Backpack the Lathrop Canyon Trail in Canyonlands

Rate this Adventure Lathrop Trailhead, Moab, Utah, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    18 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2130 Feet


This is an adventure of a lifetime and lets you enjoy the true beauty of Canyonlands National Park all to yourself! You get up close in personal to the canyon rim and better yet get to descend down into the canyon all the way to the Colorado River! You'll be surrounded by incredible washes, towers, small slot canyons, caves, old uranium mines, and so much more. Its quite tempting to always want to climb the next rock formation that lies around the bend! And lets not forget the epic campsites you'll have whether it be at the base of Airport Tower or on a ledge overlooking the canyon below and the La Sals off in the distance!

Access to this trailhead is a few miles south of the Islands in the Sky Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park. An easy drive from Moab or Interstate 70. Remember to get permits and check in with the rangers if camping. If just doing a day hike then no permits are needed. REMINDER: There is no water along this trail so bring plenty of water if camping or even day hiking. Water spicket is located at the Visitor Center. For those bringing water filters, there aren't many sources other than the Colorado River that aren't contaminated with high uranium levels. So plan accordingly.

Small parking area along main park road for the Lathrop Canyon Trailhead. Due to its difficulty and distance, very few people actually hike this trail, which is great for you! Parking is rarely a problem and you'll have most of the views all to yourself!

The first 2 miles is very easy and flat as the trail crosses through an old farmstead and open prairie. A lot of people tend to race through this section but in my opinion,this part is a true spectacle of the trail. After crossing the prairie you'll hit a landscape change as the trail crosses over sandstone outcrops. Lots of adventure to be had here, with endless opportunities. After a half mile or so you'll get your first glimpses of the canyon with the La Sals off in the distance. The trail meanders another half mile to the canyon rim before beginning its long and difficult descent to the White Rim Road. For those wanting a good day hike this is the point which many folks stop and admire the views before turning back to the trailhead. Backpackers and day trekkers will usually be the only ones to proceed down.

The trail then goes nearly 3 more miles down 1500 feet towards the White Rim Road. Lots of switchbacks and steep declines characterize this portion of the trail. Airport Tower will be your iconic landmark during the descent with lots of cool opportunities to climb and just explore. Once getting to the White Rim Road, backpackers can look for their campsite of choice as you head down the additional 3.5 miles to the Colorado River, another 600 feet below. Camping is at large and not in designated campsites. Permits required. There is a designated campsite at Airport Tower along the White Rim Road that has a bathroom, as does the picnic area at the base of the trail along the river.

Hiking from the canyon rim down offers a unique experience, but also poses additional challenges like understanding the fact that you'll have to hike back up the 2100 feet when returning to the trailhead!

Pack List

  • Backcountry permit
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Backpacks
  • Water Filter
  • Water
  • Binoculars for stargazing
  • Hiking boots
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Sunglasses
  • Climbing gear
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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

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