Canyonlands National Park: Gooseberry-Dogleg Loop

Plunge from Island in the Sky to the Colorado River on this 3-day slickrock adventure.
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Plunge from Island in the Sky to the Colorado River on this 3-day slickrock adventure.

Perched above the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the aptly named Island in the Sky is a huge, level, triangular mesa that looms over the blond sandstone benches of the White Rim country. This 14-mile trek begins on the Gooseberry Trail (also known as the Government Trail) as it dives, almost literally, from the Island to the White Rim 4WD Trail, a 100-mile uranium exploration road that circles the mesa. While jeeps and mountain bikes dominate this established track, our route quickly crosses it, wanders out across secluded sections of the rim, then winds down into twisting canyons filled with hoodoo pinnacles and isolated ledges. Once you descend to the Gooseberry 4WD campsite on the White Rim Trail, cross the two-track road and continue east-southeast along the White Rim’s dramatic slabs, with expansive views north into Gooseberry Canyon and east to the distant La Sal Mountains.
Locate the lone break in the White Rim cliffs, and pick your way down into Gooseberry Canyon, meandering back westward and down, over, and around ledges and rockslides. Gooseberry offers plenty of nooks and forks to explore, and several small seep springs in the streambed hold out the possibility—but no guarantee—of easy water. Most trekkers will want to camp near the Colorado River, a reliable (if silty) source. Adventurous hikers can fashion an interesting loop by exiting Gooseberry’s lower end, bushwhacking south along the Colorado for a half-mile to Dogleg Canyon, and returning via a climb out of its upper end. From there, it’s a 2.6-mile hike along the White Rim jeep road, then a precipitous staircase climb back to the trailhead.
USGS quad: Monument Basin
Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 28.2

Waypoints

GBT001

Location: 38.32275, -109.849564

Gooseberry Trailhead: Drop off Island in the Sky and descend north.

GBT002

Location: 38.323284, -109.847397

Canyon Rim; trail drops very steeply

GBT003

Location: 38.335117, -109.828835

Trail merges with the White Rim Trail; turn right

GBT004

Location: 38.3311, -109.827202

Gooseberry Campsite (permit required). From here, pick your way west along Gooseberry Canyon to find a lone break which provides a ramp into the canyon.

GBT005

Location: 38.337051, -109.801666

Slab descent in Gooseberry Canyon (no ropes required)

GBT006

Location: 38.336617, -109.805099

Descend white boulder pile thru red cliff bands

GBT007

Location: 38.3363, -109.807884

Descend bouldery gully to canyon bottom

GBT008

Location: 38.338234, -109.807701

Canyon Bottom

GBT009

Location: 38.339901, -109.806168

Seep Spring, possible water in wetter seasons

GBT010

Location: 38.343067, -109.803635

Side canyon on left; continue down Gooseberry

GBT011

Location: 38.343315, -109.799866

Seep Spring, possible water

GBT012

Location: 38.346951, -109.786163

Pour-off: Detour to left (north) to go around impassable overhang.

GBT013

Location: 38.347198, -109.784584

Bottom of pour-off detour. Easy climb/descent thru narrow crack.

GBT014

Location: 38.348801, -109.776718

Colorado River: Turn south and skirt the shoreline to Dog Leg Canyon, the next canyon on the right

GBT015

Location: 38.343666, -109.772018

Enter Dog Leg Canyon

GBT016

Location: 38.335022, -109.797836

Climb out of Dog Leg

GBT017

Location: 38.320156, -109.792503

Head due west to join the White Rim Trail

GBT018

Location: 38.328899, -109.808617

Head back to Gooseberry Campsite, then backtrack to trailhead