Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,250.00 ft (381.00 m)
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

Escalante - Grand Staircase Area, Utah
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
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Comments

03/08/2019
I am going the first part of April and have been watching the storms crossing there. While I have identified possible water pools that could be there early in the Spring, all the articles suggest you plan on packing in and out the water.

Here is my recon of posted routes used on AllTrails and Gaia, along with their pictures and my recon of possible water points. See my google map recon at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1JkF5AnDCUvPAqLK-dnjrXeXM5JvKXzTe&usp=sharing.

I am planning on cacheting water along the way, 1 liter every 3 miles for the return hike. I have typically averaged 2 liters on my 9 mile hikes in the mid-west, but not with as heavy a pack as required for this trip. The Clever Hike's guide suggests packing 1 GAL per day, which makes around 8 liters or almost 20 lbs of water, ugh!
Hi Sung, great questions. While on a vision fast in southern Utah, I drank about 1L of water every 3 hours, or about a gallon per day, and that's a typical recommendation (I'm 6'3" and about 190lbs for reference).

That said, you should take more. You'll be hiking at least 18 miles, for one. Also, Reflection Canyon isn't the most straightforward hike, and you'll need to plan for contingencies should you make a wrong turn. (Technology can minimize your risks here, but, again, plan for technology to fail.)

I'd probably suggest carrying north of 5-6L per person per day. Google around for a second opinion. That may seem like a lot for an April hike, but I'd probably feel safest if I over-prepared in this respect.

Only black bears are known to pass through the Glen Canyon area. Sightings are very rare. You can probably leave the canister at home.
01/30/2019
We are planning to hike to Reflection Canyon in the middle of April and stay one night. How much water should we take per person?

Should we bring a bear canister?
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