Fish Creek/Owl Creek Canyons Loop

  • Distance: 16 miles
  • Time: 2 days
  • Elevation gain: 1300 feet
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Overall: 8
  • Reference: Southeastern Utah, about 15 miles southwest of Blanding.
  • User groups: Hikers. No wheelchair access.
  • Permits: Permits are required. Parking and access are free.


From Blanding, UT, take US 163 south for approximately three miles. Turn west on State Route 95 for about 30 miles. Turn south on State Route 261 and drive about five miles. Turn east on a dirt road for about 5.5 miles to a parking area.


For USGS topographic maps, ask for Snow Flat Spring Cave and Bluff NW. Trails Illustrated's Grand Gulch Plateau.


BLM Moab District, San Juan Resource Area, 435 North Main, Monticello, UT 84535; (435) 587-1500

Trail notes

Fish Creek Canyon and Owl Creek Canyon offer excellent hiking through highly scenic canyons rich in Anasazi ruins. Although many of the ruins are in better condition than even those in nearby Grand Gulch, quite a few of them lie inaccessible in high alcoves, the steps to them long gone. Still, there's plenty to see up close and personal. The loop can be hiked in either direction, but this route heads down Owl and up Fish. Start south from the trailhead, soon dropping into Owl Creek Canyon. The first ruin stands not far from the trailhead, and several ruins can be seen up the south fork of Owl Creek. You should see several more ruins along the six or so miles of the main canyon before its meeting with Fish Creek, and you'll pass huge and picturesque Nevills Arch. At the confluence with Fish Creek, turn north--but if you have time, you'll find more ruins lower in Fish Creek Canyon and up its tributary McCloyd Canyon. This loop goes up Fish Creek about eight miles, through a lovely canyon with far less ruins than the section of Owl Creek you just hiked, and out of Fish Creek via a steep trail up the south wall. Then you'll cross the mesa for about 1.5 miles back to the starting point. No trail exists, so carry an accurate map and compass. Fish Creek Canyon and its south fork extends much further north if you have the time and inclination to explore.

Information courtesy of Buck Tilton, author of Utah Hiking.

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