Length: 44.0 mi / 70.8 km
Time to Allow: 2 hours
This spectacular route along the Colorado River gorge in Moab, UT begins at the Colorado River Bridge on the north end of Moab. For the first 13 miles (20.9 km) it parallels
the Colorado River within a narrow section of the gorge, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding red sandstone cliffs. Popular attractions along this portion of the route include viewpoints of the river, public camping areas, and Negro Bill Canyon, which contains a delightful hiking trail to Morning Glory Natural Bridge.
At 13 miles (20.9 km) the gorge widens as the highway proceeds past Castle and Professor Valleys, which have been the shooting locations for many western films including Wagon Master and Rio Grande, along with numerous television commercials. The Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission has a museum at the lodge located at Mile Marker 14. Admission is free. After 24.7 miles (39.8 km) the highway passes a viewpoint for one of the grandest views in the west, the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers set against the often snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains.
After leaving the valley, the road winds farther up the river gorge until arriving at the site of historic Dewey Bridge at 29.8 miles (48 km). Unfortunately Dewey Bridge was destroyed in April 2008 by a brush fire. The road then follows the northern bank of the river for a few more miles before exiting the Colorado River gorge. At this point the highway proceeds across open desert toward the ghost town of Cisco at 44 miles (70.8 km). Cisco was founded as a water refilling station for steam locomotives along the main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. After another 5 miles (8 km) the route intersects Interstate 70.
Cottonwood Wash, is a wide-open rolling high desert, with low rocky bluffs studded with distant towering buttes. This road is well maintained and is generally a safe road to drive. The Buckhorn Wash portion of this route is especially scenic, with canyon walls rising many hundreds of feet above you, Native American rock art panels, a well-preserved dinosaur track and more! There are many side roads along this route, but the navigation of this road is easy-when in doubt, stay on the main road!
Mile 28.3 Mile 0
This is where the Cottonwood Wash Road intersects I-70 and heads north towards Buckhorn Wash.
Mile 26.2 Mile 2.1
This is a Sagebrush test area, used to study the effects of grazing by livestock. The western section of the enclosure was fenced off in 1937, while the eastern section was enclosed in 1961.
Mile 23.3 Mile 5.0
You are at Sinkhole Flat, with the actual sinkhole surrounded by a circular log fence. The sinkhole is of little scenic value, and is included here only as a landmark.
Mile 10.8 Mile 17.5
Massive Window Blind Peak is to the east of the road, with the smaller Assembly Hall Peak to the north of Window Blind. Rising to an elevation of 7030 feet, it is the tallest free standing monolith in America, one of the largest in the world. It is called “Window Blind” because some of the rock formations near the top on Northeast side look like windows with the blinds closed. Assembly Hall was named for its resemblance to the original LDS assembly hall in Salt Lake City.
Mile 10 Mile 18.3
To the west, slender Bottleneck Peak rises to an elevation of 6401 feet.above sea level.
Mile 9.2 Mile 19.1
This is the bridge over the San Rafael River, and it is the boundary between Cottonwood Wash and Buckhorn Wash roads. Just to the south of the river is the San Rafael Recreation Area campground, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. It offers many campsites, picnic tables, fire rings and pit toilets. There is no drinking water available. North of the river are many sandy primitive campsites under the cottonwood trees. The swinging bridge, located to the west, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938 and was the only bridge over the river until the early 1990s. Though you can no longer drive on it, it is perfectly safe to walk on.
Mile 7.4 Mile 20.9
Calf, Cow and Pine Canyons enter from the East.
Mile 5.5 Mile 22.7
One of the highlights of the entire San Rafael Swell is the mysterious Buckhorn Wash pictograph panel. There are some faint petroglyphs here, but the red pictograph figures are the stars of this site! The main panel was painted over 2,000 years ago by the Barrier Canyon culture. Learn more about the Barrier Canyon culture and how they made pictographs and petroglyphs. There is also a boulder with the names of the same CCC boys that built the swinging bridge over the San Rafael River carved into it. There is a pit toilet at this location.
Mile 4.2 Mile 24
On the sandstone ledge, about 40 feet above the road, is the Matt Warner inscription, dated Feb 17 1920. Matt was a very colorful outlaw that operated (on occasion with Butch Cassidy) from New Mexico to Washington State for over 18 years. During that period, he frequented Green River, operating a saloon and brothel there.
Mile 2.3 Mile 25.9
There is a cattle guard here. Just south of the cattle guard is a parking area. Park there, and notice the trail heading to the east, up a steep hill. There is a large panel of petroglyphs at the end of this short trail.
Mile 2.1 Mile 26.1
To the east of the road a short distance is an interesting petroglyph. It can be hard to spot, so look for a series of bullet holes where some fool shot his initials (TKG) onto the cliff. Look left of those for a large, light colored crack running vertically. The petroglyph is just left of the crack.
Mile 1.6 Mile 26.6
A very clear and large dinosaur track can, with a little searching, be found here. On the east side of the road is a ledge of sandstone about 10 to 15 feet above the road. There are several paths up to the ledge. Once on top of the ledge, look for a larger flat area of bare sandstone at your feet. The footprint is on this large sandstone area, although you may have to move some flat rocks to uncover it. Visit the dinosaur pages within our site to learn more about other dinosaurs in Castle Country.
Mile 1.4 Mile 26.8
A short canyon is east of the road. There is an easy hike up the canyon.
