Hiking the Murphy Loop in Canyonlands National Park

Junipers Around Waterpocket Below Cliffs

Canyonlands National Park is one the least visited of Utah’s five national parks. The area that people tend to visit, when they do, is the Island in the Sky District. This was certainly true for myself as well. And yet, despite several visits to the area, I had never hiked below the rim. After getting reacquainted with my hiking legs from a long hiatus, I was finally ready to go below the rim on Christmas Day of 2021.

The Murphy Trail is both an adventurous, but relaxing, 11 mile trek below the Island in the Sky’s mesa rim. Descending the rim, it’s nearly impossible to see how to get down the rim until you take the next step. And yet, a safe and reliable path down guides hikers to the desert floor below, ultimately joining the White Rim Road for a brief section.

It was along this short stretch of the White Rim Road that I met the one other person also hiking that trail that day. We shared pleasantries before remarking how sublime it was to be hiking in Canyonlands National Park on a less popular hike on Christmas Day. This became one of my favorite hikes not just for the delightful experience of such a fun trail, but also for the milestone it represented in dipping below a mesa’s rim that had always formerly seemed daunting and unattainable. Merry Christmas to me.

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