Thursday, March 20, 2008

Big Spring and Squaw Canyon Loop Trail

The Big Spring-Squaw Canyon Loop is about an 8.0 mile trip and is part of a large trail network in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

I started at the Trailhead "A" from the Squaw Flat Campground Trail Head and hiked counter clockwise, taking the 0.3 mile connector to Trailhead "B" in another part of the campground. It wasn't necessary to do that, there is another connection if don't want to go to the "B" trail head.

The route alternates between climbing up and over the high rocky slickrock formations and following the creek beds in the canyon floors.

In the high areas there are outstanding and sometimes dizzying views. To the west some of the Needles formations are visible as well as some of the nearby mountain peaks.

The hiking in the Big Spring Canyon bottom was easy on the smooth trails. Along the trail there are several designated back packer camp sites.

In March, after a heavy snow year there is snow melt water in the creek bottoms, something you don't see later in the year.

Climbing out of Big Spring Canyon I had a little trouble. As I faced the canyon walls I wondered where the route would go, as it looked impossible. There always seem to be shoots where water has worn a slot. There is a spot that is difficult to get up if you are by yourself.

These slots are easy to slide down, but can be slick to climb up. I almost had to turn around. Clockwise might be the better way to hike this loop.

But I made it over and down into Squaw Canyon. It took me about 4:10 to hike the 8.0 miles that I covered, but I hardly stopped, even for five minutes, except when I was nearly stuck. I used all of the two liters of water that I carried, on a very nice 60 F. degree March day.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

Cave Springs Trail

The Cave Springs Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is a short 0.5 mile loop that features some of the human history of the area, along with the natural history.

The trail leads to some alcoves that were used as cowboy camps from the late 1800s until as recently as 1975, when grazing was discontinued inside the Park.

A collection of cowboy artifacts are on display, although you can't get up close to see them. The cowboys had a tough life, leading the herds over a large rugged area. The trail guide says that the Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company had up to 10,000 head ranging over 1,800,000 acres.

The Cave Spring was the reliable water source for the cowboys, though it doesn't look like much. The water seeps down through the porous sandstone until it reaches an opening. Maidenhair fern adds a nice touch, growing along the alcove walls.

On the alcove wall above the Springs there are some pictographs indicating the past use of the same site by Ancestral Pueblo people. There are a few ruins sites in other parts of the park such as the Roadside Ruins and Tower Ruins and a small granery near Paul Bunyan's Arch.

After the cowboy alcoves, there are two ladders to climb to get up on the sandstone slickrock, where there are scenic views. Along the trail, the local plants are well marked.

The lower area of the trail has a lot of sagebrush, salt bush, and greasewood, plants that look similar from a distance. The slick rock area has Pinon Pine and Juniper trees. This is a botany trail also, with several of the native plants identified with signs.