Dark Canyon Wilderness and Primitive areas encompass a remote and stunningly beautiful canyon that empties into the Colorado River above Lake Powell near Cataract Canyon. Its walls can reach upward of 2000 ft. and it can be difficult to access near the lower stretches. The Sundance trail is perhaps the most popular access point, though it is basically an over-cairned steep descent through what must have been a hell of a landslide. This is a rugged canyon with many obstacles and astounding side-canyons that would take many days to explore.
Sundance Trail Entrance to Dark Canyon
The Sundance Trail can be reached from Utah State Highway 95 (U-95) by a
series of dirt roads. Although it is generally passable by car, these roads may at times require a vehicle with up to six inches of clearance. Roads may be muddy/impassable during and after rain.
1. From the turnoff to Natural Bridges National Monument, travel west
on U-95 for approximately 35 miles to the sign marking the Glen
Canyon National Recreation Area boundary. Drive about 1.4 miles
further on U-95 and turn right onto the first dirt road after the
White Canyon bridge (just before milepost 53 on U-95). After you
turn, you will see the San Juan County (SJC) road 2731 signpost.
Travel five miles on 2731 to a Y-intersection with SJC 2081. Turn
right on 2081.
2. If coming from Lake Powell on U-95, travel about a mile east from the
Hite Marina turnoff. Turn left onto a dirt road directly across from
milepost 49. This road is marked SJC 2081. Travel about four miles
to a Y-intersection with SJC 2731. Stay on 2081.
This is where the two routes meet, so from either direction, after about 3.4 miles from this intersection, there will be a Y-intersection where you do not turn, but the road becomes SJC 256.
Stay on 256 for about 3.5 miles until you see a wooden BLM sign for the
Sundance Trailhead. Continue to the parking lot. Walk the two track from
the parking lot to the trailhead and to the edge of the canyon. From here,
the trail descends to a 50% talus slope and 1,120 vertical feet into Dark
This is a strenuous hike!
Other than treating a wilderness area like wilderness, meaning leave no trace
and no fires, there is no red tape.
No designated campsites. Make sure, however, to find high ground in case of flooding. Please see trip report to make this point abundantly clear.