SQUIRREL CANYON (to Water Canyon Arch)

Hiking Guide Photos 1 2 3

Squirrel Canyon to Water Canyon ArchLocated on BLM land behind the remote town of Hildale, Squirrel Canyon is another notable canyon that provides hikers with access to the Canaan Mountain Wilderness. While neighboring Water Canyon admittedly gets all of the attention due to its more dramatic beauty, a hike up Squirrel Canyon is still a pleasant adventure even if the scenery is a bit more mellow. The route follows an old ATV road alongside Short Creek and Squirrel Creek to join up with the Sawmill Trail on top of Canaan Mountain. Another two miles of hiking treats hikers to wonderful views from the top of the Water Canyon Arch looking down into Water Canyon.

WARNING: While this route follows mostly well-defined trails, navigation at some spots can be tricky when the route traverses bare slickrock; a GPS that works offline is highly recommended. If doing this hike during the hot summer months, bring plenty of water and protection from the sun as you will be fully exposed.

Getting to the Trailhead:

If driving from Springdale and the main canyon of Zion National Park, you should allow roughly an hour of driving time to reach the Squirrel Canyon Trailhead. Drive Route 9 west to LaVerkin and Hurricane. Once in Hurricane, take Route 59 southeast for roughly 22 miles until you reach the remote border town of Hildale. Turn left on Utah Ave, which heads due east for two miles before turning north. In less than a mile, turn right at the junction of Maxwell Canyon Rd and Water Canyon Road. Follow the dirt road north for another mile until you see the large sign for the Squirrel Canyon Trailhead and parking area on the right. Note: This road is typically accessible by low clearance vehicles, but sections of this road could be treacherous in wet conditions.

Detailed Description:

From the Squirrel Canyon Trailhead, follow the trail (ATV road) east down the steep sandy slope and up the sand bench on the other side of the Water Canyon stream. The trail/road then follows a property fence for .4 miles, but not to worry; the scenery gets better once you reach Short Creek. Depending on water levels, you may need to get your feet wet crossing the stream. Once on the east side of Short Creek, the trail/road heads north alongside the stream through pleasant cottonwood scenery.

Squirrel Canyon to Water Canyon Arch Roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead, turn left (NNW) at the confluence with Squirrel Canyon. The Squirrel Canyon Trail is also a wide old ATV road that heads up at a steeper incline with the creek far below to the right (east). In another half a mile is an old water-filtering dam and just beyond is a small stream coming in from the west. If you need to filter water, this is a great place.

Beyond the spring, the road peters out and turns to a narrower hiking trail that continues up the lushly vegetated west fork of Squirrel Canyon. Follow the trail as it hugs the east wall and ascends to the top of the ridgeline. This is probably the most strenuous part of the hike. Once out in the open on the ridgeline, follow the trail north for another half a mile as it meanders to the junction with the Sawmill Trail (Canaan Mountain Trail). Make note of this junction as it is often not marked and might be easy to miss on your return hike.

Now heading west on the Sawmill Trail, you will soon head up a large section of solid slickrock where it's easy to lose the trail but it should be easy enough to find on the other side. The sandy trail works its way up a beautiful little slickrock valley capped with large hoodoos to the north. Roughly .8 miles from the Squirrel Canyon Trail junction, keep your eyes peeled for a trail heading south. This is the Water Canyon Arch Trail.

The arch trail is a sandy track and is generally easy to follow as it heads south up to the plateau between Water Canyon and Squirrel Canyon. There are a few spots where the trail crosses bare slickrock but head straight across and you should be able to pick up the track on the other side. Squirrel Canyon to Water Canyon Arch When the trail reaches the base of a large sandstone slope, head directly up the sandstone and you should see the trail continue at the top. As you reach the high point of the trail, you will start seeing great views of Water Canyon to the south.

Soon enough you will reach the Water Canyon Arch, an impressive angular formation that stands out from the rest of the scenery. You can walk out on the arch if you like, but think twice about doing this. The top of the arch slopes outward and it's a deadly drop to the left. Any misstep could be fatal. The surrounding area is worthy of extra exploration and is a great place to relax for lunch. Return the way you came.

Water Canyon Loop Option:

For hikers who aren't familiar with Canaan Mountain or aren't experienced with wilderness navigation, it's probably safest to simply return the way you came. As you hike back down Squirrel Canyon, you will notice the Beehive, a massive sandstorm formation that stands over the east side of Squirrel Canyon. (It's easy to miss the Beehive as you are hiking up the canyon in morning light.)

But if you have extra time and energy and can deal with the navigation challenges, you can make this a longer loop hike by continuing along the Sawmill Trail to the famous "White Domes" and then descending the Water Canyon Trail. Warning: It is very easy to get disoriented on Canaan Mountain and it may take time to find "Top Rock" and the start of the Water Canyon Trail. A GPS is highly recommended. See Water Canyon for more details.

Squirrel Canyon and Canaan Mountain Map Map #1: Hildale to the Canaan Mountain Wilderness Trailheads
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
Squirrel Canyon and Canaan Mountain Map Map #2: Squirrel Canyon to Water Canyon Arch
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.

Joe's Spin:

Squirrel Canyon to the Water Canyon Arch is a strenuous and worthy adventure. While the lower sections of Short Creek and Squirrel Canyon might not be the most exciting, once you make it onto the open landscape of Canaan Mountain, you get a great shot of desolate desert beauty. Be warned though that this hike could be miserably hot on sunny summer days.

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