Mile 0 Mile 28.3
You are at the intersection with the Green River Cutoff Road. West will take you to Castledale and Highway 10, east will lead you to US Highway 6
The San Rafael River is the boundary-Buckhorn Wash north of the River, Cottonwood Wash to the south. The southern section, Cottonwood Wash, is a wide-open rolling high desert, with low rocky bluffs studded with distant towering buttes. This road is well maintained and is generally a safe road to drive. The Buckhorn Wash portion of this route is especially scenic, with canyon walls rising many hundreds of feet above you, Native American rock art panels, a well-preserved dinosaur track and more! There are many side roads along this route, but the navigation of this road is easy-when in doubt, stay on the main road!
Believed to be the work of the BARRIER CANYON CULTURE, the Buckhorn Wash panel is more than 2,000 years old. It predates the Fremont work found in Castle Country. The Barrier Canyon people did not have pottery. They hunted and gathered, used stone and bone tools and atlatls (spear throwers).
Distinctive features of Barrier Canyon
- life-sized figures without arms or legs
- broad shoulders, tapered trunks and bug eyes
- dots, rays and crowns above heads
- figures accompanied by birds, insects, snakes and dogs
How these Pictographs were made
Pictographs were painted on the surface of rock with natural pigments. Black was made from yellow ochre (a mineral found in the soil), pinyon gum and sumac. When stirred together, they form a black powder. Reds were made from red ochre and the roots of mountain mahogany. Rabbitbrush was a source of yellow. Likely binding agents were plant oils and animal fats. Petroglyphs were carved, pecked or chiseled into the rock.
Likely tools used in making Pictographs and petroglyphs
- brushes made from human hair, dog hair or yucca fibers
- flint or other stone chisel and hammers
- hollow bird bones filled with pigment
- fingers or mouths- paint could be blown out of the mouth and onto the rock creating a negative image often associated with handprints.
Paint, chalk, carvings and bullet holes have vandalized the Buckhorn Panel. The canyon’s proximity to the Old Spanish Trail and its use as a hideout for outlaws made the pictograph panel a prime target for vandals. Sadly, much of the damage is permanent and lost art cannot be repaired. However, the Buckhorn Panel was greatly improved in 1995 through an intensive restoration effort. Today vandalism of rock art is illegal and should be reported to law enforcement authorities.
The Restoration Project
As part of the 1996 Centennial Celebration citizens of Emery County initiated the restoration of the Buckhorn Panel. This project was a joint effort by citizens, the BLM, Utah and county governments. This site is one of several in the United States that has been restored by Constance Silver, an internationally known art conservator. The clean up took about six weeks at the site.
Please help preserve the panel by:
- looking with your eyes, not your hands
- reporting vandals to the BLM or local Sheriff
Tea has been known in China since about 2700 BC. Tea was initially used strictly as a medicinal beverage obtained by boiling fresh leaves in water, but around the 300 AD it became a daily drink, and tea cultivation and processing of Chinese tea began.
But tea beverages have been drunk by most of the world’s cultures for millennia. Many of these were herbal teas, using a wide variety of native plant leaves, roots and stems steeped in boiling water.
There are, likewise, many desert plants, which have been used for centuries by Native Americans to brew tea. As in the Far East, they were primarily used for medicinal purposes rather than as a daily beverage. Below is a sample of some of the more common desert plants used for brewing tea.
Place a sprig of Creosote leaves and flowers in a cup. Add boiling water, cover and steep 5 to 10 minutes (depending on strength desired), then strain. You may want to sweeten this strong, aromatic tea with honey.
Creosote bush is the dominant shrub over most of the southwestern deserts. California’s Cahuilla Indians brewed Creosote tea to relieve coughs, colds, flu, infections and bowel complaints. They also covered their heads with a blanket and inhaled the steam of creosote leaves in a boiling pot of water to relieve congestion.
Place several Sagebrush leaves (preferably from a small plant) in a cup. Add boiling water, cover and steep 5 minutes. Strain, sweeten and serve. Native Americans regarded this bitter tea useful to promote sweating and to aid in digestion. Many prefer honey or lemon for flavoring. Note that the many species of Sagebrush are not really a sage, but are an annual evergreen shrub. All are aromatic.
Mormon Tea, Desert Tea, Squaw Tea
In a boiling pot of water, place a small handful of green or brown Ephedra twigs for each cup desired. Cover and steep 20 minutes. Strain and drink. There are many species of Ephedras in the Desert Southwest, but all make a tasty, energizing tea. Southwestern Indians and European desert travelers have long brewed Mormon tea or chewed the twigs to quench thirst and boost energy. Mormon tea is considered a general tonic for stomach ailments and kidney disorders.
Note: Those who are sensitive to caffeine should probably avoid this tea. The drug ephedrine is obtained from a Chinese species of Ephedra.
Among the 3 species of mesquites in the desert, Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) is most preferred for brewing tea. Place 8 or 9 green or dry yellow twigs in a cup. Fill with boiling water, cover and steep 20 minutes. Or boil 24 seed pods in a pot for one hour. This sweet, mild tea has a vanilla-like flavor. It was used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea and stomach ulcers.
(Salvia apiana / mellifera)
Bruise one leaf of either white or black sage, place in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and steep 5 minutes; strain, sweeten and serve. Native Americans used Sage Tea as a gargle for sore throats and to aid digestion. It was also used topically as a disinfectant. Note that White Sage is much stronger than Black Sage, which may require moderation.
