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Syncline Loop Trail
Route

Syncline Loop Trail

 
Syncline Loop Trail

Page Type: Route

Location: Utah, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 38.42602°N / 109.92518°W

Object Title: Syncline Loop Trail

Route Type: Hiking

Season: Spring, Fall

Time Required: Half a day

Difficulty: Hike, Boulder Fields

Route Quality: 
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Page By: nader

Created/Edited: Apr 15, 2014 / May 13, 2014

Object ID: 893950

Hits: 481 

Page Score: 83.1%  - 16 Votes 

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Overview

Syncline Loop Trail sits in the western parts of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. The trail makes a loop around Upheaval Dome, a crater roughly one mile in diameter whose geologic origin has been the subject of much debate. From the trailhead a one mile long spur trail goes to a couple of viewpoints where you could see the crater and the green colored severely eroded hills that rise from the center of it.

July 3, 2001<br />
 Upheaval Dome
Crater


Hiking the Syncline Loop Trail, however, will not provide you with any views of the crater. From the top of the Island in the Sky Mesa, the trail takes you 1450 vertical feet down to the junction of Upheaval Canyon Trail at the bottom of Upheaval Canyon and then brings you back to the top of the mesa via a different route. The northern arm of the trail goes up a steep boulder field where you must pay close attention to cairns that identify the route. Some of the older texts talk about traversing a boulder with much exposure but it appears that the park service has now cut steps into the boulder eliminating the exposure.

Warning: I saw signs at the trailhead warning that the trail was strenuous. Apparently more hikers get lost on this trail than any other trail in the park. Although the trail was only 8.3 miles long, it took me longer to hike than some of the longer trails with more vertical.

Syncline Loop Map
Map



Getting There

From Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive 6.5 miles south and turn on Upheaval Dome Road. Continue the road 5 miles to the end of it at the picnic area and trailhead.

Route Description

Place
Elevation
Distance
Trailhead
5680 ft
zero miles
Junction of Upheaval Canyon via south arm of the loop
4220 ft
3.40 miles
Trailhead via the north arm of the loop
5680 ft
4.90 miles
Total
-
8.30 miles





From trailhead, follow the trail a short distance until you reach a 3 way. Straight is the short spur trail to view points. You can go right or left to get on the north or south arm of the loop. This description turns left and takes you first on the south arm of the loop (to hike the loop in a clockwise manner).

The first mile of the trail goes over a slickrock/juniper covered area.









Beginnings of Syncline Loop Trail
 
On the beginnings of Syncline Loop Trail
 
Beginnings of Syncline Loop Trail
 
Beginnings of Syncline Loop Trail
 



You will then suddenly reach the edge of a big drop-off into a canyon.

Edge of the first big drop-off
Drop-off


Henry Mountains may be visible in the far west/southwest.

Zoomed view of the Henry Mountains
Henry Mountains


Pay close attention to the cairns and follow the path down the many twists and turns to go from 5600 to 5200 ft in a very short distance. Looking back up the slope you descended.

Looking back up the first big drop-off
Looking back up


The slope eases up for a short distance and then reaches the edge of a second steep drop-off that takes you from 4800-4500 ft.

edge of the second big drop-off
Edge of second drop-off


Looking back up the second drop-off.

Looking back up the second big drop-off
Looking back up the drop-off


The trail then goes to the bottom of a dry wash where you will find a number of trees.







Trees and the dry wash
 
Trees and dry wash
 



Walls will be visible in all directions.

Walls all around
 

Walls all around
 

walls all around
 

Walls all around
 


A canyon begins to form and you will follow the bottom of the canyon.

Canyon begins to form
 

Near Upheaval Canyon
 

Near Upheaval Canyon
 


The first view of Point 5245 ft appears as an impressive horn.

First view of Point 5245 ft
Point 5245 ft


You will then reach the signed junction with Upheaval Canyon Trail.

At the junction with Upheaval Canyon Trail
Point 5245 ft

At the junction with Upheaval Canyon Trail
 


Left goes to Upheaval canyon. Turn right and follow the trail a short distance until the trail makes a sharp turn to the left and starts to go up a number of steps to reach the top of a hill. Make sure you do not miss this turn and steep uphill.

Steps up the hill
Steps going uphill


You will now have good views of Point 5649 ft.

Point 5649 ft
Point 5649 ft


At a signed junction turn left and follow the trail up Syncline Canyon going right under Point 5245 ft (straight is a spur trail to the center of the crater)

In Syncline Valley below Point 5245 ft
Point 5245 ft


The trail follows the bottom of the valley toward its steep end.

Syncline Valley
Syncline Valley

Syncline valley
Syncline Valley


You will then reach a steep boulder field. Look for cairns and follow the path up the steep field among the boulders.

Boulder field
Boulder Field


I suspect these steps were created here to avoid the exposure on the boulder.

steps created in a difficult area
 


Looking back at the canyon from the boulder field.

From the boulder field
 

Upheaval Canyon from the boulder field
Upheaval Canyon


Steep slickrock area above the boulder field.

Slopes above the boulder field
 


Another look at Point 5245 ft.

Another view of Point 5245 ft
Point 5245 ft


You will then reach a gently sloped valley with beautiful deciduous trees.

Valley above boulder field
 

Valley above boulder field
 

Valley above boulder field
 

Valley above boulder field
 


The trail then makes a turn to the right and goes up a branch of the valley steeply.

Trail going up a side valley
 

Trail going up a side valley
 

Trail going up a side valley
 


Continuing uphill.

Continuiung up the side valley
 


The last 1.5 mile or so follow a dry wash in a Juniper covered environment to reach the trailhead.

Near the end of the loop
 

Near the end of the loop
 


Essential Gear

Hiking equipment.

Images