Bryce to Bears Ears: Part 4

Below is the Daily Journal for this segment of the hike. Alternatively click any thumbnail to jump to:

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(previous: Round Valley Draw & The Kaiparowtis Plateau || next: Capitol Reef and around Lake Powell)

Part 4: The Canyons of the Escalante

May 1, 2021
Day 12

Packed up camp and set down Twentymile Wash. The upper stretch still had some pools of cow-trampled water and the banks were pretty brushy, but overall walking was fairly fast. Soon I crossed the road going toward Egypt Bench near where the wash joins (and becomes) Twentyfile Mile Wash. There was some more water here, but it looked pretty bad. Immediately past the road the wash became completely dry and sandy and brush was no longer an issue. Soon the red slickrock walls rose and I was walking down a still-fairly-wide but entrenched canyon.

There are some interesting narrow side canyons in this area which I explored some on my 2006 Hike, but I skipped them this time as I wanted to explore Egypt 3 slot a bit farther down. After an hour or so of trudging through sand I arrived at that junction so I dropped my big pack and headed up the side canyon to explore. The lower end of this slot is usually filled with water, but it was bone dry on this day.

Egypt 3 Slot


After a good 45 minutes or so of exploring the skinny side canyon, I returned to my pack in the main canyon and continued down the wash.

I camped in this area in 2016. At that time I was nearly out of water and slightly concerned as I didn’t know how much farther until I’d find water. Luckily I found it soon after heading out that year. Thus, I knew I should be getting close this year as well. Soon brush began to appear and I thought water would be imminent — but it wasn’t. I walked for probably an hour farther than I expected w/o seeing any water despite the thick brush. The canyon was definitely much different in 2021 compared to 15 years earlier. But eventually… water appeared. I was happy because I knew water wouldn’t be a concern from that point on for the next few days.

However, walking from this point on got MUCH more tedious. The sinuous route was often blocked by deep pools and finding bypasses across the bends was difficult due to brush. Not fun. There were some long corridors with shallow water which were nice however.

It had been overcast most of the day, but late in the afternoon the sun popped out. I decided to take a dip in one of the larger pools as I hadn’t truly rinsed myself off since the Paria. It was great.

Twentyfile Mile Wash

After the break I kept slogging away for another few hours and then found a place to camp as the sun went down.

Day 13

Had a somewhat restless night due to spiders in my tent. I’d evidently camped in “Spider Centrale” as they kept coming in to visit as I was trying to fall asleep.

Once packed up and headed down canyon I was met with more of the same frustration as the day before — deep pools and brush. However, before too long I got to the section of the canyon where the walls really begin to tower and the stream cuts a bit wider path making navigation a little quicker. Most of Twentyfile Mile Wash isn’t fun, but this section is nice with its desert varnish and several big undercuts.


NOTE: my original plan for this hike was to leave 25MW just below Egypt 3 and go cross-country to Fence Canyon and work my way down the Escalante. Though this would be the longer route, I thought it might be faster due to the difficulty of lower 25MW. However when I had yet to encounter water as expected just below Egypt — I decided to just keep going down 25MW.  Even though the lower canyon is nice, in hindsight I still don’t think it’s the best way to go. I bet the other route would have been faster even with stops at Neon Canyon (Golden Cathedral) and Ringtail Canyon (slot). Next time!

Before too much longer I was at the Escalante River! Here’s the end of Twentyfive Mile Wash as seen from the opposite bank of the river:

Headed down canyon from here was great — I walked right down the river. It was SO great to be free of the tedious brush, I really felt like I was speeding down canyon despite constant walking in water.

Soon I came to a notable spot in the river. It’s the spot that in 2006 I decided to turn around after finding the Escalate just too difficult to cross. The water was definitely higher that year, but the bigger issue was that I was relatively inexperienced to wilderness hiking in Utah. The river crossings that year were difficult and I was afraid they might get worse the farther I went, so I headed back up. This year however there was no such difficulty and I continued powering down the river!

Walking down the river was glorious as it wound beneath some towering red walls. Some bends could be short-cut — but doing so would require fighting some brush when exiting and re-entering the river. On one such short-cut I found a nice straight stick that I could use as a replacement trekking pole. I used a bit of duct tape to make a “handle” and it felt great — so nice to be walking with two sticks again.

As the sun went down I fought through the brush once more to find a place to camp away from the river.

Day 14

In the morning instead of re-tracing my steps back upcanyon to the spot I’d left the river, I tried to shortcut through the brush as I knew the river was only about 100′ away from where I camped. This was a mistake as fighting through that brush was extremely frustrating and took much longer than just walking back and around.

But soon I was back in the river and walking downstream and it was great. I decided at that time there would be no more “short-cuts” for me — I’d walk the river from this point on. The water was rarely over shin deep and it was a nice calming walk and really offered the best views of the canyon as I made my way downstream.

By early afternoon I was at the junction with Moody Canyon — where I would leave the Escalante behind and head up and over toward Capitol Reef.

NOTE: my original plan was to continue down the river to East Moody Canyon and use a scramble route the top of the Waterpocket Fold before following it south over Cliff Point and down the Baker Route. However, with limited amount of pothole water available this year I decided to forgo this option. I’d also hoped to make up some time on the longer, but what I expected to be easier route.

Before leaving the river I took an extended break for lunch. I grabbed some water to filter and set out the solar panel to charge my batteries. I used this time to take one last dip in the Escalante.

After the break I headed up the dry and rock-filled Moody Canyon.

I’d done this canyon before on my 2014 Moody Canyons Hike.  And just like that year I saw some water at the junction with Middle Moody Canyon — but not much.  A this junction I headed up Middle Moody. The lower part of this canyon has some wide-open sections and cuts through mudhills where one might see some petrified wood. A little farther up the canyon cuts through some slickrock and makes for a shallow slot canyon before opening up wide again. Then a bit farther up the walls close in again and the canyon becomes entrenched again.

Middle Moody Canyon

Soon I passed the spot where one can climb up/down a side gulch to get to the end of the Moody Canyon road near the Purple Hills. Just up canyon from here is the route up the opposite side which one can use to exit the canyon and short-cut (or loop) to East Moody Canyon. Continuing up past this point was an area I’d never walked so I was excited. It’s actually part of the Hayduke and one of the few parts I haven’t been on so it was cool to check it off the list in that sense.

I made it quite a ways up the canyon and decided to call it a day as the sun was going down. There really weren’t any inviting options for places to to camp — but I finally found a small clearing on the side of the wash that I made work.

Check out the full photo gallery below or continue reading the next section… Capitol Reef and around Lake Powell.

Photo Gallery: