Hike to the Patrol Cabin at Death Canyon

Death Canyon Trailhead

Hike into a canyon carved by glaciers over 15 thousand years ago boasting some of the earth’s oldest rocks, over 2.7 billion years old.

Your adventure begins at 7,000 feet along lodge pole pines and small creeks. Just a few minutes into the hike, you will reach the Valley Trail Junction. Stay left and continue towards Death Canyon. The first mile of the trail climbs 400 feet through pine forests and aspen groves to the Phelps Lake Over Look.

Take a minute to enjoy the view here. Phelps Lake is a glacial lake that is usually perfectly still and provides incredible reflections of the surrounding landscape.

From the overlook, the trail begins descending through brushy habitat with all sorts of wildflowers. Bears are constantly spotted through this area, make sure you are a loud to not surprise them and have your bear spray handy. This part of the trail offers awesome views of the Death Canyon mouth and a few waterfalls along the way. You might be thinking you may have taken a wrong turn as you descend through rocky switchbacks, but you are on the right track.

Just over 1.5 miles in you will reach the Death Canyon Trail Junction. If you take left you will end up at the shore of Phelps Lake, take a right and head up the mouth the canyon.

The mouth of the canyon is about 2 miles in to your trip. At this point, especially in the late spring, you will hear the rushing waters of Death Canyon Creek; this is how you know you are on the right track. The next 2 miles of the trail parallel the creek with plenty of opportunities for a close up look of the rushing water.

This last part of the trails climbs about 1,000 feet to the Patrol Cabin. A glacier carved the canyon over 15 million years ago and scientists have discovered some of the oldest rocks on earth here, over 2.7 billion years old. The cabin is situated in a small valley with plenty of shade. Notice how the calmness of the creek before it begins its rush down the canyon.

At almost 8,000 feet, the cabin is a great spot to eat your lunch and marmots tend to be very friendly in the area. It is very tempting to feed them, but please remember to keep our wildlife wild and observe from distance. With a full stomach and fresh legs get ready to make your way back down. 

Pack List

  • Small Pack
  • Water
  • Snacks (Check this out)
  • Bear Spray (Don't go without this!)
  • Camera
  • Lunch
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RT Distance 8 Miles
Elevation Gain 2000 Feet
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Nice Day Hike

This is a great day hike with amazing views the whole way up to the cabin.

Great Day Hike

When we went late in the fall, we saw about 6 other people the entire hike, and no one once we got into the canyon. The dirt road up to the trailhead is 4 wheel drive recommended (and closed in the winter), but you can make it about half up and stop at a parking area for the dude ranch without 4wd. Just adds a little more distance to the hike. In winter, you have to hike in a mile to get to the trailhead. Beautiful views in the canyon, not too strenuous, and we saw 3 moose right on the trail, so keep an eye open for wildlife. Overall a great day hike.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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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