Press "Enter" to skip to content

Lower Hackberry Canyon to the Watson Cabin

Canyons of the Paria | Southern Utah Wanderings
Thursday & Friday, October 8-9, 2020

After spending all day Thursday hiking along the Paria River to Starlight Canyon and back, we returned to the east side of The Cockscomb and found a nice spot to spend the night just north of the Lower Hackberry Trailhead under some cottonwood trees along Cottonwood Creek. Our plan for Friday was to take it a little easier and hike up Hackberry Canyon a few miles, so we wanted to camp nearby. On Friday morning we slept in a little later and woke up with the sunrise again. We packed up camp and then drove back over to the trailhead so we could start our hike.

We set up camp after dark on Thursday night, so here’s a shot of my tent that I took in the morning.

Cottonwood Camp

Everything I had read about Lower Hackberry Canyon said that it would be a pleasant hike through the water, so I made sure to wear the shoes that I had been using on all the water hikes this week so far. Unfortunately, when we started hiking up the canyon there wasn’t a drop of water to be found! What we found instead was a pretty unpleasant hike through very soft and deep sand. This sand slog would end up making this my least favorite hike of the entire week, but at least the scenery was nice…

Entering Lower Hackberry Canyon, which just so happens to be another section of the Hayduke Trail.

Sandy Canyon

An unpleasant sand slog through the canyon. I would definitely not recommend this hike if the canyon is dry.

Sand Slog

Colorful Wall

Canyon Scene

Hackberry Canyon Narrows

Hackberry Canyon Narrows

Hackberry Canyon Wall

Hackberry Tower. I guess this is where most people turn around, but we decided to keep going so we could visit the Watson Canyon.

Hackberry Tower

Canyon Wall

Narrow Passage

Canyon Bend

Lower Hackberry Canyon

After the canyon started to open up we were able to find some trails outside of the main wash that were much nicer to hike on than the sand. As we got closer to the cabin there was even water flowing in the creek!

Out of the Shadows

Hackberry Canyon View

The Frank Watson Cabin was built around 1914 and is apparently the oldest structure still standing within the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.

Frank Watson Cabin

Inside The Cabin

Inside The Cabin

After leaving the cabin we climbed up a steep canyon into the Rush Beds in search of an alcove that contains a pictograph and ruin.

Hackberry Canyon

The alcove was trickier to find then we thought it would be, but just before giving up we managed to spot it!

Ruin In An Alcove

Fringed Anthropomorph

Fringed Anthropomorph

There were a few metates in the alcove.


The Moki House

Moki House

Earlier in the day we had considered hiking to Sam Pollock Arch, but after all the soft sand and scrambling around to find the Moki House, we were spent and ready to head back to the trailhead. We will have to come back another time for that.

Thankfully, while we were hiking back down from the Moki House the sky became a bit overcast, which helped keep it a little cooler out for our hike back, although the deep sand still sucked! As expected, we ran into a number of people hiking in the narrows on our way back with plenty of vehicles parked at the trailhead. We drove back to Tropic one last time so we could figure out what our plans for Saturday would be over dinner in town.

>> Lower Hackberry Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Richard Romeyn
    Richard Romeyn November 12, 2020


    Another very interesting post. Thank you for all of them! A question; what shoes do you wear for your “water” hikes? I have not found any that are truly comfortable on hikes where I will be in and out of the water so I am always interested in what other knowledgeable users have tried and how they would rate the product.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat November 12, 2020

      I usually just wear an older pair of hiking boots that are already pretty worn out, which is what I was doing this week. They were just some Keen Targhee’s, but they weren’t in the best shape.

  2. Yuliya Semenova
    Yuliya Semenova March 25, 2021


    I will be visiting this area next week and wanted some intel. Im a park ranger, thru hiker, and LNT trained. Would you email me please. I have a few questions. Thank you for your time.

    -Yuliya aka Kremlin

Leave a Reply