WARNING: Many native and cultivated plants are extremely toxic and can result in severe illness, or even death if ingested. Never ingest any portion of any plant unless you are absolutely certain about its identity and harmlessness.
This part of Utah is always a diversion to take a look at through camping season. The surroundings of this campground have such a great deal of things to offer. There’s plenty of outdoors recreation available in close proximity such as swimming, hiking, and fishing, so you won’t get bored.Enterprise Reservoir Campground gets very little rainfall; during July this area sees the most rain; June on the other hand is the driest. It’s not very good for you to spend too much time indoors; you need to get out of the house sometimes, and EnterpriseReservoir Campground in Utah is a fine spot to go.The Pilot Peak Trail offers hiking at its best; of course, everyone loves Beaver Dam State Park. This is beyond doubt a magnificent campground. Enterprise Reservoir Campground is right by the South Boundary Trail; HoneycombRocks is a perfect place to check out while in the neighborhood.Be careful coming to Enterprise Reservoir Campground, you might not ever wanna go home again. Lost Creek is a splendid local stream, and if you get bored of Enterprise Reservoir Campground you could also explore close by Upper Enterprise Reservoir. There’s so much stuff to do near Enterprise Reservoir Campground, and it unquestionably is a fine campground.Hiking is a popular thing to do around Enterprise Reservoir Campground; Hollow Trail is a good local trail; do take a look at Upper Enterprise Dam if you’re here. Such a tremendous pick of attractions and such a great deal of things to do will absolutely have you coming back over and over.During the long summer days highs here at Enterprise Reservoir Campground reach the 90’s; the night is rather cooler of course, generally in the 50’s. The wintertime comes with highs in the 40’s, and winter nights come with lows in the 10’s to Enterprise Reservoir Campground. Gunlock State Park is a delightful site to go if you’re at Enterprise Reservoir Campground; hiking along the White Hollow Pack Trail is delightful fun. There’s wonderful hiking along the Parker Canyon Trail, and nearby you locate great locations like Cave Canyon.
In late fall, water may be turned off in the campground. After the water is turned off, camping fees go down to $6 for single sites and $10 for the large picnic area.
$9 per camp site
$15 for the large day-use area (up to 50 people).
Reservations: First-come, first-serve.
Directions: From Enterprise, Utah, take Utah Highway 219 west 7 miles. Turn left on Veyo Shoal Creek Road and continue 3 miles to the campground.
Amenities: Vault toilets, drinking water, garbage service.
Nearby: Lower Enterprise Reservoir, with boating and fishing opportunities.
The Moqui CaveLex was not around when his father, Garth Chamberlain, purchased the cave (7 miles north of Kanab) in 1951. The beautiful paved Highway 89 that we now enjoy was just a dirt road. The black and dirty cave had been abused and mistreated and was filled with graffiti and black stains from campfires within the cave.
Garth had a vision not shared by many of his time. He went to the bank for financing and everyone thought he was crazy. They refused to lend him money for his project. Garth and his wife decided to go ahead with their plans anyway and began to clean up the cave. They started with 286 bags of Portland cement which they mixed in a small fruit sprayer. The couple put a clean white coat of paint over the interior of the entire cave. They commented that they got more on themselves than on the cave.
The paint was followed by 150 truckloads of dirt. The floors slanted badly, so the dirt was used to level the floors and entry.
Concrete, 7,000 square feet to be exact, was poured over the dirt to create a smooth floor. This concrete was not delivered in cement trucks, each load had to be hand mixed and pushed in a wheelbarrow to its destination.
A stage was built to provide room for an orchestra and the cave was ready. The first use of the cave was for dances and socials. A bar was also set up in the south wing of the cave.
Following years of long Friday and Saturday nights, Garth and his wife decided to discontinue the dances and bar and to turn the cave into a museum.
Museum pieces were acquired. Replicas of the ruins in the local area were added. Dinosaur tracks were found and brought to the cave. A fluorescent mineral display was created and has become one of the largest collections in the west.
The cave today represents forty years of painstaking work; work begun with a vision. Garth and his wife could not have imagined their success, nor the enjoyment others would find in their work
4518 N Highway 89
Kanab, UT 84741
JENSEN LIME KILN – Built in 1903 by Jens L. Jensen, Richfield well known lime burner cured lim for mortar to be used in rock and brick structures. The kiln measures 20 feet high and about 20 feet in diameter, with a wall thickness of 8 feet. Over his lifetime, Jensen went blind because of the heat of the kiln. The kiln is located at the north end of Richfield (under the I-70) overpass and remains the same today as when it was operational.
Backpacking the backcountry in Grand Canyon enjoyably and safely for longer than day or overnight hikes requires significant amounts of planning and preparation in addition to equipment, food and water. Everything you need and want along must condense and pack into three cubic feet or so of space inside your pack or strap to the exterior of it. Good organization is very important so that you can readily locate and extract needed items and then replace them to a consistent location. A place for everything and everything in its place… You should be familiar enough with the inventory and location of items in your pack that you can readily locate and identify them even in the dark.
