Lost Canyon sits in the Needles district of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Colorful and strangely shaped slick rock around the canyon along with the lush vegetation inside the canyon is sure to provide the hiker with a mesmerizing experience.
Like many other hikes in the Needles District, a hike through Lost Canyon can be combined with portions of many other nearby hikes. The shortest way is to do an 8.7 mile loop (lollipop)(See map). The trail starts at the Squaw Flat Campground/Trailhead at an elevation of 5100 ft. If you follow the trail in a clockwise manner, you will find that it first goes over flat terrain for some time before going up a slick rock pass (elev. 5300 ft). The trail then drops into a small canyon that merges with Lost Canyon (elev. 5100 ft). The trail then heads up Lost Canyon and eventually goes into a small branch of Lost Canyon and goes to reach another slick rock pass at an elevation of 5450 ft. From there, the trail descends into Squaw Canyon before returning to the starting point.
The trail is classified as a hike but be ware that portions of the trail near the slick rock passes will require you to hike in narrow corridors over slippery rock. Dense vegetation inside the canyon may make you lose the trail for short periods. During the entire hike, you must pay very close attention to cairns that mark the trail. If you notice that you have not seen a cairn for some time, chances are you are in the wrong place.
From Moab Utah, take Route 191 forty miles south and then turn west (right) onto Utah Route 211. Follow this road 35 miles to reach the Needles District entrance station (make sure you do not mistakenly take the “Needles Overlook Road” off of Route 191 a few miles before Route 211). From the entrance station, follow the road 2.7 miles and turn left onto Squaw Flat Campground. At the fork, take the left branch to reach the trailhead.
Trailhead Elevation: 5100 ft
Highest Point on the Trail: 5450 ft
Hiking Distance (loop): 8.7 miles
GPS Coordinates for Trailhead:
38 deg 08.608 min North
109 deg 48.217 min West
All intersections are well signed. The trail is obvious in some places and in other places you must watch for cairns that identify the trail. Please refer to the above map for the discussion below:
1) Trail Common to Lost Canyon, Squaw Canyon and Peekaboo Trails:
Almost immediately after leaving the trailhead, the trail for Big Spring Canyon separates on the right. Take the left trail and follow it over areas of slick rock and flat sandy ground for 1.1 miles.
2) Trail Common to Lost Canyon & Peekaboo Trails:
At the intersection with Squaw Canyon Trail, turn left (at the end of the day, you will come back from the right trail) and follow the trail common to Lost Canyon and Peakaboo. At first, the trail goes over flat terrain. You will have good views of the “Needles” in the horizon.
View of the Needles
You will then see a big red wall in front of you to the left and a couple of notable formations to the right of it.
Big Red Wall
The trail goes up slick rock to reach a 5300 ft pass between the red wall and the formations. A canyon becomes visible to the SE (This is a side canyon that will eventually merge with Lost Canyon). Views from the pass:
The trail then goes down slick rock slopes. In one spot, a steel ladder has been bolted into the rock.
The side canyon (that eventually merges with Lost Canyon) becomes visible below.
The trail then drops into the bottom of the side canyon.
Bottom of Side Canyon
3) Lost Canyon:
38 deg 07.302 min North
109 deg 46.637 min West
Elevation 5100 ft
2.7 miles to next slick rock pass
3.3 miles to Squaw Canyon Junction
At the above GPS coordinates, you will reach the junction with Lost Canyon Trail.
Junction of Peekaboo Trail & Lost Canyon
Turn right (south) and follow the trail upstream. The trail follows the bottom of the canyon near the stream (which might be nothing more than a sand bed).
a) Lower Canyon Pictures:
b) Upper Canyon Pictures:
c) Following the Small Branch/Heading for the Red Butte:
The trail goes into a small branch of the Lost Canyon and heads toward a big red butte.
Big Red Butte from Lost Canyon
d) Climbing Out of the Canyon:
Watch the cairns carefully and follow them over slick rock slopes out of the canyon.
Climbing out of canyon
View of Lost Canyon
Trail below 2nd slick rock pass
4) Saddle Between Lost & Squaw Canyons:
38 deg 06.423 min North
109 deg 48.177 min West
Elevation 5450 ft
Views from the saddle:
The Red Butte above the Saddle
Follow the cairns/trail north into the Squaw Canyon drainage. You can look back to get another view of the big red butte.
Looking back at the Red Butte and the Pass
5) Descent into Squaw Canyon:
The trail goes down what looks like the dry slick rock bed of a long series of water cascades.
6) Squaw Canyon:
At the junction with Squaw Canyon, turn right and follow the trail downstream toward trailhead.
7) Back to Point 1)
Hike back 1,1 miles to trailhead.
Camp sites are available near the canyon. Please refer to the Canyonlands National Park site:
You will find this Trails Illustrated Map useful: