|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – March 2014
Navigate across a slickrock plateau in Zion's backyard.
Do it Snag top-of-the-world desert vistas so vast you can see the curvature of the Earth. To access this spot, you must navigate through sinuous narrows, atop trail-less slickrock, and across satiny dunes on a two-day, 16.5-mile shuttle hike from the end of Water Canyon Road (1). Walk north through 40-foot-wide Water Canyon below 400-foot-tall sandstone walls lush with hanging gardens. See a natural water slide (2) where a fork of the creek plunges down the slickrock, cutting 50 feet into the canyon wall like a precision tool—the beginnings of a new slot.
Continue into a basketball court-size, misty amphitheater, complete with a 50-foot horsetail fall, and then scramble out of the canyon via a ledge system (3) (hiker’s left) to the Canaan Mountain plateau. Catch views of the terraced canyons of Grand Staircase 50 miles southeast as you walk north down the scrubby hillside to an east-west wash.
Follow it .2 mile west to the lip of a .5-mile-long sandstone bowl. Pick your way across the natural half-pipe, surveying the orange-and-white domes (think: swirly ice cream cones). Check out The Notch (4)—a sandstone promontory overlooking the tangled canyon network southwest—at mile 4.8. Continue northeast, snagging a must-see view down a seemingly endless sandstone chasm .1 mile east of the path at mile 6.8 (5). Cross a sand dune littered with gnarled pinion pines and ghostly white aspens to the last water source: Sawmill Springs (6), a murky squirter that dribbles 100 feet east of an abandoned sawmill (not consistently full; call ahead to check) at mile 7.6.
Camp near the primitive fire pit, west of the pine forest. Next day, descend downward-sloping sandstone bowls, keeping your eyes peeled for elk-size mule deer (rumored to be Utah’s largest), some boasting racks 30 inches wide. Pass 20-foot-tall sandstone towers capped with black manganese (“desert varnish”) en route to a 10-foot-wide chute (7); downclimb the natural staircase (class 3 scrambling) .3 mile to the desert floor.
From here, identify the pointy, 300-foot-tall Eagle Crags spires (like a row of wolf teeth) and beeline 1.8 miles on-trail to them through roller-coaster ravines. At each crest, take in wide views of Parunuweap Canyon—technically Zion territory, but closed to the public since 1993—and its slot maze to the east. At the base of Eagle Crags (8), descend 2.8 miles north on an established trail (look for Zion’s Cowboy Ridge and West Temple) to the parking lot (9).