I subpack related items in separate mesh and ripstop nylon stuff bags of varying sizes; quart and gallon size heavy duty Hefty brand ‘OneZip Slider®’ baggies, and smaller 3×4 inch ZipLoc baggies. Use of baggies within baggies has proven to provide reliable waterproofing for moisture sensitive items like film, camera equipment, dehydrated foods, lighters and so on.
Numerous essential items must be assembled and efficiently packed prior to each trip. I’ve found the only way to insure I’m not forgetting critical items or details while preparing and packing is to employ the following equipment and supplies checklist. While this list covers the fundamentals for longer hikes, each trip and hike has it’s own particular requirements depending on route, destination, duration, season, particular activities planned, and the interests and needs of the individual hiker(s). If you are less experienced and haven’t developed your own backcountry checklist yet, here’s my own with typical weights for your consideration and reference.
|Dana K2 Loadmaster (Long Bed) 6100 cubic inch||3.40 kilograms|
|There’s just no way around it – it takes a big, heavy, robust pack to haul all the equipment, food and water required for week long treks in the Grand Canyon, especially if your route is a dry one. I like my external frame Dana K2 Loadmaster very much for extended Canyoneering. It provides a cavernous capacity; thick, comfortable hip and shoulder pads; handy external pockets and pouches; and customizable fit and shoulder/hip load distribution adjustments. I wish it was a little lighter, but on the overall I figure it’s well worth carrying an additional pound or two of pack for the capacity and comfort of a premium, heavy duty, external frame backpack and the manageability imparted to large, heavy loads. BTW, I also use this pack for shorter hikes, as it is very comfortable when loaded in the sub-40 pound range.|
|Cache Stuff Bag with Trash Bag Liner and Baggies|
|12 x 24 inch Waterproof Stuff Bag||.15 kilograms|
|I like to do multiple hikes per visit to the Grand Canyon, ranging from day hikes to hikes of a week’s duration or more. I inevitably bring along or accumulate items that won’t be used on a particular hike, such as excess food or clothing, books, water bottles, exposed film, keys, change, postage stamps, bus tickets, and what not. Backpackers using public transportation to visit Grand Canyon (such as myself) won’t have a parked car there in which to store these things while off hiking. To keep my working load and bulk to a minimum on each hike, I temporarily cache such items in a stuff bag that I hang and conceal in a tree on the rim, and recover later upon my return. Storing moisture sensitive items in ZipLoc baggies and lining the cache bag with a plastic trash bag closed with a twist tie insures its contents will stay dry regardless of the weather.|
|‘Student Style’ with Shoulder Straps||.29 kilograms|
|I pack a light day pack to carry water, trail mix, camera gear, maps, first aid kit and so forth when I want to drop my expedition pack with most of my gear and supplies for brief exploratory hikes for route, campsite and water finding, or to gain a vantage point for sight seeing and photography. My day pack doubles as a dirty clothes bag/pillow by night.|
|On My Person (Mild to Hot Weather)|
|One Pair Socks, Underwear, Shorts, Shirt||800-1200 grams|
|Hiking Boots||1400-2000 grams|
|Shady Hat with Chin Strap||180 grams|
|Sun Glasses with Neck Band||30 grams|
|Billfold with Emergency Info, Credit and Business Cards, Money||100 grams|
|Small Swiss Army Knife||35 grams|
|Notebook with Pen||100 grams|
|Watch with Alarm, Night Light||30 grams|
|Subtotal: 3.35 kilograms|
|You won’t have much need or opportunity to use money below the rim unless your itinerary includes Phantom Ranch. However, the plastic and folding variety doesn’t weigh very much, and I just feel better with mine on my person rather than stashed on the rim. So I carry a light canvas/Velcro billfold which also contains my personal ID and an emergency contact and information card. Upon returning from a hike to the rim, I traditionally reward myself with an ice cream cone at the first opportunity, which is soon followed up with a hearty meal including fresh vegetables and potatoes and burnt cow. Of course that takes money, so it is convenient to have some on my person when I hike out, rather than having to travel back to a trailhead rim cache first, which might be many miles from my exit location and the nearest ice cream…|
|Camp and Fording Shoes|
|Sandals/Tennis Shoes for Fording, Wading, Camp Wear||.80-1.00 kilograms|
|I have seen hikers fording streams and creeks in their regular hiking boots, but I think this is a very poor idea and endeavor to keep mine as dry as possible. I’ve been carrying a pair of lace-up tennis shoes for fording and wading, as I find doing so in my bare feet both painful and dangerous. The rubber soles provide some traction on slick rocks and protection from sharp travertines and gravels. Once settled for the evening I also like to remove my hiking boots to give them and my feet time to air and dry out, and switch over to fresh socks and the tennis shoes for around camp wear. You may prefer “sports sandals” for the same purposes. I’ve begun eyeing rubber soled, slip-on neoprene surfboarder’s booties to replace the tennis shoes as they are significantly lighter and should also dry faster.Some hikers actually wear and swear by sandals for hiking in Grand Canyon. I’m rather dubious regarding the safety of doing this on all but the corridor and rim trails. Those who advocate wearing sandals for primary footwear in the backcountry must be a lot better at avoiding the cacti and scrub than I am… It only takes one misplaced step, or an unexpected slip to really whack your foot on an unforgiving rock, or equally unforgiving cactus. I had a rather memorable close encounter with a whopper of a pink rattlesnake near camp in Lonetree Canyon in fading light on May 28, 2000 while I was wearing shorts and tennis shoes. The pink rattler’s camouflage is perfectly adapted to their domain and I was first alerted to his close proximity from his rattle… I think he had just ventured out to feed on rodents, lizards, frogs or other abundant small prey attracted to small pools of water in the slick rock below a seep there, something at which he was obviously successful judging by his size. He could have certainly hit me in a bad way but fortunately he didn’t strike at me, the happy outcome due more so to his discretion than mine.
