I forget where I got the idea to do this one. Perhaps it was when I was 6 years old sitting at the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail. I remember looking up at the slickrock to the north leading up the the East Temple thinking to myself: "Wow, wouldn't it be cool if you could hike up there?" Well you can! What I call the "East Temple Loop" is a 2-4 hour hike (roughly 2 miles, 1000 ft. elevation gain) with lots of rock-scrambling to get some great and seldom-seen views of the upper east canyon. This route doesn't go to the top of the East Temple (technical climb), but it takes you to the saddle just beneath the East Temple, then through a beautiful slickrock side canyon and finally out Upper Pine Creek back to the Route 9 main road.
WARNING: Although it starts off of the family-friendly Canyon Overlook Trail, this strenuous off-trail route involves exposed rock scrambling and requires good navigation skills in very vertical terrain. This route is not suitable for casual hikers.
Please see the little map below to reference the numbered points. (1) The route starts by doing the standard Canyon Overlook Trail to the final viewpoint (2). Now the fun begins! Look north and study the slickrock before you start your ascent. The slickrock directly underneath the East Temple is quite steep and dangerous -- don't head there! You will want to plan your route to be further over to the right (east) sticking fairly close to the several large hoodoo formations east of the Temple. Now start hiking north to leave the tourists behind. You will see a large white hoodoo in the foreground; as you start scrambling, be sure to make your way to the right of the hoodoo, then climb up the bench behind it, staying right and zigzagging up the cracks in the shelves of the slickrock.
Now you are on your way! You will see a few cairns here and there, but there is no correct route at this point. Just be sure that you are never directly south of the East Temple as this is the dangerous section of slickrock. While this route is steep and exposed, you should never feel like you are on the verge of slipping to your death. As you work your way up, you get a better view of the main canyon and the people at the Canyon Overlook viewpoint will appear smaller and smaller! Almost 1000 feet higher, you will reach the saddle between the main canyon and upper Pine Creek (3). This is a perfect spot to take in the view and eat lunch.
Now that the climbing is over with, it's time to make our way back down! From the saddle (3), hike east on the rim then scramble down the bowl to the north. Again, there is no correct route; just follow the fractures in the slickrock and find the easiest way down. If you reach any drop that appears too tall, retrace your route and find an easier way. (There are plenty of ways down.) At the bottom of the bowl, hike a little dry wash east until you reach the seemingly impassible obstacle: a narrow deep canyon unofficially known as "Shelf Canyon." Do not attempt to descend this deep gully! Instead, hike north alongside it until you reach the head of the canyon (4); there, you can safely circle around and make it to the other side.
Once beyond Shelf Canyon, you can hike south on the shoulder between Shelf Canyon and Upper Pine Creek, and then finally descend east down more slickrock to reach the dry streambed of Upper Pine Creek (5). You are now safely back on the ground! Hike out Upper Pine Creek to the road (6), then walk the road back to your car. Wasn't that fun!?!?
I love this little route! Fairly short but fairly strenuous; a little scary, but lots of fun rock scrambling, great views, and a jaunt through some seldom-visited slickrock country. This one is NOT for the entire family and it's not for anybody who has a fear of heights.