Murphy Loop - Backpacking
This spectacular overnight trip offers a crash course in backpacking the desert—and unbeatable views of the iconic Island in the Sky District.
The 10.8-mile round-trip distance doesn't include side trips—while it's important to stay on marked trails where they exist, you'll likely want to explore the mini-side canyons and washes, and a trip to Murphy Point is an absolute must.
Destination Distance From Downtown
Not including the side trip to Murphy Point (a must-do, either at the beginning or the end of your trip), this hike clocks in at just under 11 miles. You'll switchback over 1,000 feet down a steep, exposed trail to get to Murphy Wash—and ascend it again the next morning. Aside from the descent, the hiking isn't particularly strenuous, though good route-finding skills and comfort in a remote backcountry setting are essential.
Time To Complete
You could certainly hike this loop in a day, but with its sweeping views and remote backcountry feel—all just a few miles from the parking lot—Murphy Loop is a great intro to desert backpacking.
Spring, Fall, and Winter
Regardless of the season, you'll need to bring all your own water—there's nothing potable (and often nothing at all) along the trail. Summer in the desert is sweltering, so shoulder seasons (or, for the hardy, winter) are the best time to backpack. Check the forecast before heading out; a big rainstorm could affect the condition of the wash.
No dogs are allowed beyond the parking lots in Canyonlands National Park. Do not leave dogs in the car; even cooler days in the shoulder seasons can mean dangerous temps for your pup.
As with many national parks, backpacking in Canyonlands requires some planning in advance to get permits in order. All overnight backcountry trips in the park require a permit. A permit for this particular trip costs $30 for a group of up to seven people to stay up to seven consecutive nights in the park. Reserve a permit online (no more than four months but no less than two days before your trip), or visit the Hans Flat Ranger Station within 24 hours of the start of your trip.
- Food and Drink
- Mountain Biking
- Road Running
- Trail Running
- White Water Paddling