While unfashionably low-tech and heavy, that incident together with painfully thorn-pierced shins on more than one occasion has since had me envious of those awesome knee-high, heavy duty lace-up leather backcountry rock kickers that are often seen adorning early explorers and prospectors in historic Grand Canyon pictures.
|Goose Down Mummy with Stuff Bag||2.10 kilograms|
|My faithful, patched up, goose down bag is over twenty years old and it’s still serviceable in spite of lots of use and abuse and a grungy appearance. It was a sub-zero bag when it was new, but it has lost enough down and loft that I would rate it at about a 30 degree bag now (when sleeping in underwear). You need a bag or blanket on the rim, even during the summer. You don’t need a bag for warmth below rim in the backcountry during the summer, but then one can provide some additional cushion and insulation from baking hot bedrock that continues to radiate stored heat during the night. I have straps on my pack to carry my sleeping bag externally when it is displaced internally at the beginning of a long hike with food and water.|
|Coleman 24 x 72 x .75 inch Convoluted Foam||.42 kilograms|
|I pack a closed cell foam type for a ground pad under my sleeping bag, which I attach to the exterior of my pack with straps. The upside to this type of pad is it is relatively cheap (twenty bucks), light, and pretty much indestructible. Mine’s been punched clear through by sharp rocks and thorns and severely abraded without functional impairment. The downside is that it feels like you’re sleeping on rocks when you are – there’s only so much padding provided by three quarters of an inch of foam, which averages something more like half an inch overall with the convoluted style, especially after compressing down some with several weeks wear. I’ve actually gotten in a fair night’s sleep on this pad when it is lying over soil or sand.|
|Hydration and Water Containers|
|2-Liter Hydration Unit||150 grams|
|In-Line Water Filter||100 grams|
|Five 2-Liter Pop Bottles (Empty)||275 grams|
|Twelve Liters Water||12000 grams|
|Subtotal (Dry): .53 kilograms|
|Subtotal (with 12 Liters Water): 12.53 kilograms|
|I’ve incorporated a ‘Camelbak’ 2-liter hydration unit in my gear, which is essentially a canvas covered, collapsible plastic bag, connected to a silicon mouthpiece with a hose. The hydration unit just happens to be a perfect fit inside a long, narrow slip-in pocket on my expedition pack, the hip pads and belt of which prevent me from simultaneously carrying belt hung canteens or water bottles. I’ve come to appreciate it’s just plain nice to yourself to have water on demand a few inches from your mouth when hiking the Grand Canyon!I’ve installed a ‘Safe Water Anywhere’ water purifier inline between the hydration bag and the mouthpiece as a last line of defense, which filters fine suspended particulate matter, microorganisms and dissolved organic and inorganic contaminants, as well as removing the taste from iodine treated water. If you ever have to tank up at a soupy, dying tadpole and bug infested water pocket, you will especially appreciate a good water filter in addition to iodine. If the life sustaining water you have to drink also makes you sick, you’re going to be in big trouble in the backcountry.
I’ve been using ordinary, plastic 2-liter soft drink bottles for containment and bulk transport of water inside my pack. They are cheap and easy to come by, light (55 grams each) and amazingly tough. As soon as one begins to look crumpled or worse for the wear, I replace it for my own peace of mind, even though they have proven to be serviceable across multiple outings. A drawback to carrying a number of 2-liter bottles is they are not as efficient volumetrically as larger containers and take up more space in my pack than I’d like. I sometimes study larger containers in the gear and sporting goods stores, but have yet to find anything that likes me. One consideration regarding carrying a number of smaller bottles versus a single or smaller number of larger containers is that in the event of a catastrophic accident or container failure, you will not be hurting as bad. I may switch to the magnum sized 3-liter soft drink bottles after some further field testing.
Water is the limiting factor for the duration of hikes into dry areas, which constitute about 99.9 percent of Grand Canyon. I’ve found that twelve liters (3 gallons) of water, which weighs 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds) is my own absolute limit of what I can carry on top of a seven day pack (while negotiating relatively moderate terrain with frequent rests). When the going is steep, up or down, my limit drops to eight liters or less. Your rate of consumption will vary considerably, depending on the season and temperature. During the winter, 3 gallons could sustain you for a week inside the canyon. During the summer, you can easily consume 3 gallons in less than two days and still be on the losing side of the water in/water out equation, due to tremendous loss through perspiration when your body has to cope with ambient temperatures well over 100 degrees on top of the work heat hiking generates. During the summer it is also harder to carry water, as your metabolic efficiency is significantly reduced by heat and water/electrolyte losses, so there is somewhat of a vicious circle operating then, where the more water you carry, the faster you consume it.
