FATMAP difficulty grade
The loop hike through Big Spring Canyon and Squaw Canyon makes a fun exploration of both the intricacies and immensity of this landscape, with forest paths through hidden oases and slickrock scrambles to distant panoramas.
It’s mostly easy walking, but some parts require careful footing and use of hands to negotiate rock ledges and ramps. The loop is good in either direction, but most people start with Big Spring Canyon.
This trail hops over a sandstone ridge to cross a juniper-studded meadow, then enters a canyon that gets progressively narrower, taller, and more forested as it goes.
The small creek flows for much of the year, and the trail crosses it several times.
Eventually, the trail climbs into a side canyon that’s nearly all bare rock, and begins to gain elevation more quickly.
Views get even better of red-and-white layered rock walls all around. This canyon gets steeper, and eventually, a series of rounded ledges require some scrambling to get above them.
If the rock is wet because of recent rain or snow, this section becomes dangerous, and even when dry, may give trouble to those afraid of heights.
Route finding is a bit tricky in the tiers of slickrock, so look for cairns to guide the way.
Scrambling sections continue off and on, with flatter parts in between, until topping out on an airy saddle.
From there, you’ll have views over two canyons––Big Spring Canyon, which you just ascended, and Squaw Canyon, which you must next descend. Getting into Squaw Canyon requires more careful route finding, as a series of rock slopes and ledges make a somewhat convoluted route to bypass vertical drops.
Moving carefully and steadily will ensure safe passage to the canyon bottom.
Don’t forget to look up every now and then to enjoy views of distant cliffs and rock towers, plus nearer formations that crown the canyon walls. In the bottom, Squaw Canyon is another verdant drainage with trickling water.
The trail meanders from side to side, crossing the creek several times, around a few bends between the undulating walls.
Eventually, the path trends away from the creek, crossing sagebrush flats and rising over two slickrock ridges (these are casual, no scrambling required) on the return to the trailhead. This loop is most commonly done as a day hike, but there are backcountry campsites in both Big Spring Canyon and Squaw Canyon, available by [permit](https://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/backcountrypermits.htm), in case you want to break it into two days or combine with a longer route. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/hiking.htm https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/hikes/big-spring-canyon-trail https://liveandlethike.com/2015/04/12/big-spring-canyon-squaw-canyon-loop-trail-canyonlands-national-park-ut/