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Day Hikes in the Maze District
Canyonlands National Park, Utah


Author: John Tegtmeier

Participants: 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 Powell.

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 Teapot Rock.

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.


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