The majority of the springs and seeps in the backcountry are unreliable and only flow during wet years, or seasonally go dry, flowing only during cooler months when surface evaporation is at a minimum and rainfall/snowmelt is at a maximum. A Park Service publication lists only 28 reliable perennial water sources, including the Colorado River, throughout Grand Canyon. Thus, water availability becomes a principle strategic consideration when planning backcountry hikes and is an especially critical issue during the summer.
|Cooking Utensils Bag|
|Replacement Lighter||15 grams|
|Plastic Funnel||15 grams|
|Unbreakable Plastic Spoon||10 grams|
|Unbreakable Plastic Fork||10 grams|
|Plastic Coffee/Tea Brewer||15 grams|
|Two-Cup (16 fluid ounce) Aluminum Pot/Cup||70 grams|
|Snow Peak GS-100 Gigapower Stove with Case||115 grams|
|Tinfoil (12 inch x 20 inch unfolded)||5 grams|
|14 Days One-A-Day and C Vitamins||25 grams|
|Salt & Pepper (35 mm film canister full)||40 grams|
|Scrub Pad (2 inch x 3 inch)||5 grams|
|Subtotal with Mesh Stuff Bag/Baggie: .35 kilograms|
|In accord with the Prime Directive Leave No Trace, it is illegal to collect fuel or build a campfire anywhere in the backcountry within Grand Canyon National Park borders. So if your idea of the quintessential wilderness experience entails hot meals and coffee, you have no choice but to pack a backpacker’s stove and fuel. Some fundamentalist backpackers eliminate the weight of a stove and cooking utensils completely and eat only cold food, which is not as unappealing as it sounds during hot weather. However, I am personally from the progressive camp that embraces technology and the general improvement of the human condition that resulted from the domestication of fire and cooked food. For me, the preparation of food marks the beginning and end of each day on the trail. It is a time for relaxation, reflection and planning, an integral part of the fundamental rhythm and ritual of my backcountry treks. And I do like my coffee.
While white gas (Coleman fuel) is commonly available and relatively inexpensive, the stoves that burn it tend to be heavy and can be notoriously cranky to operate.
Rave reviews in Backpacker Magazine convinced me to try out Snow Peak’s ultralight, blended gas (Isobutane/Propane) burning “Gigapower” stove, the stainless steel version of which weighs a scant 115 grams including its compact case. Its operation could not be simpler – you just screw the burner together with a fuel canister, which also serves as the base, unfold four wire pot support arms, open the fuel valve and ignite. No muss, no fuss, instant heat. Run full blast this stove will boil a quart of water in about 4 minutes, with a total full blast duration of about 45 minutes per GP-110 canister.
The simplicity, small size, light weight and efficiency of my Gigapower stove amazes other backpackers to whom I’ve demonstrated it, and I am a very happy camper with mine. Being a poor person, I invested in the no frills stainless steel version, the least expensive of four related models at fifty bucks. Affluent backpackers with more money to burn may prefer the titanium version that weighs an ounce less, or the piezo auto igniter option. I considered the auto igniter prior to purchasing mine, but decided against it after a company sales person told me that some Gigapower users had melted their auto igniters when using their stoves with a wind shield. It is often very windy in the Grand Canyon backcountry, and strong winds reduce the heating efficiency of camp stoves. I employ an unfolded piece of tinfoil formed in a partial cylinder around the stove to provide a wind shield when needed. I’ve read that reflected heat from the use of too-tight wind shields can cause dangerous overheating of fuel canisters, so if you deploy a wind shield like this, be sure to leave adequate air gaps and periodically check the temperature of the canister while operating the stove.
One downside to the Gigapower stove is it wouldn’t be that stable under larger pots due to it’s small footprint, but I have yet to dump a meal out of the one pint aluminum pot that I double duty for cooking meals and as a coffee cup.
|Two Snow Peak GP-110 Isobutane/Propane Fuel Canisters||400 grams|
|Each GP-110 canister provides 110 grams of mixed gas fuel, providing 45 minutes duration at full blast. Snow Peak also makes a larger canister with double the fuel of the GP-110 (90 minute duration) which should have a little lower net weight than two GP-110s and also make a more stable base.
I don’t usually run my Gigapower stove full blast, but my daily consumption of fuel works out to about 22 grams, or about 8-10 full blast minutes. Your own consumption may vary considerably depending on the cooking time of the food you prepare.
