Murphy Basin Loop Trail sits in the southwestern parts of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. From trailhead, you will walk on the surface of the Island in the Sky Mesa for half a mile to reach the first split in the trail. Right is a 1.3 mile trail that remains on top of the mesa and goes to Murphy Point Overlook. This trail will not be discussed here.
Left will continue on top of the mesa a short distance to reach the edge of it where you will see a big drop-off. The trail makes many twists and turns taking you down a steep gully among the walls of the mesa descending 900 vertical feet in less than a mile. You will then reach the second split. To make the loop, you can go either way. The trail on the left follows the bottom of a dry wash until it reaches White Rim Jeep Road. You will then have to hike the road 1.5 miles to the top of Hogback Mesa where another trail returns you to the second split at the bottom of the big drop-off. The Hogback Mesa trail provides you with great views of the white rimmed canyons and a few glimpses of the Green River at the bottom of the canyons.
From visitor center, drive 8.5 miles south to the signed parking area on the west side of the road.
All distances are per my GPS
|Trailhead||6240 ft||zero miles
|First Split||6200 ft||0.45 miles
|Edge of Mesa||6100 ft||0.55 miles
|Second Split||5200 ft||0.95 miles
|White Rim Road||4840 ft||2.65 miles
|Hogback Trail||5260 ft||1.50 miles
|Second Split||5200 ft||2.75 miles
|Trailhead||6240 ft||1.95 miles
At the trailhead, you can look east to see the La Sal Mountains.
La Sal Mountains
Head west on the trail on the surface of the mesa.
Trail on the surface of the mesa
At the first signed intersection, turn left and follow the trail to reach the edge of the mesa.
The trail meanders down the slick rock to reach a boulder filled gully.
Views of mesa walls as you descend.
In one place you have to walk over a small bridge.
After descending the boulder field slope, you can look back at the gully you came down in.
You will then reach the second trail split. You can go either way and come back the other. This description takes you left down a dry wash until you reach White Rim Jeep Road.
Walls of Island in the Sky Mesa
Salt deposits & Junction Butte
Turn right and hike the road up to the top of Hogback Mesa.
White Rim Road
You will then reach a camping area with pit toilet. If you go to the end of the parking area, you will get good views.
Hike the road a short distance beyond the camp area to reach the signed junction for Murphy Hogback Mesa Trail. Turn right and follow the trail on top of the mesa toward the walls of Island in the Sky Mesa. Candlestick Tower will be in good view.
Walking back toward Island in the Sky
You will soon get good views of the white rimmed Canyons and a few glimpses of Green River.
White rimmed canyons and Candlestick Tower
You will soon reach the base of the wall below Murphy Point Overlook.
Below Murphy Point Overlook
Go past the second split in the trail and prepare to hike up the gully back to trailhead.
The trail goes up this gully to the top of mesa