Round Valley Draw is an amazing slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Though the slot is probably best done as a day hike, it is possible to make it through with a big pack and continue on a longer hike down Hackberry Canyon. One could even do an extended hike linking the Upper Paria area via several possible loops. Thru hikers doing the Hayduke Trail will hike the length of both canyons.
Access to Round Valley Draw is from a spur road just west of Grosvenor Arch. The road can be rough in spots, but I’ve seen low-clearance 2WD make it with favorable conditions (prob not recommended.) It’s just a few miles until the road crosses a wash and there’s a parking area.
NOTE: Round Valley Draw and upper Hackberry are both almost always dry. Thru-hikers needing water should be able to find some at Round Valley Seep about 1/4 mile south of the trailhead along on the road. The wash might be dry, but there is a catchment pool in the center of a turn-around spot. See map in gallery.
Walk down the wash for about a mile and then you will see the slot begin to form as a big crack in the earth. Climb down in. The initial downclimb can be tough, but hopefully a log will be there for an assist. Climbing out with a big pack is difficult, but not impossible.
The first part of the slot is somewhat shallow, but there’s some interesting wavey/ribbed patterns in the sandstone.
As stated above the canyon is usually dry, but there might be some mud/puddles/snow early in the season or right after a storm. If continuing past the slot, don’t expect to see any water down canyon for 8+ miles.
A little farther down the slot gets much deeper. There will be a few boulder jams where it’s necessary to scramble down. Below this section it gets fairly dark for a stretch as the narrows walls completely block out all daylight.
One emerges into an open space before the walls close in again for a short distance.
Then the walls open a bit. There’s a difficult exit route which climbs up a gulch on the right where one can walk the rim back to the top. If doing a day hike, I’d personally just re-trace my steps through the slot as going the other direction will yield a new perspective.
For those continuing down canyon the walls continue to get wider and wider apart. Soon one comes to the junction with Hackberry Canyon and then a little farther down Death Valley Draw enters on the right. At this point the canyon floor changes from rocky/gravel to predominately sand and the walking becomes much more difficult.
The next several miles are along sandy corridors walled in with white sandstone. Small arches and toadstools are common sights along the canyon’s upper walls. Booker Canyon comes in from the east (left) . Progress up that canyon is stopped after a mile or so by a dryfall.
The canyon continues to be sandy and dry for several more miles. Eventually one will notice the sand changing colors and even becoming wet. Soon there is vegetation all around and an intermittent stream begins. In this area is a route out of the canyon known as the Upper Death Valley Trail. One can also exit here for the Stone Donkey to Hogeye Shortcut to the Paria River. There’s also a nice cowboyglyph panel right where the route leaves the canyon and climbs up a hill on the west side.
Below this spot the stream being to flow and the canyon gets more and more scenic. There are several colorful walls that tower — somewhat resembling those in Lower Muley Twist.
Unfortunately with the now running stream comes cattle. At times the air stinks and the water is tainted by their presence.
Soon one arrives at the junction of Stone Donkey Canyon. The mouth of this canyon is on the right and it looks overgrown and unappealing. However, it’s a nice canyon and a few miles up is a super-skinny slot canyon which can be explored a ways from the bottom up. Read more in the Stone Donkey Hike Guide. One can even exit the canyon before the slot on the north side and connect with the aforementioned shortcut route to the Paria.
Below Stone Donkey it’s anther few miles to the next landmark in Hackberry — a major rockfall. Just before the rockfall an old cattle trail crosses the canyon. Exiting the canyon to the east, the route can be used to access Cottonwood Road. The route out and to the west is used to access Lower Death Valley.
Just below the rockfall on the west side of the canyon is a great little spring — possibly the best water in the canyon. After this spot Hackberry begins to open up a little more. Soon a major canyon enters from the west. This is Pollock Canyon and the ambitious hiker can head upcanyon to find Sam Pollock Arch. It’s about 2 miles up to the arch, but the route requires some scampering over boulders and then a semi-sketchy ledge to bypass a dryfall. ** Note a rockfall in 2016 made the bypass impassable, but as of 2018 is was OK to traverse once again.
South of the Pollock Canyon, the Hackberry opens up even wider and some colorful Chinle mudhills come into view on the lower slopes. Where a short “triple-fork” side canyon enters on the east side, leave the drainage on the west side to visit the Watson Cabin — the oldest, still-standing structure in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Continuing downstream the canyon stays wide for a ways before it abruptly turns east and begins to narrow. A cool rock pinnacle seems to great visitors just before the canyon narrows even more and hikers soon find themselves in the ankle-deep water of the Lower Hackberry Narrows.
After about 10 minutes of walking the narrows end and the canyon opens back up just before the Hackberry ends at Cottonwood Wash. At this location there’s a trailhead parking area just off Cottonwood Road. This is the same TH which can be used to access Yellow Rock.
2009 NV to CO Hike (Sam Pollock Arch to Round Valley Draw)
2012 Bryce to Moab* Hike (Upper Stone Donkey to Cottonwood Road)
2018 Hackberry Canyon and above the Upper Paria (lower Hackberry, upper Stone Donkey, Lower Death Valley Trail to Yellow Rock)
2021 Bryce to Bears Ears #2: Bull Valley Gorge and the Upper Paria (Stone Donkey and mid-upper Hackberry)
2021 Bryce to Bears Ears #3: Round Valley Draw and the Kaiparowits (mid-upper Hackberry through Round Valley Draw)