ApproachThere are several possibilities for starting the trip. For simplicity, I will use the same description as the one for the West Fork of Gem Canyon. I must admit that last time I was there we missed the junction with the hill and cairn mentioned below and we were lost for a little while. A GPS is highly recommended if not absolutely necessary. The maps do not show the roads, but at least you will know where you are!
A journey to out in the middle of no-where............
As mentioned, just finding the trailhead is a navigational challenge. You must do the vehicle shuttle the day before the trip as it will be a long day just getting through the canyon. You absolutely must have the 7.5 minute quads (maps) Big Bend Draw and Ireland Mesa for the drive to the trailhead. Even then, the maps are inaccurate especially near the trailhead. A 4wd is also required. The 63 mile shuttle took us 3.5 hours, but we already knew how to get there, having been to the head of the canyon before. Expect to take longer.
To get to the trailhead at the head of the canyon, drive west from Green River, or east of the Emery area along I-70 to exit 108. You must carefully follow the topo maps for the remainder of the drive. Take the southbound gravel road and veer right after a short distance. Stay on the main road until you reach Kimball Draw at an intersection with a sign. This is at about co-ordinates N38*47'16.47" W111*5'52.69". Turn left onto the dirt road signposted for Copper Globe. After following the bottom of the wash for a while, you will reach an intersection (no sign and it can be hard to spot) at about co-ordinates N38*47'4.42" W111*4'34.19". Turn right onto a seldom used track. Follow the track in and out of several drainages until you reach an intersection at a top of a hill at about co-ordinates N38*46'24.02" W111*3'57.04". Turn right here.
The road weaves in and out of drainages and scenic and colorful badlands and is one of the most interesting pieces of road construction I've ever seen. There are some sections of the road that pass through sparkling gypsum beds. Not too far after the road climbs out of Dizzy Trail Canyon (see the topo map), you will reach a junction next to a small hill with a cairn (pile of rocks) on top. From here on, the topo map is inaccurate as far as showing the many tracks go, so pay attention closely to the topographic features on the map. There are many routes to the trailhead, but here's the route we took. Turn right at the junction with the hill and cairn. You will cross a few very rough spots in the road while crossing two washes. After the second wash, make a very sharp left turn onto a track that heads east [update: this track was just about invisible when we were here in 2007, so see the alternate route below]. The trailhead and where you're aiming for is very near the 6350 elevation marked on the Ireland Mesa quad NW of the word "DIKE" on the map. Park here.
Note #1: In 2004, I found an alternate route to the trailhead. The road is not as rough from this alternate route, but the trailhead can be harder to recognize from this direction, as this route has no landmarks near the trailhead. At the hill with the cairn, continue straight instead of right. Look for a faint track to the right not far beyond the hill with the cairn. This road leads to the trailhead, but it’s hard to recognize. Hopefully the cairn I left will still be there!
Note #2: The main track that continues straight from the junction mentioned in the paragraph above dead ends at Horizon Arch. This is a scenic place and if you hike over the hill and slickrock, you will have an incredible view of the San Rafael Swell.
Make sure to leave Green River or Castle Dale with a full tank of gas! This area certainly is out in the middle of no-where!
Route DescriptionThis route is for those who would rather drag an overnight pack through the canyon instead of doing the long car shuttle. Doing the canyon with an overnight pack certainly will not be easy.
Follow the route down through Gem Canyon to Muddy Creek using the main route page description. Instead of heading down Muddy Creek and to Tomsish Butte, head up Muddy Creek and locate Dizzy Trail Canyon with Hike up Muddy Creek crossing several times (usually ankle to knee deep unless at flood stage). Usually Muddy Creek is ankle to knee deep (unless at flood stage). Dizzy Trail will be the third major canyon coming in form the right side (looking up stream) of Muddy Creek. The first canyon is Enigma Canyon and the second canyon is Poncho Wash. Use a topo map to locate the canyon.
Dizzy Trail Canyon until it narrows and divides. The canyon on the left is Cat Canyon. Dizzy Trail is the canyon to the right. Hike up Dizzy Trail Canyon. There is a short section of bushwacking and sometimes running water. Continue up canyon while staying in the main drainage. The canyon walls taper down and eventually the canyon becomes a wash. There are a few bypasses, but eventually you will reach the 4wd road that you used to access the trailhead. Follow the track back to your vehicle (about 1.5 miles).