Backpack Reflection Canyon
Utah › Glen Canyon Parking Area
Added by Kathleen Buenviaje
Take in views of Reflection Canyon from eye level (made famous by NatGeo photographer Michael Melford and by Apple in 2012 as a desktop background for the new MacBook Pro). It's highly possible you see no other people the duration of your trip.
Backpacking Reflection Canyon is not for the faint of heart. It's an intense, challenging hike that takes you through slot canyons, climbing up and down shifty sandstones and traversing rugged terrains and ravines. Although the elevation gain is almost nothing, the up and down climbs from one ravine to the next really messes with your head once you've gotten 3.5 miles into the hike, knowing you have another 7-9 miles left to go. Just think of a balloon deflating every so slowly.
With that said, you'll be blessed with a view like no other of Reflection Canyon, and if you're lucky, paired with a sunrise you'll never forget. It's worth it when that happens. Is it challenging? Yes. But you'll get unrestricted views, zero crowds and camp on a ledge 60+ miles away from civilization.
Enter Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument, from there you'll be traveling on Hole in the Rock Road (You'll need a 4WD for this trip.) The last 5 miles of the trip is where you'll enter Glen Canyon territory. Keep a look out for a small parking area on the right (37°15'21.70"N, 110°57'47.25"W).
The straight edge cliffs on your right while facing south are your number one marker for this trip. Make sure you keep these cliffs on your right while you're hiking. Veering away from the cliffs will land you in sea of slot canyons that shoot 60 ft up. Not good, and you'll find yourself backtracking a lot more. You'll see the cliffs square off, this is the point where you'll want to turn your back to the cliffs and head SE. The canyon is two miles from there ( 37°11'15.72"N, 110°55'8.54"W).
When you backpack in, remember to bring in everything you bring out. Let's keep mother nature as undisturbed and tainted as possible. Enjoy the hike, and don't forget a GPS, you'll need it when you're off trail.
Photographing Reflection Canyon is an experience you will never forget. Partially because of the permanent blisters you'll have from the 20 mile hike, but more so for the view and the everlasting images you'll capture of this gorgeous extension of Lake Powell. Reflection Canyon is in a remote section of Glen Canyon and can be photographed by air, boat or land. This adventure will take you through the land version.
Because it's a canyon you're shooting, the time of day is essential to how your photos are going to turn out. You can absolutely make the 20 mile roundtrip hike in one day if you want to, but when you wake up and every muscle in your body is in a permanent spasm, you'll know why. If you time it correctly, you can shoot the sunset, the midnight sky and stars and the sunrise in a two day one night backpacking adventure.
Shooting at sunrise proved to provide the best light while keeping the canyon shadows at a minimum. Similarly sunset provided the same even light, but once the sun was gone, the light quickly followed.
- PLENTY of water for the duration of your trip. There is no place to replenish your water bladder on this hike.
- GPS/Compass. Because there is no trail or trailhead, you're relying on GPS coordinates to get you to your destination.
- Hiking Boots
- Layers of clothing, the winds and weather are unpredictable. Often warm during the hike/day and cold at night.
- Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Bag
- Handwarmers (absolutely NO fires allowed at any point in this hike)
- Headlamp. When you're that far off the grid, it gets dark, and you don't want to walk in darkness when you're camped on a ledge. Just sayin'...
- Food. After hiking 8-10 miles with 20-30 lbs of gear on your back, you're going to need to fuel up, re-energize and shove those nutrients back into your body. Trust, your muscles and body will thank you for it.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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ReviewsLeave a Review
Tough Hike With An Amazing Payoff
Make sure to bring enough water as there is nowhere to replenish your water on this hike. It's a very tough hike even though there is little elevation change. There is no path so make sure you have a GPS and are comfortable navigating. We only saw one other person so if you get lost you're on your own. Don't go in the slot canyons or you'll be stuck and end up backtracking quite a way. A great hike for those adventurous enough to try it.
Absolutely an adventure
My friends and I backpacked to Reflection Canyon over Thanksgiving weekend and it was absolutely an adventure. If you want to be in a desolate and remote location, you've chosen the right trip. Be sure to arrive in a 4WD/high clearance vehicle because you'll be driving 50+ miles on a dirt road with some washed out sections. Listen to Kathleen and stick to the straight edge cliffs to your right because travelling away from the cliffs will get you stuck in a labyrinth of slot canyons. We learned the hard way when we went off path to take a shortcut. Although awesome, there is absolutely no way out of the maze of slot canyons. This is one of those once in a lifetime trips that was worth the experience.
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