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Hackberry Canyon - Grand Staircase Escalante


A 2-3 day one-way backpacking trip following the drainages of Round Valley Draw and Hackberry Canyon with several optional side trips. There is no water for the first 9.5 miles of this hike. A car shuttle is required to complete this trip.


Car Spot: From Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT drive to between mileposts 17-18 and turn north on the well graded, dirt Cottonwood Road. Drive 14.4 miles to just past a cattle guard and right branching Brigham Plains Road to a short pull off on the left (west) that is the trailhead for Hackberry Canyon. The gps point for the car park is: UTM 419359mE, 4123741mN

Trailhead: The road to Round Valley Draw branches off of Cottonwood Road (note: Cottonwood Road is the 46 mile long dirt road that connects Highway 89 with Highway 12 at Cannonville, UT) about half way between Kodachrome Basin State Park and Grosvenor Arch. Look for the sign for  Round Valley Draw on the south side of Cottonwood Road. Head south on this road (Rushbed Road, also called Forest Road #422). Drive ~2 miles to a parking spot and trail register.

Road Conditions:

High Clearance Vehicle




~19 miles + side trips

Date Hiked:

April, 2008

Weather Conditions:

Warm and sunny with chilly nights

Required Skills:

Hike Description:

From the car park, begin walking down the wide rocky wash. After about a mile, a sandstone shelf appears under foot and soon you reach the beginning of the slot canyon. You will be faced with a bit of a down climb to work your way into this narrow and twisty slot. Once in the bottom, simply head down canyon. There are a few boulder problems as you proceed, but be aware that the watercourse can change with every flood. The canyon is deep, narrow and sculpted, but the yellow/gray walls and dim lighting make getting good photographs difficult. As you near the junction with Hackberry Canyon (which enters from the right), the canyon begins to widen.

The hiking in Hackberry is flat and easy, however occasional sections of deep sand will bog you down a little. Though not a slot, Hackberry provides some very nice desert scenery featuring tall yellow Navajo sandstone walls dotted with juniper. About 2 miles below the junction with Hackberry, Death Valley Draw enters from the right, and another mile below that, Booker Canyon enters from the left. A detour up Booker Canyon about a mile will bring you to a few dryfalls and a short section of narrows before you are stopped by a sheer pour-off.

Below Booker Canyon, it's more of the same in Hackberry. At about the 9.5 mile point, the sand becomes damp and soon forms a trickling stream that becomes larger the further down canyon you proceed. You'll be able to jump over the stream for a while, keeping your feet dry, but eventually this game becomes more effort than it's worth and the best route is often to splash through the creek. Not far below where water first appears there is a prominent bench on the right that makes a decent camp site (as long as you can find a spot not covered in horse poop). Just behind this camp an old stock trail leads up and out to the rim. Once on the rim you'll have views east back down into Hackberry Canyon and west of Cottonwood Butte, though the sandy track isn't terribly interesting otherwise.

Proceeding down Hackberry Canyon for about another 1.5 miles Stone Donkey Canyon enters from the right (UTM 418626mE, 4131999mN). A short detour up this canyon will bring you to a spring, pool and small arch. Further up, the canyon forms a tight and scenic slot canyon that is well worth a visit. Those without technical gear can hike up from the bottom. A technical descent of the canyon will require 2x200' foot ropes, and is described in the link above.

Continuing down Hackberry another 1.5 miles will bring you to another prominent side canyon that enters from the right (UTM 417342mE, 4128172mN). Those with a little time on their hands might consider completing a 3 mile (total out-and-back distance) detour to Sam Pollock arch. To get there, walk up this side canyon until you encounter a pour off at the top of the Kayenta formation. Look for a trail on the right (facing up canyon) that leads up and around this obstacle. Continue up canyon to locate Sam Pollock arch looming above the streambed on the right. When ready, return the way you came.

Just below the drainage leading to Sam Pollock arch, Hackberry becomes very wide as it heads through the Moenave and Chinle formations - look for hikers trail on one side of the bank or the other which make for easier walking. After taking an abrupt bend to the left (east) the canyon narrows suddenly, becoming quite scenic as it breaks through the Cockscomb. Just beyond, you'll arrive at Cottonwood Wash. Cross the wash to arrive at the Hackberry Canyon Trailhead and the car you spotted earlier.. 

Rating (1-5 stars):

The author completed the hike with a group of 3 friends at a leisurely pace in 3 days. Along the way we explored many of the side drainages and completed a technical descent of Stone Donkey Canyon..


Trails Illustrated - Canyons of the Escalante


Hiking and Exploring the Paria River - Michael Kelsey


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Round Valley Draw. Hackberry Canyon.
Booker Canyon Narrows. Sam Pollock Arch.
Tree and desert varnish. Lower Hackberry Canyon.