Lost Canyon

Canyonlands Lost Canyon

Lost Canyon is well named. It’s not only the kind of place you could get lost in, it’s so beautiful that it’s also the kind of place you want to get lost in. Like other loops, Lost Canyon can be done in either direction. Don’t miss the sometimes small cairns that mark the correct route. The sandstone formations on the horizon along the early sections of the hike are marvelous.

Overview: A spectacular day hike or overnight backpack through some of the best scenery in the Needles District.

Start: Squaw Flat Trailhead

Distance: 8.6 miles; lollipop loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Maps: USGS The Loop and Druid Arch; Trails Illustrated Needles

Finding the trailhead: Drive about 2.7 miles west from the Needles entrance station and turn left into Squaw Flat Campground. After entering the campground area, the road forks. Both forks go to trailheads with access to the same trails. However, the left-hand fork takes you to the trailhead with the shortest access route to the backcountry. The right-hand fork and its respective trailhead are used mostly by campers staying in the campground.

Trailhead GPS: 38.143476, -109.803652

The Hike

Eventually you reach lush Lost Canyon, where a healthy stream often flows in spring. Lost Canyon starts out broad and flat but gets narrow in places later on. The vegetation is more diverse than in most other canyons in the area (to the point of getting brushy in a few spots), and there are no slickrock sections. The multihued vegetation contrasts beautifully with the reddish sandstone to create some fantastic scenery.

If you plan to stay overnight, Lost Canyon has three designated campsites.

After hiking through Lost Canyon for 2 miles, start watching carefully for a sharp turn to the right. At this point the official trail leaves Lost Canyon and dips into a narrow, unnamed canyon that runs north to south. After following the dry wash of the narrow gorge for about a half mile, the trail climbs a steep chute (partly on an NPS-installed ladder) to a slickrock ledge. After cautiously hiking the ledge, you climb over a ridge.

You then follow a string of cairns over slickrock for another half mile or so until you drop into Squaw Canyon. This section can be hazardous, so be careful. A trail junction appears just after you cross the dry wash of Squaw Canyon. Turn right at this junction. After hiking down Squaw Canyon for a couple miles, you hit the Peekaboo Trail again, where you turn left and retrace your steps back to the Squaw Flat Trailhead.

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