Stevens Canyon and the Baker Route

- Entrance to Stevens Canyon -

– Entrance to Stevens Canyon –

Stevens Canyon is a classic Escalante drainage which remains relatively infrequently visited thanks to its remote location.  With no major obstacles, Stevens makes for a great backpacking destination. Combined with the historical Baker Route, it  makes for a great “connector” for longer hikes and is becoming a popular alternate for hikers on the Hayduke Trail looking to avoid the long tedious segment along the Escalante River.

Here is my description headed UP the canyon from the bottom. If you are prefer, change directions and reverse the description for heading down canyon.

Lower Canyon (Escalante to Slickrock Ramp)

Most hikers will begin an adventure up Stevens Canyon after already visiting Coyote Gulch and possibly even doing the side hike up inside Stevens Arch. In any case, this description begins where the small trickle comes out of Stevens Canyon at bottom where it meets the Escalante River and Stevens Arch looms high above (photo above right).

The lower canyon is highly entrenched in Wingate Sandstone, but the towering Navajo walls are still frequently visible high above. One will likely be in and out of shallow water while traversing the lower canyon.

Nice Alcove

Nice Alcove

There are a few points where deeper pools appear to block one’s progress, but there is always a way around — usually by climbing upon a slickrock shoulder nearby. The only point that might require removing the pack is at the “rock stack” climb — an 8′ to 10′ climb which is assisted by, you guessed it… a stack of rocks.

A little farther up canyon one comes to “Poison Ivy Hill“. Here progress up the main water course is stopped by a fall which creates a scenic grotto with a hanging arch. True to its nickname — there is a lot of poison ivy in the area.

Looking up canyon at "Poison Ivy Hill"

Looking up canyon at “Poison Ivy Hill”

The bypass heads up through the overgrowth on a muddy, slick path. Luckily there are enough exposed roots which provide hand-holds to get one up through the quagmire. The hill quickly dries out and one continues up the steep talus slope of a rockfall. In 2015 and 2018 the route was fairly easy to follow to the top where it quickly drops back down into the watercourse which is dry at that point.

NOTE: a bend above the “Poison Ivy Hill”, a scramble route climbs up to the Kayenta ledges which can then be followed all the way back down the canyon and through Stevens Arch. From there it’s possible to descend to the Escalante near the confluence with Coyote Gulch.  I do not recommend this route for thru-hikers because a) the climb up is difficult, especially if solo or with a big pack and b) the lower part of Stevens Canyon is really great. Instead — just do the short hike up-and-back to the arch from the river. This route is shown on the Hayduke Reference Map. and more detail is given on the Stevens Arch Page.

Above Poison Ivy Hill one follows the twisting “subway”-like canyon where once again pools of water appear along with more poison ivy which is extremely difficult to avoid. One will pass the only major side canyon branch on the right. I’ve read reports that there is a “climber’s route” which exits this way, but I have not explored the route.

Soon one arrives to the next milestone in the canyon — the exit ramp on the right one must use to gain access to the high route. If you miss it, you will soon come to a pool and a 10′ dryfall. Turn around and head about 3 minutes back down the canyon.

The bypass route is loosely cairned and heads up a jumble of rocks to exit the wash. Then it uses a steep slickrock ramp of about 100′ to gain access to the higher Kayenta ledges. The climb up may give those afraid of heights some pause, but it’s really not that bad as the exposure is minimal.

Lower Middle Canyon (The Kayenta Ledges)

The next 1.5 to 2hrs will be spent walking the Kayenta ledges (or Wingate rim) along the southern side of the canyon. As one travels around one bend after another, there are many spots that look quite daunting from afar as the route traverses the loose edge high above the entrenched canyon below. One might find themselves saying “there is NO way I’m walking along that edge!” However, as is often the case, things look worse from afar and once you arrive at the “scary” spot it’s really not that bad. In fact, turn around and look back and you might be saying “I just walked along that?!”

The exposure isn't as bad as it appears from afar.

The exposure isn’t as bad as it appears from afar.

A little more than an hour up the canyon there is a talus slope which provides access down into the inner canyon once again. This is not the route, but an opportunity to explore if one so desires. Below one would likely find water and nice campsites if needed. However, retrace your steps back up to the ledges when finished exploring as there is no other escape from this section of the canyon.

After a few more scenic bends one sees a major dryfall ahead in the inner canyon. The route drops down via a large dune and once again you find yourself in the main watercourse. Check out the arch where the main watercourse cuts its way through the dryfall.

Upper Middle Canyon (Dryfall to Baker Trail Exit)

Above the dryfall the canyon is again dry for a while. Shortly up canyon, multiple canyon branches come together and the canyon seems fairly wide open. One can easily see a branch headed to the right (south) as well as another straight ahead (east), but it’s actually the somewhat hidden main canyon on the left that you want (which runs north). The route away from the “Triple Junction” becomes clear if you climb over slickrock ridge to avoid a short narrows section.

