It is the Old West, as it should be. Dusty and worn and filled to the brim with an overwhelming feeling of old and tired. A ranch that sits abandoned. A child’s swing, rust encrusted and lonely, swaying in a melancholy breeze. Corrals that want for cattle and horses and have been left in need for decades. Roads that disappear into the sagebrush and an endless feeling of endless desert.
Lost Spring Canyon is a new addition to Arches National Park, added only in 1998. The Grand Canyon Trust wanted to see this unique wilderness area preserved and bought the tract of land for protection. For years, it was a popular cattle grazing area, and you can still see remnants of lost ranching throughout the canyons. More often than not, you will be the only person there to explore the washes, slickrock and meandering canyons in the Lost Spring.
Lost Spring Canyon is easy to find on a map, not so easy to get to. You can either leave from the Arches NP campground/Broken Arch trailhead or drive through imposing backcountry. To walk, hike .2 miles on the trail, then follow the natural gas pipeline (it crosses the trail and is fairly obvious) to the right for nearly 3 miles until you hit Salt Wash. Follow Salt Wash another 2 miles down into Lost Spring. It’s the big canyon in front of you, so it’s hard to miss.
If you want to drive, make sure you gas up. Take I-70 to exit 193 (one of those No Services exits!) and use a combination of the NPS map and the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for Moab North to navigate the dirt/sand roads. The directions on the NPS brochure are good, but the map is wrong. Be aware that in wet weather, the roads may be impassable. There are established BLM campsites near the entrance of the canyon (before you hit NPS property and on high clearance roads) that offer excellent views, so you may want to consider snagging one of them to maximize your time.
It is out of the way, but well worth the effort. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time and bring plenty of water, whether you hike or drive.
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