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Hiking to Reflection Canyon

Distance: 18 miles out and back

Dates Hiked: March 17-18, 2021

Elevation: Days Needed: 2 days, 1 night (can be done as a day hike but not recommended)

Best Travel Time: Mid March to May and September to October

Permits: Required- see below

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

                Reflection Canyon was discovered in 2006 by a National Geographic photographer. It is located in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area on the Escalante arm of Lake Powell. One of the things that makes this a bucket list hike is the fact that you can’t just drive up to it. It is certainly a drive and hike out but worth the view! I have included our experience along with tips when doing this hike below.

                The day before the hike we packed our hiking bags and made sure we had everything we needed. I use an Osprey 65 pack and Matt uses a Deuter 75. Having a good pack makes a world of difference! If you're not sure what pack will work for you, find a local REI store. They will measure you at no cost and help you find a pack that works for you! For the hike they recommend bringing 3 gallons of water per person for the hike. It really depends on the temp when you go. We wanted to be sure we had enough water so we both had 3 gallons. Matt and I ended up drinking 1 gallon each round trip which includes water for cooking. Just make sure you pack enough water...you do not want to run out! For snacks we packed 14 granola bars such as the Cliff, trail mix and six bags of freeze dried meals. This was more food then either of us ate on the hike but it’s a good idea to have it in case of an emergency. Mountain House makes amazing freeze dried meals and quite a variety. All you have to do is boil water and add to the package, let sit and ta-da! A hot meal anywhere! That being said, we had a small portable cookstove, 1 gallon of propane, a small plastic measuring cup for water for the freeze dried meals and a small kettle. In our packs we also had our camera, sleeping bags, tent, small pillow, headlights, phones, sunscreen, battery pack and charger for phones and warm clothing for night. Our packs totaled about 40 to 50 lbs each.


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              Matt and I left Escalante, Utah at 7am on March 17th. You do need an overnight hiking permit - which is free. Usually you can just get this at the Visitor's Center in Escalante but with Covid going on we had to get them at one of the trailheads on the way. Before heading out we dropped the camper for the drive to Reflection Canyon. Once you turn onto Hole in the Road you need to follow it for 51 miles. This may not seem bad but the road isn’t that great. It takes most people 2 to 3 hours to get to the trailhead(there is no sign marking the trailhead). We made it in 3 hours with a 4WD dually truck. The road was all washboard for about half of the drive then turned a little rocky with some switchbacks and short steep up and down parts. The road conditions vary from year to year. I also highly recommend 4WD. Reception is spotty along the way. We downloaded offline maps as well as the offline All Trails map of the hike for Reflection. You can follow natural signs to find your way...it is easy to get lost so save yourself some headache and just get the All Trails map. The parking lot is simply smooth rocks and dirt. There are usually at least one or two vehicles in the lot.  We also had reception in the parking lot and both use Verizon.             

             We started the hike shortly after 10am, it was a nice 45 degrees with a cool breeze. And we were glad for that! The trail is easy to follow with All Trails. The first 6 miles you can follow a trail hugging the cliffs. Be sure you know what natural landmarks to look for if you aren’t using a map. There are multiple trails and looking for footprints to follow isn’t always the way to go. Along the way, we had to take multiple pack breaks since our shoulders and hips were hurting. The last two miles are a bit of a pain since there is no trail to follow. At this point it is mostly rocky and quite a bit of up and down hiking.              

             We reached Reflection Canyon in a little over 4 hours. I highly recommend that you do this as an overnight trip versus a day trip. This will allow you to enjoy sunset, sunrise and not having to hike 20 miles round trip in a single day. There are no designated areas to camp so you can pick your view! There are a couple of sandy spots large enough for one tent if you don’t want to sleep on the rock. Matt and I hiked to the top of the hill and picked a smooth area on the rock overlooking the canyon for our base. There is reception from the top but it is hit and miss so you may need to walk around to find it. After setting up camp, we both relaxed for a while enjoying the sunshine and now 60 degree temps.      


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             After an hour, we decided to explore around the area adding on another 3 miles. If you look back on older photos of reflection canyon it’s amazing how much the water level has gone down in just two years.                  

              Sleeping on the rock wasn’t all that comfortable. It got down to 43 degrees but with our warm clothes and sleeping bags we stayed fairly warm. Sunrise did not disappoint either! Matt and I were sore the next day but the thought of getting back to take a hot shower and relax sounded appealing so we made good time with fewer breaks.          

            Overall, this was an incredible backpacking trip, filled with thrills, views and quite an experience. 10/10 would do it again in a heartbeat.

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