The Halls Creek trail (which is a proper trail, maintained down until the creek itself) was for the most part quite nicely laid out. It took a northerly route, descending fairly gently and following the path of least resistance along horizontal ledges until an appropriate break allowed descent through steeper terrain. In these short descent phases, the trail was steeper and rougher, but only for a short stretch. The stretches on the horizontal traverses were the most scenic bits of the trail.
Halls Creek Overlook Trail
Descending to Grand Gulch
By the standards of canyon hiking in the southwest, the Halls Creek Overlook trail isn't too hard - it's 800 feet of descent and just over a mile down to Halls Creek. Even with an emergency run-back by me to ensure that I had locked the car, we made it down in fairly quick order, arriving at mostly-dry Halls Creek by 2:30pm.
From here, we had to hike south along the wide and open terrain of Grand Gulch. Although there was no official trail, a very distinctive herd path soon formed, and in most places continued in a very distinctive manner, southward. There was talk in the various guidebooks about the remnants of an old wagon route from the Mormon pioneer days, but as much as I tried, I couldn't find any sign of it
In almost all sections, the unofficial footpath was quite obvious, cutting across flat benches and saving us from having to follow the lazy meanders of Halls Creek. On our left was a long, flat high cliff - the western edge of Big Thompson Mesa. On our right was the sloping, soaring form of the Waterpocket Fold. In places it was brilliant white Navajo slickrock - in other places orangey Wingate sandstone. In yet other places there were other landforms, like the pleistocene-era rockslide known as "Red Slide" - a jumble of disorganized rock dotted with strange crumbly hoodoos.
The hiking was easy but a bit monotonous, with mile after mile passing without much of a change in pace. We had started fairly late in the day, and we were trying to make up a bit of time, hoping to arrive at our campsite not too late in the evening.
Stands of Cottonwood trees often mark the location of moisture and water in the desert southwest. A large such stand of Cottonwood trees at the roughly 10 mile mark indicated that we were getting close to our campsite, and - hopefully - flowing and potable water for us at that camp.
The bed of Halls Creek magically started to flow a trickle of clear water as we approached a large bend full of Cottonwoods. Cutting around a corner, we came to the next stretch of creek and now there was a fairly steady, clear flow - more than enough to handle our needs for dinners and breakfasts and bottle fill-ups.
The slope of the Waterpocket Fold -- which had kept its distance off to the right for the entire hike down -- extended farther out into Grand Gulch in this area. That, and the fact that creek clearly headed towards a gap in the slope, meant we were pretty close to the narrows - and that we had covered all the distance we needed to cover for the day. We began to cast about for a good campsite.
Nearing our desired camping location
We didn't feel like spending too long to find the ultimate perfect campsite, and we ended up picking a fairly nondescript little spot: a small sandy bench just a few yards away from the creek. There was also some slickrock quite close by, which is always desirable - compared to sandy ground, it's a much cleaner place to cook and hang out.
Our day along Halls Creek had been as quiet as the previous day hike in the San Rafael Reef had been busy. We had seen precisely zero people along the trail and we had detected only two other humans at all - those being some individuals we could half-see camped a few hundred yards away further down the creek. The solitude was very much appreciated, and made this beautiful, wild place that we were in... well, it made it that much more special.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Halls Creek Narrows Day 1 - click map to view
Halls Creek Narrows Day 1 - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet