Canaan Mountain Utah via Water Canyon and Squirrel Canyon Loop - Turktacular 2017

  • Updated: November 22, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 22nd, 2017
Canaan Mountain (7,363')
19.5 miles, 3,400'

Every Thanksgiving I take advantage of the built in time off work to wander off into the desert and do a longer trip.  I call it the Turktacular and it's the perfect opportunity to escape a largely sedimentary holiday, send some time outdoors, and also enjoy a traditional -ish thanksgiving dinner prepared and eaten under the stars.

I've spent many of these trips out in Utah since there are just a disgusting amount of awesome things to see out there.  This year after much debate and planning Kristen and I decided to head out to the Escalante area with a few side trips on the way in and out.  Writeups for other days can be found under Turktacular 2017

This was the first of six days and we'd decided to start things off with a solid day of hiking and climb Canaan Mountain south of Zion.

Due to the extra preparations required for a longer trip like this and the fact we'd been back in town for less than 48 hours since getting back from leading Muddy and Moapa the weekend *and* the fact work has been busy lately we ran a bit late getting out of Orange County.  It was 8:30 pm by the time we left and I only managed to make it past Vegas before I just had to get some sleep.  We ended up pulling off the road around 1:30 am right about where we'd spent the night last Friday.

Making things extra challenging I'd come down with something nasty during the two days in town so it was a struggle even making it this far.

We woke up at 5 and drove for several more hours making sure to stock up on firewood when we passed through St George since we expected this to be a long day and we didn't know if we'd be able to find anything open tomorow.

We planned to climb the Canaan Mountain via Water Canyon which sounded like a more scrambly and scenic route than the other options some of which involved an extended walk up an ATV road.

We had the trailhead to ourselves which wasn't surprising considering it was the day before Thanksgiving and most people were still working.  We were excited to see a bathroom at the trailhead but unfortunately it was locked and a sign explained someone had vandalized it so bad it wasn't usable.

We were hiking a little before 10 am and the first part of the canyon runs along a stream.  It was barely running this time of year but there were numerous nice campsites complete with fire pits all along the shore.

The canyon closes in about a mile from the trailhead and it looked like at a wetter time of the year we'd have been wading up a small waterfall.  From here the trail climbed up sandstone ledges and gets a lot more interesting.

We could generally follow the trail but there were multiple places where footprints went off in multiple directions leaving us guessing and in at least one occasion bushwhacking over a bit of a drop.  Really nice views though...

There were also two spots where we had to do a bit of 3rd class.  Both had ok handholds and Kristen was able to make it up with her trailrunners.

After that the trail quickly gained the plateau around 6,400'.

Here we briefly headed off in the wrong direction before we checked the map and realized we needed to go to the northwest.  From here we found occasional footprints and ducks but the main thing that kept us on track was the aptly named White Domes off in the distance.

They're a pretty neat attraction in their own right and we spent some time taking some pictures before jumping on the ATV trail that runs past the other side.

There were several sets of tire tracks but we never saw or heard anyone else on the mountain the entire time we were up there.  The road made for slower hiking due to the deep sand which also had a habit of working its way inside of my boots.  This was an issue we'd run into a lot this trip.

After White Domes I had two other sights to visit before the peak.  The first was The Notch Viewpoint which looked down on Canaan Ranch two thousand feet below.

The second was another half a mile or so on and was the remains of an old windlass which had been used during the period where they ran logging operations up here.

From Utah Statewide Wilderness Study Report, Volume 2, Part 1

"A lumbering operation that existed on Canaan Mountain from 1915 to 1928 has significant local historical value A windlass and pulley system on the south edge of the mountain was used to lift men equipment and supplies 2,000 feet to the top of Canaan Mountain As many as 25 men were employed Logs as large as 4 feet in diameter were harvested and several million board feet of lumber may have been cut and removed The operation extended only 2 to 3 miles from the sawmill because of the difficulty of access from one area on the Mountain to another and because of the primitive means of transport The logging operation ceased in 1928 with the removal of the sawmill Deteriorating portions of the cable and windlass and a few sawed slabs a small building and some machinery parts remain as evidence of the operation "

After that we slogged along the sandy road for a bit longer before heading off cross country toward the summit.

The rocks up here had an interesting feature.  The sandstone had these dark brown nodules embedded in it and as the the sandstone eroded away over time it left the nodules became spheres which would collect in the low points.  At times the depressions in the rock were filled with them.

We had to cross a few gullies and scramble up several different rocks before we finally found the high point.  Up until that point we'd enjoyed the hike up water canyon but since reaching the plateau hike hadn't really lived up to the time and distance required to make it this far.  Then we saw the summit view.

It was ok... :)

Looking north we could make out the distinct rock banding of Zion and the entire area just opened up impressively in every direction.

Because it was such a nice view we had to force ourselves to leave.  But it was now after 3 pm and we only had a few short hours of daylight and about 9 miles to go to get back to the car.

We lost light not long after passing back by White Domes.  We had debated if we wanted to pick our way down Water Canyon in the dark particularly the ledge system below the plateau.  Instead we decided to follow the ATV road further west and head down Squirrel Canyon which was reported to be a much easier trail.

And it was.  Mostly.  We managed to miss the turn where the road heads east to Broad Hollow and a foot trail heads south via Squirrel Canyon.  Once we found that the worst thing we had to deal with was eyes watching us from the dark in a few places.

After what felt like a very long and only a slight bit spooky descent we arrived at the jeep right at 8 pm.  We were exhausted and hungry but any thought of cooking dinner and sleeping at the trailhead was killed when we realized we didn't have limes for our desert season brazilian rum drinks.  This couldn't stand!

So we piled into the car and drove into town hoping we'd find something open in Colorado City.  A gas station attendant pointed us at Bee's Marketplace south of town which was open but turned out to be a little challenging to access since Google Maps kept pointing us at roads which were blocked by fences.  We eventually found a bumpy dirt road that took us where we needed to go and sure enough the store was open.

We must have looked a little out of it because we kept getting sidelong glances from the locals.  I don't know if it was the dirt, the crocs, or the fact we were buying limes, lemon pepper, paper towels, and a coke.

I was struggling to stay awake at this point but managed to hold it together long enough to reach a BLM area north of Kanab.  We stayed along the road leading out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  It was decent enough dispersed camping but we didn't drive far enough back and as a result spent the night listening to trucks driving by on 89.  But that was ok since from here on our all of our camps were planned to be far more remote!

Tomorrow it was on to Escalante!

You Might Also Like