RATING: Day hike to Backpack
LENGTH: Depends on Route
WATER: Intermitted until lower in the canyon where it becomes more constant.
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring
Trachyte is one of my favorite areas of the desert to wander. I first visited in the late 90's, and have since been back dozens of times visiting the various side canyons and areas. Given the easy access and ability to accommodate a trip of pretty much any length, it surprises me how infrequently Trachyte seems to be visited. In all of my visits, I have never encountered another group, though have seen a few cars at various trailheads.
The canyon proper has ever increasing walls with stunning colors and varnishes while opportunities abound for wandering up on slickrock slopes above the canyon. Though cow trails show evidence of cattle, I have yet to run into any on my fall, winter, or spring trips. Perhaps they are no longer run in the area.
Trip options range from a few hours to several days, with many diversions for the energetic. Water is typically not a problem in spring or fall. Trachyte proper has an intermittent stream that increases in flow the further down the canyon you go, and many of the side canyons have springs a short distance up them. A lovely place to wander!
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Go south out of Hanksville on highway 95 about 26 miles to its junction with 276 to Bullfrog. Go on 276 toward Bullfrog/Ticaboo for 4.5 miles to the bridge over Trachyte Creek. There is a spur road right before the bridge on the left that provides a good parking spot.
For all other trailheads, continue on highway 276. The trailheads are at the following mile markers:
Bridge to Witch's Cauldron (~ 3.5 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours)
From the bridge, head down the now wide and rocky Trachyte. A small falls is encountered as the stream cuts through a layer of sandstone. This first section is not particularly interesting. A major side fork comes in on the left after about an hour (2.2 miles). Continuing down, the side canyon of Munchin comes in on the left. It is not particularly noteworthy from below, and is followed shortly by Witch's Cauldron. About 1.3 miles up Witch's is a dryfall and stunning cathedral area. Though visiting the Cauldron is a long side trip (2.6 miles round trip), it is worth the effort.
Witch's Cauldron To Maidenwater (~ 1.7 miles / 1 hours)
Below Witch's, the canyon becomes deeper and more interesting. A major side canyon comes in on the left 1.2 miles downstream from Witch's Cauldron. This is the lower end of YBR. It is over 2 miles up canyon one way to any obstacle. Along the way are several good springs and camp areas.
0.5 miles downstream from YBR, the lovely Maidenwater Canyon comes in on the right. It is easy to spot. MOST of the time you can easily exit it up to the highway though some years floods scour out a small pool 1/2 way up to the highway that is difficult to climb. Either way, there are springs not for up from Trachyte if water is needed. There is good camping at the mouth, and a hike up the first mile or so from Trachyte is a lovely side trip.
Maidenwater to Woodruff (3.6 miles / 2+ hours)
Below Maidenwater, Trail Canyon comes in on the right in just a few minutes. Trail provides the easiest access back to the highway, though is not very pretty. Beginners may want to use Trail as the exit. There is good camping near the mouth of Trail, and springs in the area.
From Trail down, the canyon becomes much more entrenched, with towering walls. Water is plentiful and running most of the time now. Side canyons come in on the left. These can make great camping areas, or wandered up and used as access to the slickrock benches above.
Woodruff Canyon comes in abruptly on the right after a stunning section of springs seeping out of the canyon walls. Going up Woodruff is the recommended exit, though has one short relatively easy fifth class climbing section. Beginners will want a rope. See the Woodruff write-up for details.
Woodruff to Lake Powell (~ 2+ miles / 1+ hours)
1.75 miles down canyon from Woodruff is the high water mark of Lake Powell, and Swett canyon coming in on the right. Up Swett is a good loop for experienced desert rats. There are a few pools and chockstones that can be problematic for beginners.
Lake Powell is just down from Swett, and can take a few minutes to 20 minutes or so to reach depending on current lake level. There is pretty good camping near the lake.
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