|30 SPF Sunscreen||100 grams|
|Bug Repellent||60 grams|
|Cut Off Tooth Brush||10 grams|
|Toothpaste (‘Travel’ Size)||25 grams|
|Subtotal with Baggie: .20 kilograms|
|Plastic Whistle||5 grams|
|Small Roll Gauze||10 grams|
|Several Small/Medium Gauze Pads||5 grams|
|Small Roll Adhesive Tape||15 grams|
|2 inch x 3 inch Moleskin||15 grams|
|Five Blister Bandages||15 grams|
|Four Regular Band-Aids||5 grams|
|Four Packages 1-Gram Dose Triple Antibiotic Salve||7 grams|
|30 Aspirins||15 grams|
|Metal Tweezers||10 grams|
|Subtotal with Baggie: .11 kilograms|
|Iodine/Neutralizer Water Purification Tablets in Pill Case/Baggies||25 grams|
|Duct Tape 1.5 x 18 inches||5 grams|
|25 feet 5mm Cord||40 grams|
|Several Twist Ties||–|
|Replacement/Extra Baggies||30 grams|
|Subtotal with Baggies: .11 kilograms|
|Garmin eTrex GPS Unit||155 grams|
|Topologic, Geologic and Formation Maps||305 grams|
|Replacement Pen and Pencil||20 grams|
|Replacement Lighter||25 grams|
|Compact Flashlight (2-AA Cell Size)||90 grams|
|Two Replacement AA Size Batteries for GPS/Flashlight||45 grams|
|Backcountry Permit(s)||5 grams|
|Subtotal with Baggies: .70 kilograms|
|Geology of the Grand Canyon in 8.5 x 13 inch Bubble Wrap Envelope||.89 kilograms|
|Nikon 2000 Body with 35-75mm f3.5 Zoom Lens, Filter, Caps,
Lens Protector, Strap
|80-200mm f4.5 Zoom Lens, Filter, Caps, Lens Protector||610 grams|
|Backpacker’s Tripod||115 grams|
|Macro Lens Set (Filter Style) and Case||95 grams|
|Several Paper Towels and Dust-Free Lens Cloth||20 grams|
|Twelve 36-exposure Rolls Kodachrome 35mm Film/Canisters||360 grams|
|Four Replacement AAA Alkaline Camera Batteries (One Set)||45 grams|
|Tasco 10 x 25 Compact Binoculars with Soft Case||300 grams|
|10X, 21mm Triplet Hand Loupe||40 grams|
|Subtotal with Stuff Bag and Baggies: 2.82 kilograms|
|Emergency Poncho||55 grams|
|Two ‘Lawn Size’ Trash Bags||100 grams|
|Toilet Paper/Used Paper Baggie||30 grams|
|Subtotal with Baggie: .19 kilograms|
|Warm Weather Clothing Bag|
|‘Night’ Clothes (Swim Trunks and Tank Top)||290 grams|
|Clothing – Two Days Worth
(2 pairs hiking socks, 1 pair each underwear, shorts, shirt)
|16 x 16 inch Towel/Rag||85 grams|
|Subtotal with Stuff Bags for 7 Days: 3.70 kilograms|
|Food – Rations per Day
50 grams Jerky
150 grams Trail Mix
150 grams Noodles or Rice with Dehydrated Vegetables
100 grams Oatmeal with Dehydrated Fruit
30 grams Powdered Milk
15 grams Brown Sugar
150 grams Powdered Gatorade
20 grams Coarse Ground French Roast Coffee (Makes 5 Strong Cups)
20 grams Gravy Mix
200 grams Fresh Fruit (Orange, Apple, Mango)
|Subtotal with Stuff Bag and Baggies for 7 Days: 6.30 kilograms|
|Total Dry (Without Water) 7 Day Pack Weight:||23.53 kilograms (51.77 pounds)|
|Total 7 Day Pack Weight with 12 Liters Water:||35.53 kilograms (78.17 pounds)|
|Weight of Worn Clothes/Boots/Pocketed Equipment:||3.35 kilograms (7.37 pounds)|
|Seasonal and Optional Equipment|
|Solo Tent, Poles, Stakes, Rain Fly, Ground Sheet||1.60-2.00 kilograms|
|Fishing Gear||1.00 kilograms|
|Down Vest or Parka||kilograms|
|Hiking Staff or Pole(s)||kilograms|
The Ten Essentials for Backcountry Survival
In editing the above and putting together your own checklist, be sure you do not neglect these ten essentials for backcountry survival, regardless of your plans. You should always carry the following with you, even when venturing into the backcountry for ‘just a day hike’:
- Extra Water and Food – Yes, it’s a dry heat… No water, you die! An often published general rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person per day. Folks, that’s for mild weather and conditions – you’ll have to consume 3 or more times that amount to prevent dehydration and combat heat exhaustion if exerting yourself in the summer heat, which can exceed 120 degrees in the shade on the Esplanade, Tonto Platform and within the Inner Gorge. No food = No fuel = No fun! Hiking the Grand Canyon backcountry is not the time to diet or loose weight… Indulge your body and appetite with double your normal intake of carbohydrates, sugars and water, and be sure you eat and drink periodically whether you feel hungry and thirsty or not.
- Trail and Topographic Map(s) – Without maps of the area in which you’re hiking, and knowledge of how to use them, your hike may turn into something less than enjoyable, especially if you are venturing onto and navigating the more remote, unmaintained trails or routes in the Grand Canyon backcountry. The trail maps published by the National Park Service, Grand Canyon Association and others are no substitute for 7.5 minute United States Geological Survey topos, which are essential for safe hiking on all but the Park Service maintained, heavily traveled corridor and rim trails.
- Compass/GPS Receiver – Used with knowhow, a GPS receiver makes navigating with those topographic maps ten times as effective. But do not neglect to pack a compass even if you are a competent GPS user! Your GPS could conk out, its batteries could become exhausted, or you may find yourself in such rugged terrain (typically, a deep canyon or wash) that your GPS may not ‘see’ enough sky (satellites) to function. Sometimes simpler is better… BTW, if your compass skills are a little rusty, or you’ve never learned how to triangulate position using a compass and topo map, waiting until you are lost in the Grand Canyon backcountry to figure it out will no doubt add to the intensity of the situation and provide for a better story later, assuming there is one.
- Flashlight with Spare Batteries – Besides just being very handy around camp for scaring off mountain lions, bears and giant ground sloths after dark, 😉 you may need a flashlight to hike during the night under emergency conditions to reach help for a fallen comrade, or to move your camp to higher ground if it rains. Flashlights also make good emergency signals at night.
