Backpacking Capitol Reef and Robbers Roost Country is as good as wilderness camping gets. Unmatched solitude. Otherworldly colors. Jaw-dropping vistas, and challenging, off-trail routes through a world made of stone, sand, and blue sky.
In 25 years of exploring southern Utah, we’ve uncovered some truly unforgettable treks and paradise campsites.
None of our treks require superhuman fitness, and we keep paces moderate, but in choosing your adventure, keep in mind that southern Utah travel is not about buffed trails and flat terrain. Three-day packs weigh about 30 pounds.
Even short overnights may require steep uphill grades, boulder hopping, or loose talus slopes. Contact us early in the reservations process so we can choose the perfect trip for you.
See below for a selection of highlight treks, and Click here for a list of day hikes we can tailor into short overnights.
The Beehive Traverse: Three to Six Days
This is one of the most magnificent journeys we’ve uncovered in 45 years of world-wide trekking. It is gorgeous, but rugged, with lots of steep climbs and descents. Our three-day route covers 17 miles. Our five-day route covers 24 miles. Most groups will spend 6-8 hours on the trail, per day. Folks interested in a more leisurely pace should book four days for the shorter route, and six days for the longer. Capitol Reef is higher and cooler than the surrounding lowlands, so the backpacking season lasts longer here. Recommended months: March-mid June. Mid-September to mid-November.
Robber’s Roost Explorations
The Robber’s Roost and Dirty Devil canyons (left) encompass more than two million acres of sculpted slickrock, massive canyons, and huge vistas stretching from the Henry Mountains east to Canyonlands. This landscape easily rivals neighboring national parks, but with far more solitude due to its remoteness; Most trailheads require a half-day’s dirt road drive from any pavement. This country is best for treks lasting three days or longer.
The lower tributaries of Robbers Roost Canyon all have superb backpacking, and generally reliable water sources, making them a rare phenomenon in this generally dry country. These trips are characterized by soaring redrock cliffs, spring-fed pools, fairly flat terrain, and a bit of bushwhacking. Roost treks are best accessed by fording the knee-deep Dirty Devil River, but a handful of roped scramble entries and exits further east make thru-hikes and combo canyoneering trips possible as well. Due to their lower/hotter elevations, we recommend these journeys only March thru May, and October thru November.
Happy Canyon/Dirty Devil Overnight
This swirly, scenic canyon (right) is an ideal overnight backpacking destination for hikers interested in slot canyon photography with minimal rope access. It can be reached via a long, rough, often-impassable jeep road, but we prefer the 14-mile round trip from Burr Point on the western rim of the Dirty Devil gorge. This out-and-back route involves one, easy 50-foot rappel near the start, and an equal “jumar” rope-climb and elevation gain on the return. This is totally doable for solid hikers, and still allows plenty of first-evening, second-morning photography time, when light is best. Due to its low/hot elevations, we recommend Happy Canyon trips for March thru April, and October-November.
Should I do one of these trips?
All our backpacking routes are doable for mortals, but southern Utah backpacking is generally cross-country, not on manicured trails. Six or seven miles here often requires the same time and effort as 10 or 15 flat miles on buffed trails. Hiking times for our short overnights range around 3-4 hours per day at a reasonable pace. Beehive Traverse and Robbers Roost treks average about 7 hours a day (or more), depending on group momentum and weather conditions. Beehive trips are quite scrambly, and best for guests with good balance and stable knees, aged 15 years and older. We also highly recommend trekking poles and mid-height shoes or boots for most trips.
The weather here is usually divine, but we can also get thunderstorms and/or unseasonable heat, cold and wind. We do not cancel trips due to weather. For thru-hikes we do cooperative shuttles using your vehicle and ours. All our treks include ala carte clinics on navigation, geology, photography, desert ecology, or expedition logistics. We provide group gear (safety, kitchen ware, First Aid, etc.), breakfasts, and dinners. All lunches and trail snacks are DIY. A small, quality selection of rental packs, tents and sleeping bags is available for additional cost. Call, text, or email for more information and plot-hatching.
Steve Howe 435-425-3339 -or- Jennifer Howe 435-425-3330
Please note our reservations, deposit, and cancellation policies
See our Recommended Camping Gear Packing List