easy hike with spectacular views. Although a loop that can be hiked in either direction, I would recommend hiking it counter-clockwise. I'm sure most people will find it easier to climb the slick rock ridge from Big Spring Canyon and descend into Squaw Canyon.

Hike: From the Squaw Flat Loop "A" Trail-head you begin by following a nice flat trail toward the right. About .25 mile from the TH you will reach the first slick-rock climb. After a short and easy climb you will enter Big Spring Canyon. The hiking is easy along the canyon bottom, which you will follow roughly 3 miles until reaching the southern end of Big Spring Canyon. Big Spring Canyon provides a reliable water source.

As you approach the end of the canyon you will climb a series of relatively easy slick-rock ledges for .25 mile then begin to climb steeper sections of slick rock. While rock cairns are provided to guide you in the correct general direction, you may want to vary your rote slightly depending on your comfort level and condition. If a dip that provided us a very easy climb happens to be filled with water you will need to look for the next best alternative. All in all, this is nothing near the big deal it appears from a half mile away. As one with a fear of exposure and heights, the 200 foot climb up the slick-rock looked extremely intimidating, yet once we were climbing it was simply a matter of taking one step at a time. By time we reached the slick-rock ridge it seemed easy enough I could have walked up and down the slick-rock without fear.

Once you reach the top of the slick-rock ridge you will be just shy of halfway around the loop so this is an excellent spot to take a break. Whether you take a break or not, please, by all means take a look in ALL directions from BOTH sides of the slick-rock ridge. You won't be sorry because the views are fantastic! If we weren't planning on another hike after this one I could easily have spent an hour or more to soak it in.

From the ridge you will drop 300' relatively quickly down the slick-rock slope into Squaw Canyon. It may again appear intimidating, just use the rock cairns to guide you. Their was one pool of water that we could easily straddle. If there happened to be more water we would have had just a slightly steeper slope, yet nothing that we hadn't already handled. There will be one 4-5' drop from a pour-off but a few rocks were stacked there so it wasn't an issue. This is the one spot that it could present a bigger challenge if you were hiking clock-wise and solo. With two people it would be easy for one to boost the other, then give a hand to pull the other up.

Just below this point you will see a sign at the trail junction where you will turn left to complete the loop. If you were to go to the right you would curve around to the west and be lead into Elephant Canyon, which would make for a LONG way around and back to the TH. So if you don't wish to double your mileage, turn left.

From the junction you will continue .5 miles along a mostly-flat slick-rock ridge before dropping down a few ledges until you are parallel with and slightly above the creek. At the time of our hike (mid-October), although it didn't appear to be 'flowing' there was a reasonable amount of water. Eventually the trail reaches the creek level and you will cross back and forth a few times. If you get to a point where the water is too deep to cross, scan to your right (east side of the creek) for an alternate segment of trail a bit up and back from the creek. We first noticed it only where it reconnected with the trail maybe a hundred yards farther along.

Leaving the creek you will have some flat easy hiking, a few short climbs up slick-rock, a short drop, cross another flat open area, one last short ascent and descent to a flat easy run back to the trail-head.

Water Sources: Reliable in both Big Spring & Squaw Canyons.

Camping: Yes, with back-country permits.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-10-23 CannondaleKid
  • Needles District - 1
    area related
    Needles District - 1
  • Needles District - 2
    area related
    Needles District - 2
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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop
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After we had set up camp for night 2, I decided to knock off a few hours in the afternoon with a day hike. There was a direct trail from camp back to our original backpacking trailhead at Squaw Flat that was not on our itinerary, and it was only 3 miles long. I figured a 6 mile round trip would be an ideal hike.

The best part is that it would bring me to the truck where I could grab a few beers to enjoy at camp later on! :y:

After 9L made me carry 0.75 ounces of trash he didn't want to carry out himself [-( I headed north on the Squaw Canyon trail. This was a super-highway compared to other trails we had been on. It's entirely flat, and really a little boring by Cairnyonlands NP standards. Don't get me wrong. It would be a top--10 Sedona hike for creekside hiking and red rock scenery. But this isn't Sedona and we had been spoiled by two days of absolutely unbelievable views on every trail and in every direction. So if you're going to do a loop from Squaw Flat, I'd recommend any of the options that don't include Squaw Canyon. But that's just me!

Anywhoo, I made it to the truck in about 50 minutes, took advantage of the restroom at the trailhead, grabbed a few beverages, and decided that I had plenty of time to explore a different route back to camp. It would involve about a mile and a half of trail I had previously hiked as part of the backpacking loop and add about 2 miles to my planned out n back, but I had plenty of time to meet the time I had assured 9L I would be back by.