- Emergency Whistle – This safety item is particularly important if you hike alone and/or venture off the beaten trail. A whistle carries further than your voice and can still be used after you’ve shouted yourself hoarse.
- Sunglasses – Your eyes can burn easily, and you won’t know it’s happened until the damage has already been done. A tough pair of polarized sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection is mandatory canyoneering attire, with a retainer string or band that helps prevent their loss and facilitates you in conveniently hanging them from your neck when not in use. I guarantee you will not be a happy camper if you lose or break your sunglasses during an extended hike!
- Protective Clothing and Hat – Depending on the season and weather, protective clothing may include rain gear, a wool shirt, sweater or parka, gloves, and perhaps a Mylar space blanket. In a pinch, a lawn size trash bag can be employed as an emergency rain poncho/pack cover. If your feet perspire anything like mine, a fresh change of socks is always appreciated. A shady hat is mandatory canyoneering attire! You will encounter high, gusty winds on the rims, outcrops and in side canyons that can easily and suddenly strip your hat from your head and blow it into an inaccessible abyss, so be sure your hat incorporates a secure chin strap. I guarantee you will not be a happy camper if you lose your hat in the Grand Canyon during an extended hike!
- Waterproof Matches/Windproof Lighter/Emergency Fuel – Keep them in a waterproof container. Candles, fuel tabs or another long-burning fire starter is essential when trying to start a fire with damp kindling. While it is illegal to build camp or cooking fires anywhere in the Grand Canyon backcountry, in an emergency you may need to start a fire to signal for help, or for heat if you’re caught in life threatening hypothermic conditions.
- Pocket Knife – This is an essential tool! You won’t be skinning any elk or bear, so a small Swiss Army Knife is all you’ll really need.
- Personal First Aid Kit and Emergency Info – Your first aid kit need not be elaborate but should at least contain Band-Aids, rolled gauze and pads, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, tweezers (for removing thorns and splinters), moleskin or blister bandages, and aspirin. You might also want to include an elastic bandage to wrap a stressed knee or sprained ankle, and of course any prescription medications you may require. In the event of an accident or medical emergency you may not be conscious if and when found, so it is also a good idea to carry emergency contact and medical information on your person on a card, including your blood type and any known allergies to medications or complicating existing medical conditions.
History and Activities: Historically, the Swell was crossed by various expeditions during the exploration of the West but received virtually no permanent settlement. More recently, the area has seen sporadic mining operations – principally for uranium (most intensively around the Temple Mountain area) but also for small amounts of copper, silver, oil and gas; otherwise, ranching has been and continues to be the only major use of the land. Herds of wild horses and burros roam the plains, and bighorn sheep may sometimes be spotted in the canyons. Most of the tracks across the swell result from prospectors in the early to mid twentieth century, and these provided the only access until 1972, when the interstate was constructed, dividing the region in two.
Various exits now allow easy entrance to the middle section and link with the old tracks, most of which are good for regular vehicles and quite well signposted. Hiking and exploring are the main reasons to visit nowadays – there are trails to mountains, historic sites, old mines and the numerous canyons – these offer experiences ranging from extended, strenuous trips like the hike through the Black Boxes of the San Rafael River to easy walks such as that down Little Wild Horse Canyon.
Temple Mountain: The most accessible area of the San Rafael Swell is around Temple Mountain in the southeast, beside the road to Goblin Valley State Park. Half way to the park (6 miles from UT 24), a side track branches off westwards and cuts right through the reef, the only such road along the whole eastern edge apart from interstate 70. There are many good places for free camping either side of the road, all with nice views over the reef and the San Rafael Desert – a good alternative to staying at the Goblin Valley campground, where the fees are $15 a night. The road becomes unpaved but still fine for all vehicles as it follows the canyon of South Temple Wash into the reef, where multicolored walls of Wingate sandstone rise up to 500 feet. Two sections of the cliffs on the north side have quite impressive pictograph panels, though mixed with modern graffiti. The cliffs recede on the far side of the reef to reveal an angular landscape of numerous red ridges, ravines and cliffs, with a prominent peak to the north. This is Temple Mountain – site of one of the main mining areas in the Swell, it was in use from 1910 to about 1960, extracting large amounts of uranium ore from strata of the Chinle formation. Many shafts, stone buildings, spoil heaps, rusty iron equipment and other debris remain in place, plus a large winch tower, and a walk around the mountain on old mine roads makes for an interesting hike of 2 hours or so. The rocky badlands beneath the mountain are also strewn with many pieces of petrified wood, the Chinle sandstone being the same formation as found in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. The old tracks branch off the main road at the site of Temple Mountain village, a settlement that was built to service the miners and once included a gas station and general store, though little trace remains today.
Access: The largest town nearby is Green River, 18 miles east of the reef on I-70; this is also a convenient base from which to explore the Canyonlands region to the southeast and Desolation Canyon to the north. The town has a selection of shops and cheap motels, and the John Wesley Powell River Museum – besides its interesting exhibits this has a good selection of local books and topographic maps. UT 24 and its side roads give access to the southern swell, and along here is found Goblin Valley State Park, the most visited site in this area. The northern half falls between US 191/6 and UT 10 and amongst the routes heading inwards is the unpaved Buckhorn Draw Road which leads to the single most impressive viewpoint – the Wedge Overlook from where many square miles of eroded canyons around the San Rafael River are viewable.