Murphy Basin Loop Trail

Page Type
Route
Location:
Utah, United States, North America
Route Type:
Hiking
Season:
Spring, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day
Difficulty:
Hike

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Murphy Basin Loop Trail
Created On: Apr 22, 2014
Last Edited On: Oct 26, 2017

Overview

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.


Murphy Basin Loop TrailMap


Getting There

From visitor center, drive 8.5 miles south to the signed parking area on the west side of the road.

Route Description

All distances are per my GPS
Place
Elevation
Distance
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
Total
-
10.8 miles


At the trailhead, you can look east to see the La Sal Mountains.

La Sal MountainsLa Sal Mountains


Head west on the trail on the surface of the mesa.

Trail on the surface of MesaTrail on the surface of the mesa


At the first signed intersection, turn left and follow the trail to reach the edge of the mesa.

Edge of mesa where the trail begins to descend


The trail meanders down the slick rock to reach a boulder filled gully.







Hiking down the trail
Hiking down the trail
Trail in a tight spot



Views of mesa walls as you descend.

Hiking down the trail

Walls, hiking down the trail

Walls, hiking down the trail

Walls, hiking down the trail

Walls, hiking down the trail

Walls, hiking down the trail


In one place you have to walk over a small bridge.

Short bridge on the trailBridge


After descending the boulder field slope, you can look back at the gully you came down in.

Looking back at the gully you descended


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.









Trail in dry wash
Trail in dry wash
Trail in dry wash
Trail in dry wash










From dry washWalls of Island in the Sky Mesa
Salt deposits in dry washSalt deposits
From dry wash
Salt deposits in dry washSalt deposits & Junction Butte



Turn right and hike the road up to the top of Hogback Mesa.

White Rim Jeep RoadWhite 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.

From Murphy Campsite

From Murphy Camp

From Murphy Camp

From Murphy Camp


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.

Candlestick Tower from Hogback Mesa TrailCandlestick Tower

From Hogback Mesa TrailWalking back toward Island in the Sky

From Hogback Mesa Trail


You will soon get good views of the white rimmed Canyons and a few glimpses of Green River.

White Rimmed Canyons and Candlestick TowerWhite rimmed canyons and Candlestick Tower

Green RiverGreen River

Green RiverGreen River

Candlestick Tower and white rimmed canyonsCandlestick Tower


You will soon reach the base of the wall below Murphy Point Overlook.

Wall under Murphy Point OverlookBelow Murphy Point Overlook

Huge bouldersHuge boulders


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 the mesaThe trail goes up this gully to the top of mesa


Essential Gear

Hiking equipment