Day Hikes in the Maze District
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
John Tegtmeier, Eric Tegtmeier
The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park offers, due to its
remoteness, relative solitude even during the peak season of visitation to
the canyon country of southern Utah. We decided on the spur of the moment
to head out for a four-day Spring Break trip. A call to the Park Service
ranger in Moab revealed a good probability we could obtain a back country
permit (with a choice of campsites) upon arrival at Hite Marina on Lake
After obtaining our permit by phone from the ranger at the Hans Flat Ranger
Station, we headed across the bridge over the Colorado River and started
the 36-mile drive over a relatively good dirt road to our first camp at
The next morning we awoke to a low, thick overcast with gusty winds. No
sooner had we packed up camp and put the Landcruiser into low range for the
drive through the upper end of Teapot Canyon than the snow began to fall.
The 16-mile drive to the Doll House was in blizzard conditions. We arrived
at the Doll House after about an hour and a half of four-wheeling. Just as
we stepped out of the vehicle the snow stopped, and within five minutes the
sky began to clear. The weather was great for the rest of the trip.
We packed up our lunch and headed down the trail towards the Confluence
Overlook (Green and Colorado Rivers). This is a beautiful trail with a
small arch, several shallow canyon crossings, areas of slickrock, and
fantastic views of the Needles and Island in the Sky Districts to the east
and northeast. After about four miles we headed northwest on the trail to
Water Canyon. A few miles of hiking brought us through Water Canyon to the
saddle separating it from Shot Canyon. We took a few minutes to admire a
pair of arches off in the distance before dropping down into Shot. After a
mile of hiking up canyon, we followed a cairned trail up to the south rim.
Several short sections of 4th class scrambling added some interest. From
there it was another couple of miles along the narrow ridge separating Shot
and Water to the road at Chimney Rock. It was another three miles along
the road back to our camp at the Doll House.
The third day we drove back up the road to Chimney Rock for the start of a
loop hike down the Pictograph Fork to the Harvest Scene pictograph panels.
The route down into Pictograph Fork was fairly easy to follow and not very
steep or difficult. Several miles of canyon bottom hiking brought us to
the Harvest Scene. This pictograph panel is probably second in extent and
quality only to that in Horseshoe Canyon. After a restful lunch break we
headed about a half mile down canyon before turning east up a side canyon
that eventually led us to the top of the long ridge connecting Pete's Mesa
to the Land of Standing Rocks. Three or four miles of hiking the ridge
brought us back to the vehicle.
The next day on the way out we parked the vehicle along the road just north
of Ernie's Country and the Fins. After hiking less than a half mile south
from the road we came to a dead end on a point above two impressive little
canyons. Short of multiple rappels, there was no apparent way down into
either of the canyons. At least one map shows a trail westward into the
Fins from the Doll House area, I think that's the normal route in.
Exploration of Ernie's Country and the Fins will have to wait for the next
trip to the Maze. A quick lunch and short walk back to the road was
followed by a long, long drive back to Los Alamos.