Dark Canyon

Page Type
Utah, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Half a day
Class 2&3

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Dark Canyon
Created On: Sep 15, 2010
Last Edited On: Sep 15, 2010


While the most popular route to the summit of Mount Peale might be from Lasal Pass accessing the mountain via Geyser Pass brings wonderful advantages not experienced by hikers from the South. Traveling around other peaks of the Lasal Mountains give a real sense of adventure. This route has scenery and unmatched views from start to finish.

Getting There

Beginning at the traffic light on the South end of Moab (about 1100 South) go South for about 6.5 miles to “Old Airport Road” turn left and take the paved road to the “T” intersection and then turn right. You will now be on the LaSal Loop Road. Follow this road for about 11.5 miles to a signed intersection leading to Geyser Pass turn right onto the well graded gravel road follow it up over the Pass an additional 12 miles.

Dark Canyon is recognizable by the massive rock face of the north end of Mount Peale which makes the south side of the canyon. At a point you will reach a tight switchback on the road in Dark Canyon. There is a short spur road leading off to the right at the switchback it can be followed for two-tenths of a mile if in a 2X vehicle. 4X4 vehicles can negotiate a wet rocky spot and continue an additional three-tenths of a mile to its end at the trailhead. The trailhead is reached in just over 30 miles from the South end of Moab, making it one of the shortest drives to a trailhead.

Route Description

At the trailhead begin following the trail which leads to the saddle between Mount Laurel (left) and Mt. Mellenthin (right) both peaks are to the right in the basin which the route starts. After about two tenths of a mile an obvious thick stand of tall trees along the left side of a talus/rock glacier appear on the left side of this basin. Route find to the base of the rock pile and follow the grassy margin between the trees and the talus to the top of the group of trees. This will place you at the base of a steeper talus slope marking the boundary between the basin and the hanging valley. Climb the talus slope staying slightly left. After this short climb the grassy bottom of the hanging valley is encountered and climbs gently, West and then South. The route follows the grassy slope staying right as it winds west towards another talus slope. This talus pile is at the bottom of a vegetated slope leading Northwest up out of the valley to the main ridge. This is the steepest part of the hike. Route find up this slope, first to the lone krumholz pine tree, and then staying right of the minor ledges in the slope. Making short switchbacks up this slope will result in a quick ascent up to the main ridge. At about two-thirds the way up the main ridge becomes visible to the left. At this point one can easily circle around to the ridge.

Joining the ridge at 12,000 feet will put the hiker about half way between Mt. Peale and Mt. Mellenthin. The route now simply follows the ridge South around to the summit. After crossing a broad sloping saddle which forms the connection between Mt. Peale, Mt. Mellenthin, and Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (Tuk) the ridge turns to talus and a rough trail works its way up and around a couple false summits to the top. Return route is back the same way you came.


We did this hike on a wonderful September morning. Climbing the 2.5 miles and ascending 2,200 feet in about 4 hours. Since we were in no hurry the trip lasted the better part of the day. However, it could be accomplished in only a few hours depending on your hiking speed.

The talus slopes can be ankle twisters if one is not careful. Hiking with good boots is a must and hiking poles can be very helpful for balance on the steep slope and in talus. While most Web posts on hiking Mount Peale describe the route from the South, this route provides wonderful views of Mt. Mellenthin, the hanging valley, views of Mt. Tuk, and Canyonlands while you hike. Also the goal of the summit is always in view making it a great motivator.

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