So... Big Spring Canyon ... yes! :) This one is a real gem, and absolutely worth it. I'm so glad I headed back via this route. The afternoon sunshine and poofy clouds provided great light, and views to the La Sals which were still getting hit with snow. The climb up to the pass between Big Spring and Squaw was a highlight, as all the passes/divides here seem to be. After dropping down into Squaw, I had to retrace a little bit less than a mile to get back to camp, where I was able to immediately crack open an ice cold beer! A fantastic afternoon hike with a tasty reward! :D
Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop
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Tour de Needles
Had a great Memorial Day trip up to the Canyonlands. Melody is relatively new to backpacking (her first backpacking trip was down the Bill Haul trail to Thunder River, the lower river trail, and then back up the Deer Creek trail. Pretty epic first backpacking experience). Our previous trips have been high-mileage and really challenging. So sometimes it's nice to have a relaxed pace trek with lots of time for exploring the surrounding areas. We definitely accomplished that this weekend! Usually, the end of may gets up in the mid-90s. We were lucky to have nice clouds and highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 50s! Perfect weather. And there were multiple water pools from recent rains, which is ideal since the western side of the Needles District does not have perennial water.

Friday: night at Monument Valley.

Saturday: Obligatory stop at Newspaper Rock (Very cool). A couple of friends dropped us off at the trailhead, then they continued up to Arches without us. Apparently arches had a several hour wait time to get into the park. It's just as Ed Abbey predicted!

Melody and I began the backpacking trip at Squaw Flat - :next: Big Spring Canyon - :next: Brief time in Squaw Canyon - :next: Elephant Canyon. Camped at EC3. I love how isolated the designated backpacking sites are! We took our time and explored a lot of the side canyons in the area.

Sunday: First we did the out and back trail to Druid Arch (definitely worth it) and then stopped at the spring in this canyon to filter water. Then we hiked out to Chesler park which was exploding with wildflowers in bloom. Then we continued on to the Joint Trail. We built a cairn in the cairn room (see pics) and then back-tracked to Chesler and on to backcountry campsite CP1. This is a wonderful campsite with extensive views over the Needles District. You can even see the Maze in the distance!

Monday: On the trail by 6:30 and at the Elephant Hill Trailhead before 8. Our friends picked us up here, which was nice that we didn't have to walk 5 miles back on the dirt road to Squaw Flat.
Breakfast burritos in Monticello and then a quick stop at Natural Bridges National Monument (I love Utah). Planned another stop at Coalmine Canyon, because it was still early afternoon, but everyone in the car yelled at me when I brought up the idea :whistle: Guess they were tired or something? :lol:

Yay Utah!
Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop
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Motorhome trip with friends Rich and Sue. We met them in 2007 going down the S. Kaibab Trial for the first time when Sue stopped me on the trail to zip up the top compartment on my backpack. We have vacationed with them every year since. We did the loop as described in the trip description...Big Spring to Squaw Canyon. As Cannondalekid states it does have some scary slickrock sections. For me and my wife this was not an 'easy' hike as it had some challenging rock scrambling areas. Time includes many stops to take pictures and breaks. If you are in the park for only one day and looking for a day hike...this is it.

Note: photo's posted with SX 230 are Rich, SX 260 are mine.
Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop
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Weekend up at Canyonlands/Indian Creek for hiking and climbing.

This was during the time I couldn't climb, so Amy and I went for a hike on the 12th in Canyonlands. Days two and three we hung out with the other climbers at various crags. We also took the car out at some point and explored some of the roads on the way to Moab, and drove by Rockland Ranch/Hatch Rock and Looking Glass Rock. Out climbing, Tim did his first real trad lead, and then finished a tall route for Adam, who was too pumped to finish. Another fun weekend, and just might be my most favorite place to climb.. can't wait to actually climb there again.
Big Spring / Squaw Canyon Loop
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7 Days in the Needles District of Canyonlands. Attractions included Druid Arch, Chesler Park, Angel Arch, awesome slickrock and ancient art and dwellings.

Water was scarse at the beginning, but Salt Creek was flowing for the majority of our itinerary, for which we were grateful to not have to carry multiple gallons of water.

For once, found someone else crazy enough to spend a week away from modern conveniences.

Spectacularly complex geology in an isolated area. Glad to have visited it once.

Very isolated, this area appears to have received very little moisture this winter.

Permit $$

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

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Moab: Drive 38 miles south on US 163 to UT 211, turn right onto UT 211 and continue 34 miles to the Visitor Center.

From Monticello: Drive 14 miles north on US 163, turn left onto UT 211 and continue 34 miles to the Visitor Center.

From the Canyonlands Visitor Center: Continue along the paved road not quite 3 miles past the Visitor Center to the Squaw Flat Campground intersection, turn left and continue just over a half mile to the parking area at the campground. (Do NOT turn right at the Elephant Canyon sign.)
page created by CannondaleKid on Oct 23 2013 4:31 pm
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