Canyonlands Backpacking – Salt Creek Canyon

Trip Description

The Needles District of Canyonlands is a desert hiker’s paradise and a trip through Salt Creek Canyon is perhaps the best way to experience all that this incredible park has to offer. Towering rock pinnacles, slickrock mazes, shimmering freshwater pools, natural arches and archaeological wonders abound. Spend your days exploring the endless twists and turns and relax in the evenings beneath star-studded skies. The Fremont and Anasazi cultures called this canyon home as far back as 1000 years ago and farmed the broad, open benches, irrigating with the abundant water…a rarity in this otherwise arid landscape. The many signs they left behind are definitely a highlight of this adventure. From the pine forested trailhead along the flanks of the Abajo Mountains, we descend into wide open canyon bottoms, past innumerable cliff dwellings and natural arches and into a narrowing maze of colorful rocks. The exciting hike along the Peek-a-boo Trail on your last day is an epic finale to this outstanding backcountry journey!

Call or email us with any questions.


Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Days: 5 Days

Distance: 30 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate +

Origin: Needles Visitor Center, Canyonlands National Park

Cost: $1500 (plus Utah sales tax, 6.5%)


Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

Your Canyonlands Backpacking tour begins with meeting your guide at the Needles District Visitor Center at 8am for an orientation and packing session before we catch a shuttle to the trailhead. We leave the rim and descend about 1000 feet before reaching the bed of Salt Creek. The upper reaches of the canyon are uncharacteristically wide and open and the hiking is very pleasant. Tonight’s camp is a short distance from an old rancher’s cabin dating back to the 1890s. The welcoming camp is shaded by junipers. Enjoy a little afternoon exploring before dinner.
Drive Time: 1.5 hours shuttle to trailhead
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, 1100 foot descent
Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

Enjoy some hot coffee and a tasty breakfast before packing up and heading off for a great day. It’s just over 4 miles to the next campsite so you will have the whole afternoon to explore ancient ruins and fantastic rock art without carrying everything on your back. The scenery is outstanding!
Distance & Elevation: 8+ miles, minimal descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:

Today’s hike is a little longer and the canyon begins to narrow as you go. You’ll make numerous stream crossings along the way. Ruins abound through this stretch. We’ll take a detour to visit the outstanding Angel Arch before heading further downstream to make camp. Tonight you’ll sleep deep within the Canyonlands wilderness.
Distance & Elevation: 8+ miles, minimal descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:

Another day of adventure and exploring! The trail continues to meander around pinnacles and slickrock benches. The red rock against the blue skies makes for fabulous photo opportunities. Tonight we camp at the famous Peekaboo Campsite which sets us up for an exciting final day of hiking.
Distance & Elevation: 7 miles, minimal descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

For our final day, we’re off on the Peekaboo Trail, an adventuresome scramble over slickrock expanses, up ladders and through small crevices in the sandstone. You’ll get some fantastic views atop the ridgelines, extending all the way to the La Sal Mountains by Moab. Our hike finishes at Squaw Flat.
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, minimal ascents/descents
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

4-Day Option: For fitter hikers or those looking for a shorter-duration hike, our 4-day itinerary covers more backpacking miles each day and spends a little less time on side hikes.

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.


What's Included

  • A professional, licensed and medically trained guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your guide will prepare all meals)
  • All meals from a light breakfast on Day 1 through lunch on the last day + trail snacks
  • Entrance fees and backcountry permits

What's Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Canyonlands National Park
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-20% of trip cost)

*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Backpacking trips in Canyonlands will accommodate up to 6 people plus one guide.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under the age of 13 are generally not permitted on backpacking trips. This restriction may be negotiable on private tours. Please contact us with any questions regarding this policy.

How do I sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial non-refundable deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.

Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. You can also pay by personal check or PayPal (PayPal incurs a 1.5% surcharge). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-877-272-5032

Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?

This trip will begin/end at the Needles Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park (about 1.5 hour drive from Moab). You will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Moab . You will want to fly into either Grand Junction, CO (2 hour drive) or Salt Lake City, UT (4 hour drive). Boutique Air offers daily flights between Moab and both Salt Lake City, UT and Denver, CO.

Where do meet our guides?

You will meet your guide at the Needles Visitor Center (about 1.5 hour drive from Moab) at 8am the morning your hike begins. We will distribute gear and load backpacks here before boarding a shuttle to the trailhead.

We will go over logistics for the hike, expected weather (and how this might affect what clothing you bring…or leave behind), food, and answer any last minute questions. We will also use this time to fit everyone for their backpacks.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

You can leave your car at Squaw Flat at our ending trailhead. Your guide will lead you to this point after everyone is packed up. It is a short drive from the Visitor Center.

What time will we get back on the last day?

Expect to be back at the ending trailhead by 1pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. After lunch and unpacking/gear breakdown, you will be free to depart. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2023 Dates

May: 1-5, 8-12

October: 9-13

Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-877-272-5032 or email us for details.

Guest Testimonials

Guest Testimonials

“Four Season Guides provided us with an experience that we’ll talk about for many years. Unique to this backcountry trip was the ability to see Indian ruins and pictographs dated back nearly 1000 years. Four Season Guides are knowledgeable and take the stress out of the trip by taking care of all logistics. This was our 4th family backpacking trip using Four Seasons and are planning another trip for next year. We are experienced backpackers but truly enjoy traveling with Four Seasons. Our guide has become an extension of our family!”  – Duane B.

“This is my 4th trip with FSG and it won’t be my last. I recently returned from a 5 day backpack trip in Canyonlands (Salt Creek) with Bob. The landscape and historical sites were beautiful and interesting. This was a fantastic trip! Like my other FSG guides, Bob was amazing. He knows the landscape, history and did a great job of getting to know our group and picking the right hikes and stopping points tailored for us. The group size is also small (this trip was me + 3 other guests and the max size is 5).

FSG takes care of everything. I used their equipment (which is top notch) and they plan and prepare (and clean up) all the meals. Meals & snacks are delicious and great care is taken to include fresh vegetables & fruit, which isn’t easy when backpacking! You will never go hungry. A few things to note — you will need to help carry food/supplies and on this trip a bear can is required (they provide). This is also backcountry camping – so no bathrooms and no cell phone reception. A great way to get off the grid and enjoy the landscape. If you’re looking for a small, personalized, fun trip with an experienced, professional guide & company – don’t hesitate to book with FSG. I can’t recommend them highly enough!” – Elizabeth B.

“This hiking trip was A-1. With all the logistics planned for us, FSG took us down Salt Creek where we were guided to many and varied archaeological sites with spectacular petroglyphs, pictographs, potsherds and grinding stones, not to mention one of the most spectacular arches you will ever see, among a number of others in this area. The trip was well-planned and carried out. Our guide (over 14 years with this company and wilderness first-aid qualified) was well-versed in the terrain, history, and safety and cooking skills. The food was well thought out and prepared, fresh ingredients dominated. We started under threat of potential rains from a recent Pacific storm and our guide stayed on top of that issue, setting great camps and altering the hiking schedule to keep out of any potential flood danger. I can’t say enough about this amazing trip. If you are contemplating backpacking or day-hiking in Utah, Arizona, or the Sierras, you should use Four Season Guides. You won’t be disappointed.”  – Alan P.