Wide-open canyon near Triple Junction

Wide-open canyon near Triple Junction

From here the canyon becomes very sinuous as it winds its way north of the “Tower” — the prominent landmark pinnacle in this part of the canyon. Soon one may begin to see water again as the canyon enters another short narrows/subway section.

As you make your way around a prominent right-hand turn, look for cairns on the right marking the beginning of the Baker Route climbing up and out of the canyon to the east. If you pass this point, you will soon come to HEAVY vegetation which surrounds the spring that provides all the water for Middle Stevens.

Upper Canyon

I have not explored Upper Stevens, but it is possible to continue up the canyon. Steve Allen’s guide Canyoneering 3 details this part of the canyon. Ambitious hikers/climbers can even gain access to Fold Canyon via a pass/saddle and make a loop back down to the Escalante (ropes required.)

The Baker Route (Middle Stevens to Halls Creek)

The route out of Stevens climbs quickly up the slickrock shoulder to the east providing excellent views of the lush area around the spring to the north and the Tower to the south. The route soon levels off and then runs atop the Wingate sandstone on the south side of the drainage which heads east. This first section is quite scenic running above the entrenched inner canyon.

Looking back atop the Wingate in the Exit Canyon

Looking up canyon atop the Wingate in the Exit Canyon

Before long the route returns to the main watercourse. During wetter seasons one will likely find water in the many of the potholes along this section. A little farther up is a relatively large pothole which is reported to frequently hold water throughout the year.

Less than ¼ mile past the large pothole is where one needs to exit this side drainage into another a smaller side branch entering from the north (left). This segment is maybe the trickiest part of the route and must be followed precisely as all other routes are impassable. Study my map to get the gist of the route through this section. The direct route up the side drainage is immediately blocked, but a simple (but steep) bypass is apparent. One then heads up the drainage several hundred feet before exiting to the left (west). I call this the “Switchback” and it seems like the wrong direction, but continuing straight will lead to a dryfall and exiting to the right leads to an impassable route. However, doubling back to the left a sparsely marked route leads to a break in the cliffband. Once topped, one is in the land of Navajo domes. Here one can rimwalk around this side drainage all the way around the dryfall and then back south towards the original side canyon. A well-worn route from here short-cuts back toward the main wash — the upper reaches of which are likely to be sandy and bone-dry.

The walk up the wash continues for about ¾ a mile before climbing out on the right side up a hill. Here the trail will wind its way through some domes gradually gaining elevation before making it to the crest of the Waterpocket Fold in about another ½ mile. The trail is sporadically marked in this section and it will be easy to lose in spots, but generally if you keep heading east toward the high ridge you will be fine.

Once on top the views are great even though it’s not as prominent as other places along the fold. Back behind are views across Stevens to Fiftymile Mountain and ahead is a great panorama of the Henry Mountains, the rolling domes/fins of the Fold and the Bullfrog Bay and Marina on Lake Powell. This location is also one of the spots that has Verizon cell reception so check in if needed.

Eastern Panorama from top of The Fold

Eastern Panorama from top of The Fold

The route down to the east and into the Grand Gulch of Halls Creek can also be confusing. At some points the route is marked every 10 feet, but then other sections there’s not a cairn to be found. In general I found it easiest to just pick my own route of least resistance. When I do, I frequently then find myself coming across route markers. A word of caution though: this is an extremely remote location and you likely won’t see anyone one else. Make sure you generally know where you are as you don’t want to wander aimlessly along the Fold in the wrong direction. FYI: my linked map includes coordinates for several confirmed waypoints/cairns.

Depending on the season, one is likely to find multiple potholes going down the eastern slopes. They seem to be more prevalent on the lower slopes unfortunately. On the map it appears that it might be possible to shave off some mileage by angling north and continuing through the slickrock. This may indeed be the case, but it’s likely more work than it’s worth as walking a straight line in this country is impossible. Each time I get near the bottom, my shins are quite sore from walking along the steep slickrock and I have no desire to fight the undulating domes any more so I usually just try to get down asap. A final bit of advice — once down in Halls Creek, try to stay in the wash or along its eastern side to avoid the deep brush that chokes the small streams entering from the fold.

Video Reference:


Important Waypoints:

  • N37.435471° W-110.982170° — Stevens Canyon meets the Escalante
  • 37.441261° -110.974921° — Poison Ivy Hill
  • 37.456455° -110.959043° — Inner Canyon Exit Ramp (south side)
  • 37.472523° -110.935138° — re-enter main drainage above dryfall
  • 37.474815° -110.926551° — Triple Junction (main canyon runs north)
  • 37.486306° -110.927106° — Leave Stevens for Exit Canyon
  • 37.501749° -110.906932° — Exit Canyon Bypass
  • 37.502556° -110.907140° — top of “Switchback” bypass
  • 37.507823° -110.890982° — Baker Route exits wash and climbs toward summit
  • 37.509143° -110.887013° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.510955° -110.883167° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.518723° -110.877286° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.518281° -110.875464° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.519900° -110.872542° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.524010° -110.868782° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.527753° -110.865784° — confirmed cairn along Baker Route
  • 37.533815° -110.858845° — My route down off slickrock
  • 37.538538° -110.852807° — My exit point near bottom of Baker Route


  1. Hey Jamal.
    In 2017 we attempted and out and back to upper Steven’s canyon. Got to the section above the pour off where you walk the Wingate/Kayenta contact with a lot of exposure to your left. It looked too sketchy for the group I was with so we turned back. Great trip otherwise; Stevens is lovely. Your video doesn’t remark on the exposure here, though your pictures comment that “it’s not as bad as it looks.” Can you say more? If your approach into Stevens through the arch worked, would that manage to avoid the exposed section? Thanks!

