Fable Valley Trail

The remote Fable Valley Trail connects Beef Basin to the lower end of Fable Valley just above a major dryfall in just over 3 miles.

This old cattle route provides access to the middle section of Fable Valley which has a spring and several good ruins as well as some other interesting sites. The trail doesn’t get many visitors as its remote trailhead is a long trip by 4×4 (or even longer on foot).  However, after the segment was included as part of the Hayduke Trail in 2006, there has been an increase in  traffic from long-distance hikers. The trail log in 2018 showed that about 3 out of every 4 visitors who signed the log were doing the Hayduke.

From the trailhead one quickly climbs up along a well-defined trail to a saddle. Looking back one has a good view of the remote Beef Basin:

looking back into Beef Basin

Continuing on the trail one contours around a plateau on the left and can begin to see the deep chasm of Gypsum Canyon taking shape on the right. Farther along there is an impressive view down into the junction of lower Gypsum and Fable Valley canyons:

junction of Gypsum and Fable

The trail continues to round the plateau on the left and soon drops down into a small side canyon which divides the plateau. In wetter seasons one might find water in this side drainage just down from where the trail crosses. Also, I’ve been told that it’s possible to follow this side drainage up and over the plateau for an alternate route back to the trailhead if so desired.

Climbing out of the side drainage and then around a bend, one will soon be near the rim of the the drop into lower Fable Valley Canyon. For the best views one will need to leave the trail to get closer to the rim itself. Not much farther along the trail and it drops into the sandy wash above the big drop and one is now officially in Fable Valley.

Headed up Fable Valley is easy at first, but becomes more difficult as water begins to appear. With the water comes brush which can really choke the canyon in some places making crossing from one side to another a difficult task (see reference video below.) The water is a fairly reliable source, but it doesn’t appear very inviting due to cows frequently mucking it up. Better water is likely found up canyon.

brushy Fable Valley

In just over a mile after entering Fable Valley a side canyon appears on the right and is where the Hayduke exits and climbs up to the Dark Canyon Pleateau. For those who want to see the better part of Fable Valley, they should continue going up canyon. In just over 2 more miles one will come to Fable Spring and the nearby ruins and archaeological sites. An old road exits Fable Valley here via a side canyon to the NE, or one can continue up Fable Valley for about another 2 miles to find another old-road which exits to the south. This longer route could be used by ambitious Hayduke hikers to see all of Fable Valley and then get back to Youngs Canyon (or head up to Trail Canyon TH for upper Dark Canyon).

The Hayduke Exit:

Those leaving the lower end of Fable Valley to continue along the official Hayduke route should be ready for a bit of an adventure. The route up the side canyon to the Dark Canyon Plateau never requires technical climbing, but there are numerous dryfalls which require scouting to find steep (and often brushy) bypasses making for a tedious ascent. There is always a safe way, so if you find yourself in a sketchy ledge/climb situation, backtrack and look for a different route up.

The spring which is shown mid-canyon on maps, has been said to be reliable though it doesn’t provide much water and now appears maybe 1/4 miles farther down canyon than marked. It’s just below this major dryfall:

side-canyon Hayduke exit from Fable Valley

In the upper reaches of the canyon be alert to find some surprises along the way.

small granary

From near the top on the Dark Canyon Plateau, look back to the northeast for a great view. One can see the side canyon leading down to Fable Valley, Beef Basin in the distance, and even the La Sal Mountains on the far horizon:

Dark Canyon Plateau — looking northwest toward Fable Valley

If in the area (or continuing on the Hayduke), you might want to check out Youngs Canyon next.

Video Reference: 

I hiked the Fable Valley Trail as part of my Zion to Arches Hike in 2018. Though I was going in the opposite direction of most Hayduke Hikers, that section can still be seen in the following two videos: