Mind-bending rock features
Sweeping high plateau views
Landscape Photographer's paradise
Cliffs, Mesas, buttes, towers, hoodoos
25-30 mi/43-52 km
The Graduate geologist adventurer will be capable of hiking 4 – 10 miles daily. Trails are generally maintained and have 5000 feet or less of change in elevation. Your backpack will weigh 30-45 lbs. Graduate time traveling hikers should be in good health, and exercise regularly. Previous backpacking experience is advised.
Witness the southwest’s premier display of the power of water, wind, and time
The Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness is a playground for the adventure geologist, and the Vermillion Cliffs Loop Backpacking tour celebrates it all. Home to some of the most spectacular, varied, and photographed places in the southwest, this loop of the Vermillion Cliffs’ greatest features is not to be missed. Starting in the northern part of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, we will visit Water Pockets with sweeping views to the famous Wave and Grand Canyon in the distace, down to Coyote Buttes where we will see twisted and wild rock formations, into White Pockets, which many say is the ultimate photography spot in the American Southwest, and into the heart of Vermillion Cliffs. From our deep wilderness basecamp, we will have the fabulous opportunity to hike and explore this outstanding wilderness, which houses some of the most fascinating and phenomenal geology, scenic vistas, and remote solitude in the American Southwest.
Guests will need the ability to hike on and off trail in places that may have physical obstacles or barriers with aggressive elevation change for up to 15 miles per day, carrying up to 40 pounds of gear. In every case other than an emergency situation, hikes are one-way and are performed at a 2 to 3 mph pace with breaks.
A real back-packing trip, comfort is what you carry with you. There are no showers or electricity on the trail and restrooms are primitive. Backpackers can expect to sleep on a sleeping pad outdoors or in a small tent. Food consists of single-entrée meals, some food are freeze-dried or dehydrated with a few fresh food selections. Meals are prepared by your guide and served “group-style” out of pots and usually eaten out of personal meal-kits while sitting on the ground.2
Hikers will visit the remote frontier. Guides will take you to the hard-to-reach and hard-to-find attractions that remain completely untouched by the crowds. Groups will see few, if any, other hikers through the trip. Overnighting is private and secluded.
The Vermillion Cliffs Loop Backpacking tour starts at the Wire Pass Trailhead near the Arizona/Utah border. After final preparations, we will make our way into the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, quickly being exposed to just why this is one of the finest wilderness areas in the United States. We’ll make a traverse up the Vermillion Cliffs escarpment toward the Water Pockets, a photogenic and geologically interesting array of erosional features, then make a quick foray into Buckskin Gulch, one of the premier slot canyons on the Colorado Plateau. We’ll continue down this through epic landscape toward the Coyote Buttes area, famous for its incredible rock formations. After more exploration, we’ll make our basecamp, and you can kick back while your geologist/guide sets up and prepares a tasty dinner.
Time in the car: 2.5 hours
Elevation & Distance: 7 miles, 160 foot descent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAYS 2 & 3
Our second and third days are all about exploring, hiking, and wandering from our basecamp in this utterly spectacular landscape of outrageous rock features, sweeping views, and high desert solitude. We’ll visit White Pocket, Big Brain, see petroglyphs and ruins, The Teepees, The Corn Cob, the Cowbay Hat, and countless other geologic features that we’ll spend our days naming. We’ll also have limitless opportunities for rock scrambling and fabulous photography.
Elevation & Distance: 6-8 miles each day, 200-500 feet of elevation gain/loss each day
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Elevation & Distance: 7-9 miles, 600 feet elevation gain/loss
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will
prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Moab to Dark Canyon and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day’s activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we’re more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.
All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide. Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods. There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other “gorp” style mixes.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
Whats Not Included:
Transportation to/from Escalante, Utah
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet
How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will accommodate 6 people plus one geologist/guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 10 people plus 2 guides.
Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble’s scheduled trips. This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy
How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial deposit of %50 of trip cost 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 through our online booking platform or over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee).
Where does the trip begin & end?
This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, Arizona and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into Flagstaff or Phoenix. Please visit our travel page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.
Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation. Most trips will depart between 6am and 8am.
*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.
What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there
What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back at the host hotel by 6pm on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. 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.
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Join Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism on geology-themed hiking and backpacking adventures! Find the perfect Grand Canyon hiking tour, Utah Canyon Country Tour, Vermillion Cliffs Backpacking or hiking.