Alcove Spring Canyonlands National Park

Moab, Utah 84532

Alcove Spring Canyonlands National Park

Alcove Spring: Canyonlands National Park Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A long day hike or overnighter with spectacular scenery. The Alcove Spring Trail starts dropping immediately, but not as steeply as the “big drops” of Wilhite, Murphy, and Gooseberry.

The first mile of the trail down from Island in the Sky is a little rocky, but with lots of steps installed to make hiking down and climbing back up easier. The last 4 miles is easy “wash walking.”"

More Alcove Spring: Canyonlands National Park Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Canyonlands National Park: Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails (Rincon Publishing)
David Day
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"Alcove Spring undoubtedly played an important roll in the lives of the prehistoric peoples of Canyonlands. The Anasazi Indians who lived in the canyons made frequent trips to the Island in the Sky Mesa for hunting and gathering purposes, but water is scarce on the mesa top because most of the springs are located far below the rim. Alcove Spring is unique because it is so easily accessible from the mesa. The Indians could always count on finding water there-even in late summer. This spring was also well known to the sheep and cattle ranchers who grazed their animals in the area from the late 1800s. The present trail was probably built during the early 1900s by cattlemen in order to provide water for the livestock, but the details of its construction have been lost to history. Many people walk this trail only as far as the spring before returning to the trailhead, and if you choose to do that the hike is relatively easy." Read more
Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks (Falcon Guides)
Bill Schneider
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"A multiday backpacking trip, the longest in Island in the Sky. Regrettably, the Island in the Sky District doesn’t have many long backpacking loops. Instead, most of the long hikes here are out and back. However, you can create one very nice loop trip by combining the Alcove Spring Trail, Upheaval Canyon Trail, and part of the Syncline Loop with Taylor Canyon Road and a short section of White Rim Road." Read more

Alcove Spring: Canyonlands National Park Reviews

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I entered at Alcove Spring at 3:00 PM and hiked to Moses and Zeus. Turning down the Canyon (east) toward Upper Taylor Canyon for my first night's camp in a side wash off the mail trail. I was the only person with a backcountry permit in the whole zone. No people anywhere - and no water either. Ditched my pack the next morning to explore Moses and Zeus and the whole area was gorgeous in the morning light. Went about a mile up The Big Draw on my way down the jeep road. Another interesting canyon, but similar to what you have already seen at that point. Hiked to the Syncline site (reserved at the backcountry office). Great sunset and an excellent setting. Full moon made for fantastic night shots. Only hiked part of the way to the middle of the crater because several people said it was not worth it as the view was better from my campsite. Exited through the northeast side of the loop (longer and more fun). Challenging at times, but excellent scenery. The walk back to the car along the road seemed to take forever, but a great loop, overall.
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Hiked down Alcove Spring Trail...first mile pretty steep,then levels out to Turner Canyon Road where I spent the night. GPS had 7.2 Miles (Followed the stream bed rather than trail in parts) Climbed up and around the base of Moses and Zeus....Next Day, five miles down the road, then up upheaval canyon, and south side of sincline loop....GPS total for both days 23.6 miles. First and Last miles are steep...with 40 lb pack the out was tough and legs/feet still hurting 48 hours later. I'd do it again in a heart-beat. Only complaint was Park Ranger sold me a "Car" camp site and led me to think it was the only ticket available....would of preferred to sleep up by Zeus/Moses then the end of the jeep road. However didn't see another soul until I got down to rim-trail...couple guys on dirt bikes. Had the canyon to myself...and the rain.
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I rated as only 3 stars--the scenery was breathtaking, but there is a part of the trail on the north side of the Syncline Loop that felt very dangerous with a multi-day weighted pack on. There was a short section of the trail that was a complete drop off; parts of the trail were not visible for where to take the next step. This section includes a spot with a wire drilled into the rock to hold on to and by the time we had gotten to this point with 30--40 pound packs we were not so steady on our feet. My husband and I were taken by surprise as this was never mentioned in any of the literature we had read about the trail or mentioned by the rangers at the visitors center when we registered our backcountry sites. If we had known we would have somehow better prepared ourselves (mentally, if nothing else) for that treacherous spot. Also, Alcove Spring's name in itself is deceiving--there was no water between the trailhead and the Green River.
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I did the Alcove Spring and Syncline Trail Loop. It was 19.4 miles of the most spectacular trail. During the first part of the decent there are some slick parts but you certainly forget about them and difficulty because the scenery is so breathtaking. The trail is well marked and the camping is beautiful. We did the at large camping and as long as you are careful not to step on any new growth and set up camp on slick rock it will be an experiance you will never forget. You have to watch for the wind. During the night we camped down there it blew so hard it moved our tent with us and all of our equipment and water in it. If you hike out the way we did on the left fork of Syncline be prepared for a hard uphill scrabble the whole way. It was kick butt; but it was so much fun. Take plenty of water the wind will dry you out especially if you are used to a more humid climate. Super hydrating prior to your trip is also a good idea. Have Fun!!!

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Trail Information

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Nat Geo Trails Illustrated Map: Island in the Sky
Local Contacts
Nat Geo TOPO! Map (USGS): Upheaval Dome
Local Maps

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Dec 2018