I have seen this picture in the background of MacBook Pro by photographer Michael Melford. Little did I know that one day I will be standing at the same spot enjoying the same view, only this time I will be physically present there. If you have told me about it ten years ago, I would be laughing at you. In truth I did that hike. I did that without thinking too much. I must say the weather supported me a lot. I was lucky enough to get a soothing weather. When I was reading about this hike, the main two key factors were no water availability and route-finding capability. There is no exact trail or route. You may find some footsteps here and there, other than that nothing.
The hike is a long one: around 20-mile round trip. The distance may differ a little bit based on which direction you are going. Some people go through a slot canyon which makes the hike a little bit shorter. But I did not want to take any risk with this hike. I took the long easy path, no slots. You cannot do this hike as a day hike. This hike is recommended as a backpacking hike for two days and one night staying near the canyon. The whole path is fully exposed with no shade available. Lack of shade and water make it more difficult. You have to carry everything including water and food for two days. At the same time, you have keep looking at the map or GPS to find the path to reach the destination. That’s the most challenging part of this hike.
I have downloaded three GPS tracks from different people, carried everything and then started the hike. Some people rate this hike difficult, because its like a constant mental challenge. We did this hike in March, the weather was really nice and soothing. Summer month can be very difficult as desert hiking is always hard and if the temperature is high, you need to carry more water. So chose the months accordingly and plan accordingly.
The trailhead is located at a remote location in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. To get there, you have to drive through an unpaved and unmaintained road named Hole in the rock, and you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle. Please make sure to check the weather condition and road condition at the Escalante Interagency visitor center. Rainfall can make some portion of the road impassable and muddy. If you drive 50 miles down the road you will reach the trailhead. There is a small parking area on the right. The trail starts from a side of the parking lot.
You will need to start hiking towards southwest first before heading to southeast where the actual location is. Within one mile (around), you will have to cross a fence. Always remember there will be a vast, straight edge of cliffs on your right while you are facing south. As long as the cliffs are on your right for most part of the hike, you are on right track. If you are moving far from the cliffs, that means you are heading towards the slot canyons or the wrong path unless that’s what you want, and you have a clear idea about slot canyon paths. After approximately 5 mile-point, you will be able to see an almost squared off face in the cliffs. Mark this point, this is where you have to turn southeast. That means the cliffs will be at your back. From this point, the distance to the canyon is approximately 2 miles. Though the elevation gain is not that much, still you have to climb up and down small hills, canyons, gorges constantly. I will highly recommend bringing a hand-GPS and download the tracks. It’s easier that way without getting lost.
About the view! What can I say! You need to go and see for yourself. It was one of best moment of my life. We reached the reflection canyon just one hour before the sunset as we started quite late. Then watching the sunset and then spending the whole night in such a place! I consider it a blessing. Though I wanted to see a star-full sky with the canyon view, it was cloudy and windy. Not a single star was in view. Still the whole hike was amazing.
This hike is not for everyone. It requires a lot of planning and patience. So, if you are thinking about it please ask yourself first if you are ready or not. Then you plan and go. If you need my GPS track, please let me know. I will be happy to provide mine.
At a glance:
- Location: Escalante, Utah
- Total distance: 20 miles out and back
- Best time to go: Late March to May, September to October
- Permit: required but it’s free. You can get the walk in Permits from Escalante Interagency visitor center.
- No shade, No water available.
- No amenities available at the trailhead.
- Weather: weather can change quickly, please check the weather and road conditions at the visitor center.
- Hand GPS, topographic map, compass, SOS are highly recommended. It’s better to download GPS track beforehand. Bring some extra battery for Hand GPS.
- Before you start the hike, inform your friends and family about it. In that way, you will have another layer of safety. For most of the part, no cell phone reception and there is a good possibility that you will not see a single other person throughout your stay.
- As always, please practice leave no trace. Please pack out everything you pack in.