    • Heya Matt — sorry, missed this question earlier (notifications are not working for me.) The route through the arch would not skip this section AND it’s actually worse so I don’t recommend it. So your group made it up the slickrock ramp, but then turned back at the beginning of the ledges? I really think the ramp is worse and the ledges aren’t that bad when actually walking them (though they look intimidating from a distance.) My video from last year shows this area again and the upcoming episode in the extended series will take an even closer look — so be sure to check that out.

  2. shad david sluiter

    Here is a link to the map with the points you published.
    (admin removed link)

    • Thanks, but I actually removed the link though as maps like this tend to spread like wildfire online. My goal is to provide my maps/beta more as a research tool than a “download and go” solution. I believe this helps slow the spread somewhat, presents a small barrier of entry to casual hikers, AND allows me to update content from trip to trip (in theory, as time provides.) Not trying to be a gatekeeper, but for now that’s my strategy. Cheers!

  3. What would be mileage and estimated walking time, from the crack entry, to start of Stevens, then to the poison Ivy hill, then to the exit ramp, then reenter above dry fall, triple junction, and the Baker Rout exit? Trying to get a handle on time needed to do an in and then back out the same way trip. Thanks for sharing all that you do.

    • It’s all fairly slow walking — both due to rough terrain and just being so scenic. I don’t have all the splits, but it’s about 5 miles from Crack-in-the-Wall TH to the mouth of Stevens and then about another 10 miles up to the Baker Exit. Check out the Through Stevens Arch page for possible adventurous loop options.

  4. Does anyone know if it’s possible to exit the west side of stevens canyon prior to fold canyon in order to make a smaller loop than the Coyote Gulch/Stevens Canyon/Fold Canyon loop? Exit stevens earlier and then head down Shofar, Hydra, or Ichabod? On the topo, it looks like there’s a small canyon to the west of the pour off prior to the 3-way stevens spllit that maybe would provide access to the plateau to the west of Stevens Canyon? Thanks!

    • I’ve wondered this myself, but I have never heard of anyone giving it a try. The fact that Allen doesn’t mention it makes me believe it’s not possible. Also, I have a photo of that canyon from the south side of Stevens and the upper walls look pretty daunting. But… it only takes one weakness and my shot doesn’t show the whole canyon, so… let’s see if anyone else chimes in. 🙂

      • Hopefully someone replies – because I have done the stevens/fold canyon loop before (one of my fav hikes of all time), but I’d like to shorten in with a sooner exit.

  5. Thanks for the post. I just floated the Escalante and was wondering about the route up Stevens.

  6. Thanks, Jamal. Stevens Canyon and its many branches form a true paradise on earth. Routefinding is not always easy, though, so i hope your readers will keep a good map handy (“Stevens South” and “Stevens North” 7 1/2 quads) besides their semi-dependable GPS! BTW, if you want to avoid all that poison ivy and most of the pool-crossings at the beginning, you can enter Stevens Canyon up higher by walking right through Stevens Arch itself! It’s a truly cosmic entrance; there’s a path up the rockfall on the east side of the Escalante, just downstream from Stevens’ mouth. — bodie jack

    • Thanks for the comment, Jack. I did the arch route last year (well… most of it). I updated my Hayduke Ref Map with the details, but I should put a blurb on this post as well. Under the arch is def amazing, but overall I wouldn’t recommend the route to thru hikers because A) I think lower Stevens is amazing and shouldn’t be missed and B) the scramble up/down from Stevens is kinda tough (especially if solo with a big pack like me.) But…. as a loop trip with a smaller pack and combined with Coyote it could be great.

  7. Awesome stuff. Thanks, Jamal.

  8. Jamal – thank you so much for taking the time to provide these extra descriptive details, and especially the GPS beta, for the Stevens exit/Baker Route down (or up) the Fold. I posted about my navigational mishap on the HDT FB page while attempting to do this section from north-south and would now attempt it again with these waypoints and additional information you’ve provided. I think this route – or at least the section that I did manage to complete – is amazing, and I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a challenging but non-technical canyoneering experience. It’s also an ideal shakedown trip for those looking to do a HDT through-hike.

    I always look forward to watching your trip videos when I get notice of a new one, and reading the associated trip reports. Stay safe, and keep up the inspirational trips!