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Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Backpacking to Reflection Canyon is not for the faint of heart. It is an incredibly challenging 20-mile round-trip hike through the Glen Canyon backcountry for one view into Reflection Canyon. Reflection Canyon is an extension of Lake Powell, and it is usually seen by boat and plane, though this intense hike is starting to gain more popularity as of late. Its location was revealed in 2006 when National Geographic published photographer Michael Melford's photos of the canyon. It also gained popularity when it was used by Apple in June 2012 to promote the new Mac Book Pro high resolution with retina display. This view is remote, and you definitely have to work to get the view as a reward. While it can be done as a one-day hiking trip, photographers may want to consider an overnight stay to wake up with a sunrise view unlike any other.

To begin, you'll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to access this remote section in the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument via an unmaintained and unpaved route down Hole in the Rock Road. You'll want to take the speed limit to heart even when the road is in good condition, as blown-out tires keep the local gas station in business. Be sure to check weather and road conditions before you head out; storms and rainfall can wash out portions of the road and create sections that are muddy and impassible. If the conditions allow, drive 50 miles down this road, entering Glen Canyon territory in the last 5 miles of the trip. Watch for a small parking area on the right. The canyon itself is southeast from where you park, but because of all the other gulches, canyons, and ravines in the area, you will need to hike southwest first.

You'll notice a vast, straight edge of cliffs on your right as you're facing south. Those cliffs are your lifeline, and you'll always want to keep those cliffs to your right and stay as close as you can to them for 90% of the hike. If you venture too far from the cliffs you'll end up deep in multiple different slot canyons. Approximately 5 miles into your trek you'll see a flat, almost squared-off face in the cliffs. This is where you'll want to leave the cliffs and keep them at your back, turning southeast. From that point it is approximately 2 miles to the canyon. 

This hike is anywhere between 18 and 20 miles round trip, depending on the route you take and how many slot canyons you run into. Because there is no trail to follow, a person's steps will always vary. Though the net elevation gain is small, remember that you will be constantly climbing ravines, hills, and canyons. Also, there are no places to get water on this adventure. You will need to carry all of your water and bring plenty of it if you explore this area in the warmer months. If you plan to backpack in, all Leave No Trace rules apply, and you must carry out everything that you bring in. Dogs are allowed in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; they must remain on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and all waste must be picked up and carried out. A GPS is highly recommended for waypoints such as the parking area and the cliffs. There is no cell phone reception, and you're very unlikely to run into anyone the whole duration of your trip. Reflection Canyon is remote and isolated, and the silence and calm that surrounds is just as rewarding as the view.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Challenging. Remote. Secluded campsites. Incredible view of Lake Powell.

Cons

Hard to find. No water. Long trip. No trails.

Trailhead Elevation

4,478.00 ft (1,364.89 m)

Net Elevation Gain

347.00 ft (105.77 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument
Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, Utah
Glen Powell National Recreation Area

Comments

Good question, Lance. While it makes sense to take advantage of that water source, I'm not confident you can actually access the bottom of Reflection Canyon via this hike. The cliffs are too steep and dangerous to descend. Looks like other web sources suggest the same.

J.
04/11/2019
While "no water" is listed for the route, is not the water available at the canyon/destination itself, to replenish for the haul back were one to overnight it there? Trying to safely minimize weight.
Thank you
03/15/2016
Indeed, this hike is absolutely not to be underestimated. Before going, you should already be highly experienced at wilderness navigation and survival. If you're unsure about how much water to bring, that implies you're not sure how much water you consume on a daily basis, which is not a good start. At the very least, pack in enough water to get yourself all the way there, and back. And just don't go, period, during extremely hot weather in the summer.

Keep min mind that off-trail wilderness miles feel a LOT longer than ordinary miles. The terrain appears deceptively level on topo maps and Google Earth, but rest assured, you'll spend the entire day going up and down little dirt and rock humps.

Lastly, the viewpoint itself is extremely sketchy. This is not the granite cliff edge you may be used to in Yosemite etc; it can be sandy, slippery stuff with loose bits everywhere. Approaching the edge, especially in the dark, is highly unadvisable.

If you're hoping for a true wilderness experience, the chances of encountering other hikers in this area has risen significantly in the last 5+ years. When I spent 2 nights there in 2016, there were 6 others who had randomly decided to go at the same time. Not as much "wilderness experience" anymore, I guess... And, it has only grown significantly in popularity since then.
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