Friday – Sunday, November 5-7, 2021
This weekend I decided to spend a little time hiking and exploring along the Orange Cliffs in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which are the tall Wingate Sandstone cliffs located to the east of Robbers Roost and to the west of The Maze. Since I have already hiked all of the official trails that descend from the Island in the Sky and the Canyon Rims Recreation Area, I thought it was finally time to check out the North Trail which descends from North Point to Elaterite Basin. Most people that hike this trail use it to access The Maze when they don’t have a vehicle that can be driven down the Flint Trail, but since I’ve never had that problem I never really had a reason to hike it before, so I was looking forward to finally checking it out.
As usual, I left after work on Friday, topped off my fuel tank in Green River, and then made my way across the San Rafael Desert toward Hans Flat. I turned off onto a side road at the edge of Twin Corral Flats and found a place to camp near the rim of French Spring Fork just after dark. I listened to a few podcasts and then went to bed early. I woke up well before sunrise on Saturday morning and then drove past the Hans Flat Ranger Station on my way to the North Point Road and followed it to the trailhead. I waited until it was just light enough out that I didn’t need a headlamp to see and started hiking down the trail. The temperature was very comfortable out and there was no wind, so it was a very peaceful morning with almost complete silence. Just the way I like it!
Following the North Trail to the edge of the canyon at dawn.
I followed the trail to the upper end of North Trail Canyon where it descends down an old stock trail.
There was a sandstone tower above the head of the canyon.
Looking over the edge into the upper end of North Trail Canyon.
I arrived just in time as the sun came over the horizon and turned the sandstone bright orange.
Looking down the rocky descent into North Trail Canyon as the sunrise light was bouncing around.
The switchbacks into the canyon were washed out in a few places, but it was still mostly an easy trail to follow.
Looking back up to the tower from the bottom of the canyon.
North Trail Canyon
I had nice views of the Orange Cliffs from below as I walked down the canyon…
A view from the trail.
Crossing the West Fork of Big Water Canyon.
As I neared the end of the trail I came across the old boiler that was once part of a drilling rig used by the Nequoia Oil Company in 1920 and 1921.
The trail ends at the Millard Canyon Road and that’s where I stopped for a snack and then turned around after a little break.
On my way back I noticed this large conglomerate boulder next to the trail that had some chunks of petrified wood sticking out of it.
I was disappointed when I first saw this inscription from Jess Larsen in ’21’ since I thought it was from this year, but then I realized that the date was actually from ‘December 1-21’ which means that it’s actually from 1921 and almost 100 years old.
As I hiked back up North Trail Canyon the temperature started to warm up, the clouds disappeared and the wind began to pick up. It would stay pretty breezy for the rest of the day.
The light in the narrowest part of the canyon was looking good at this time of the day.
Beginning to climb the trail up the steep rocky slope back out of the canyon.
North Trail Tower
This old brush fence was across the top of the trail.
Soon I made it back to the trailhead of the North Point Trail.
After returning to the trailhead I drove back to the Millard Canyon Overlook for a bit and then returned to a different campsite on Hans Flat and ate an early dinner. Shortly before sunset I went for a little walk along the rim of French Spring Fork and took a few photos.
The clouds were looking nice again this evening.
An evening view over French Spring Fork and Happy Canyon.
Walking back to camp shortly before sunset.
There was some nice color in the sky this evening!
Even though I was going to gain an hour overnight with the Daylight Savings Time change, I was pretty tired and still went to bed early. The gusty winds that had picked up in the afternoon stuck around all night and definitely made some noise! I woke up before sunrise again on Sunday and then drove out on the High Spur Road to a spot where I could hike out to the rim of Millard Canyon for sunrise. It was still very windy out this morning!
Following the rim of Millard Canyon at dawn.
I was close to the edge of the canyon when the sun came up and struck the Navajo Sandstone above me.
I followed the Kayenta bench around the short side canyon with the Navajo Sandstone on my right and the Wingate Sandstone cliff to my left.
Atop The Orange Cliffs
Above The Shadows
I had to pick my way through the different ledges along the way.
Cleopatras Chair was a constant companion to the east.
Looking down the head of the short side canyon.
There is an old route down here into Millard Canyon that is known as the Millard Canyon Trail or Outlaw Trail, but I decided not to hike down it today.
Millard Canyon View
After an easy five mile loop back to my Jeep it was time to head back home after a nice relaxing weekend exploring the Orange Cliffs.
On my way back to the highway I stopped for a quick photo of this washed out culvert on the Hans Flat Road that I almost drove into on Friday night when it was dark out. Got to be careful out there!