9.0 miles (loop)
time: 5 1/4 hours
360 ft. gain/loss
Flat Trailhead (start): 5,120 ft.
Canyon: 5,100 ft.
point: 5,460 ft.
Well marked trail through the bottoms
of two desert canyons. Some wading may
be necessary in wet years.
Summer, spring, winter and fall. This
hike is very hot in the summer and cold
in the winter. The best times are during
the spring and fall. For current conditions
call the Canyonlands National Park Headquarters
in Moab at (801) 259-7164.
Canyonlands National Park, Needles District,
loop hike passes through two sandstone
canyons near Squaw Flat Campground in
the Needles District of Canyonlands National
Park. The parallel canyons are only about
a half mile apart, but they are very different
in character. Squaw Canyon is dry and
generally uninteresting, while Lost Canyon
is deeper and has a surprising amount
of water and vegetation.
of its water, Lost Canyon was well known
to the cowboys who lived and worked in
Canyonlands during the first half of this
century. Even when other sources of water
had given way to the dry summer heat,
their livestock could always depend on
finding a pool or two of the life-giving
liquid in the green recesses of Lost Canyon.
Today, one of the most interesting attractions
of the canyon is an old cowboy camp that
was used by cattlemen during the 1920s.
The historic site still contains an old
table, some pots and pans, old bottles
and cans, and other implements. The camp
is not hard to find, but it requires a
2.4 mile detour downstream from the main
leaving Squaw Flat Campground the trail
proceeds southward for about 200 feet,
then splits. Turn left at the fork, following
the sign to Lost Canyon and Squaw Canyon.
The path winds across the flat desert
country for another mile before reaching
a trail junction in Squaw Canyon Wash,
where the loop through the two canyons
begins. It doesnt make much difference
which direction you take around the loop,
but I will describe a clockwise direction
Squaw Canyon Wash the trail continues
for about 1.0 mile before dropping into
the mouth of a small, unnamed canyon.
It then winds along the sandy bottom of
the small canyon for another 0.8 mile,
finally intersecting a large wash. A Park
Service sign at this point will tell you
that you have reached Lost Canyon. The
trail up Lost Canyon turns right at the
sign and heads south.
the trail up Lost Canyon you should consider
a side trip to the cowboy camp historic
site described earlier. This option will
add 2.4 miles to the length of the hike.
The cowboy camp is downstream (left) from
the Lost Canyon trail junction, so to
get there you will have to leave the trail
at the junction. Although there is no
trail the route is not difficult; just
turn north and follow the sandy bottom
of the Lost Canyon streambed for 35-40
minutes (1.2 miles). You will come to
a large pool of water with a sandstone
alcove, partially hidden by trees, just
a few feet above the left shore. The historic
camp is in that alcove.
What tales the
walls of the sheltered camp would tell
if they could talk. We can only image
the interesting characters that must have
gathered here in days past, and the yarns
they must have exchanged to pass the lonely
nights. Over the years a collection of
artifacts accumulated in the cowboys
home away from home, and today, three-fourths
of a century later, these simple treasures
offer a priceless window through which
visitors can view the past. Enjoy their
presence, but please dont be tempted
to remove anything. These treasures are
far more interesting in the context of
the camp than they would be in your drawer
at home. Also, refrain from the urge to
add your name to the signatures the old
cowboys scratched onto the walls of the
alcove. These cowboyglyphs indicate that
the camp was occupied at least as early
as 1920, but it was probably used much
earlier than that.
the trail, the path continues from the
Lost Canyon trail junction up Lost Canyon
for a distance of 2.0 miles before climbing
out the north side of the canyon onto
the ridge above. From there the route
drops back down to the bottom of Squaw
Canyon and proceeds for another 1.9 miles
to the beginning of the loop. From there
it is an easy 1.0 mile walk back to the
Squaw Flat Trailhead.