Syncline Loop, Canyonlands National Park

syncline loop rock climbingSouthern Utah hiking doesn’t get much better than the Syncline. This convenient loop trail was an easy one for us to choose on that first trip because, well, we only had one car. On the hike we wound through desert washes evoking the best Joshua Tree hikes, up the sides of canyons, and bounded down fun bouldered canyon walls like the bighorn sheep we got to see up close. At the lowest point, we enjoyed a stretch of mellow wash and meadow. If you appreciate solitude and the accomplishment that comes from a challenging day, this is the hike for you. One thing: be careful to follow the cairns as the trail is sparingly marked in places and it can be easy to get turned around in some of the washes.

What should I prepare for with the Syncline Loop?

I recommend this for fit, experienced hikers. In fact, there are more rescues on this route than in the rest of the entire Canyonlands park combined! Since the trailhead is so accessible and the signage is simple to follow at first, this route is easy to underestimate. Bring more water than you think you’ll need as there is none on the route—it’s unfortunately way too easy to get dehydrated under the hot Utah sun. There is also little to no cell service, so be sure to tell someone where you’re going and check conditions before you depart.

How hard is the Syncline Loop hike?

The Syncline Loop is one of the more challenging day hikes in Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district. The terrain is quite exposed and includes some scrambling and boulder hopping. The whole hike gains about 1,500’ of elevation, but most of the vertical is not too steep. I recommend hiking it clockwise to avoid having the sun in your eyes in the afternoon.

What is the best time to hike the Syncline Loop?

Like most trails on this list, and for everything I’ve done, Canyonlands trails are best hiked in the spring or fall. October is wonderful, as is April. I hiked this trail much later in the spring, but it was still doable. As far as time of day goes, plan to start early. This hike is quite exposed and the sun can be brutal during the hottest part of the day. Keep in mind you’ll have less daylight during the shoulder seasons, so start early and bring a headlamp just in case.
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