Hunter Canyon Trail
The Hunter Canyon Trail offers a wonderful out-and-back hike up a deep, twisting canyon lined with towering sandstone cliffs. A small spring-fed creek runs most of the year, pooling in stone basins and cascading over ledges. Dense vegetation, including willow and tamarisk, fills the canyon floor in places but the trail cuts through it. In other spots the creek bed has been rearranged by summer floods, so if you lose the trail or it has been washed out, just continue up the bed and you’ll find the trail again.
The hike starts at the junction of Hunter Canyon and Kane Creek Canyon on the left side of Kane Springs Road just before it dips through the creek. The lower part of Hunter Canyon has nine BLM campsites.
Hike east up the sandy trail on the canyon floor, crossing and recrossing the creek whenever needed. The creek is usually low so it’s easy to boulder hop across. As in other Moab canyons, flash floods can occur in Hunter Canyon after heavy rainstorms. Watch the weather, especially in July and August, and either turn around or climb to higher ground before flooding occurs.
Tall cottonwoods shade the trail, while thick stands of willow line the creek and groves of scrub oak climb the cooler north-facing slopes below the cliffs. After 0.5 mile the trail follows the creek and bends left below a tall cliff. Opposite the bend is a steep broken drainage. Look up right from the base of the rocky gully to see Hunter Arch, a 74-foot-high opening with a thick outside leg that connects to the rimrock above. If you want to see the arch up close, scramble up the boulder-filled gully and then a steep talus slope to the arch base.
Around the bend from the arch the trail plunges through a dense thicket of tamarisk, an invasive Asian plant, before emerging onto bedrock pavement. The creek trickles through shallow pools on the bedrock. After a mile, the trail and canyon bend eastward. The canyon opens here and three sandstone pinnacles rise above the trail.
Continue hiking past the left pinnacle into the wider canyon. The creek runs over bedrock. Follow the trail across a sand bench on the left side of the canyon and then go right onto bedrock next to the creek. The creek tumbles over short stone ledges, filling large shallow pools that reflect sky and red cliff.
This idyllic spot, 1.7 miles from the trailhead, is the turnaround point for this easy day hike. It’s a good place to bask on the rocks like a lizard or to take off your shoes and soak your tired feet in the creek. To finish your hike, retrace your footsteps back down Hunter Canyon to the trailhead.
Options: The Hunter Canyon Trail continues another half mile or so up around the next bend where the trail ends at a pour-off or dry waterfall that is difficult to pass. The side canyon to the south before the pour-off harbors Curious Arch, a small arch perched on the canyon rim.
Overview: This excellent out-and-back trail leads up a canyon lined with towering sandstone cliffs. This hike offers lots of solitude away from the national parks.
Distance: 3.4 miles out and back
Approximate hiking time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy; 250-foot elevation gain
Trail surface: Single-track dirt trail
Best season: Year-round. Summers are hot.
Other trail users: Horses
Canine compatibility: Dogs allowed
Fees and permits: No fee or permit required
Maps: USGS Moab, Moab Trails Illustrated Explorer
Trail contacts: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Moab Field Office, 82 E. Dogwood, Moab 84532; (435) 259-2100; website
Finding the trailhead: From Main Street (US 191) on the south side of Moab, turn west on Kane Creek Boulevard at the McDonald’s restaurant and drive west to a Y-junction with 500 West. Keep left on the paved road, which becomes Kane Springs Road. Follow the road west and then south along the Colorado River to a cattle guard. Continue south on the narrow dirt road to the signed Hunter Canyon Trailhead on the left just before the road splashes through a creek. This is 7.5 miles from US 191.
Trailhead GPS: N 38 30.596', W 109 35.794'