Squirrel to Water Canyon

Categories: Hiking, Utah, Zion

Water Canyon is at this point a very popular hike down in the Hilldale/Colorado City area on the Utah/Arizona border. More experienced hikers can continue up to the famous White Domes on top of Canaan Mountain. Those are strenuous hikes that involve climbing all the way out of Water Canyon and back down, but there’s a loop that can be done from the next canyon over, Squirrel Canyon.

Squirrel Canyon is accessed via a steep, deep sandy OHV trail about a mile south of the Water Canyon parking lot. From there it’s a two mile slog through the sand to the end of the road. I was surprised how fast the ascent happens after that. It seemed like i was out of Squirrel Canyon in less than half an hour and considering my options for the day with extra time once i was up in the Canaan Wilderness. I decided to try an alternate climb, leaving the normal traverse to Water Canyon and climbing over the top of a huge sandstone dome. This decision really paid off and left me to walk for miles across spectacular wide open slickrock with unusual views of Zion National Park. I think it ended up being about 12 miles, mostly off trail. Enjoy the pictures!

The beginning is not that great and involves walking two miles along a sandy OHV trail.

Once the OHV trail ends the route begins quickly climbing out of Squirrel Canyon.

At this point I was finally starting to have a good time. The typical route to Water Canyon involves skirting the bottom of the large dome on the left, but I was intrigued by the canyon on the right.

The little canyon turned out to be just what i was looking for.

It looked like from the back of that canyon i could continue up to the top of the mountain, so i gave it a try.

The views were getting pretty good.

There’s a fairly steep section of jumbled but very interesting crossbedding near the top.

It was tempting to walk one of these little sidewalks but that wasn’t the direction I was heading.

I walked up through the White Domes layer of rock, but miles to the east.

Finally on top and i was met by some really cool clouds!

The top of the dome alternated between interesting hoodoo formations and patches of brushy dunes. The wind was really picking up, which made me avoid the dunes as much as possible.

A little path through a grove of pines led to the north side of the dome.

The north side had spectacular views of Zion!

Looking towards the scenery you pass through on the Canaan Mountain traverse. There was a large cliff below here.

You can see Eagle Crags on the far left, Kinesava and the West Temple towards the center and the East Temple on the right.

Once on the north side the terrain became wide open slickrock covered in interesting hoodoos.

Looks like a Transformer’s head on top of there.

Looking back. Even on the open rock i was getting sand blown in my eyes. Looks like you can see Bryce in the very far distance.

The scenery seemed like it would never end. I wasn’t complaining.

There are some nice pristine textures up there.

Some unusual symmetry.

The hoodoos make a sort of arching crown around the top of the dome.

This hoodoo is a good landmark. Once you know it you can see it from the Water Canyon trail. It’s a good place to start going down. Water Canyon is on the left but this is not the direction to get down there.

Descending the west side of the dome.

Last time i was here there was a broad stream flowing. From here i took fewer pictures because it was generally the same route back as from the White Domes. You can see those during a time of active waterfalls right here.

There were waterfalls here and quicksand but most of the year there is probably even less water than this.

Descending into Water Canyon. The big dome I traversed is in the background.

A nice spot near the bottom of Water Canyon. It’s always windy here at this time of day.

Approaching the last bit of Water Canyon.

A weeping wall. The trees on the right are beginning to struggle due to people climbing around them.

A close up of the trees. The trails around the bottom didn’t used to be there. These trees have very little soil to work with and it’s getting eroded away from foot traffic.

A  jogger.

Leaving Water Canyon. You can see some FLDS guys watching me on the cliffs to the left. In the evening they run up the canyon to that point in two groups. One group of young men wearing jeans and button down long sleeve shirts and a group of young women wearing heavy thick dresses. The women seem friendly but the men never say anything to me. They just stare. That’s part of the deal if you go to Water Canyon.

Water Canyon Arch can be seen high above the stream. I passed by some kind of guide with two female tourists and he seemed to be making stuff up about the scenery. He was telling them it was called “the eye of heaven”.

Back at the car just in time for sunset. It was a really great day!

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