Big Water Canyon
Wayne County, Utah
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park (Maze District)
View this on the Utah Trailheads Map
Recreation Roads: 763, 765
Trail Type: Network
Nearby Towns: Hanksville
Nearby Trails: Lands End, Flint Trail
Trail Length: 26 miles
Elevation: 4,870 to 6,029 feet
There is an additional 15 miles of trail after Ekker Butte that we have not completed. Descriptions found here of that area are estimates.
Though the name of this trail implies that you'll see the water of Lake Powell, there is a good chance that you won't see any water at all. There used to be water in this canyon, and it was named after it. Now, it's very dry. Though it is a fairly easy trail, it is not maintained and conditions could be different than they are described here.
The trail starts on the Lands End trail just north of the eastern end of Flint Trail and near China Neck at the end of Lands End. You must work your way down into Big Water Canyon at the start of the trail, and this is the most challenging part of the trail. Remember, you must come back up this hill later so use caution. Bagpipe Butte is to the west of you as you get to the bottom of the hill. Note that there is an overlook of this butte off of the Gordon Flats trail to the west.
There are some chunky spots along the trail as you head north along Elaterite Basin, but it is not particularly difficult. Elaterite Butte can be seen to the east, the largest formation in the area.
The trail comes to a "Y" intersection at the bottom of a wash. The left fork goes to the Ekker Butte Campground and many more miles of trail as it heads to the water's edge. The right fork goes to the Maze Overlook Campground. Most people will take the rightmost fork and skip the long fork on the left, but both are scenic. They explore the two sides of the basin with Horse Canyon in between them.
If you take the right fork, the trail turns east. It gets very close to the edge of Horse Canyon at one point where it is flat and wide, and this is a great place for pictures of the canyon. Continue east and the trail ends at the Maze Overlook, and impressive overview of the South Fork of Horse Canyon below you. The campground is a short distance from here where the trail ends. This area is known as Brimhall Point.
From here, you can hike down the side into The Maze. The Chocolate Drops are visible from the overlook, and the hiking trail goes to them and then south where it intersects with the Land of Standing Rocks trail at two locations (a trail not yet featured on this site). A vehicle cannot continue, however, so you must return to the intersection.
Take the other fork at the intersection and you'll head north around Horse Canyon. This side is longer as you follow along at the base of the Orange Cliffs. You'll pass under Panorama Point, an overlook on the Cleopatra's Chair trail (not yet featured on this site).
The first stop on this fork is at the Ekker Butte Campground at the base of Ekker Butte. It is on a giant slab of slickrock overlooking Stillwater Canyon. Lake Powell is at the bottom, but you probably won't be able to see the water from here.
Though we have not explored the trail beyond Ekker Butte, it does continue for about 15 miles. It works its way along the Millard Canyon Benches and along the base of the Buttes of the Cross. The trail goes all the way to the water at Queen Anne Bottom. The White Rim trail is just across the water from this location, the closest you can drive to that trail from the opposite side of Lake Powell.
Return the way you came to reconnect with the Lands End trail.
Information last updated on June 11th, 2016.
You must do at least part of the Lands End trail in order to get to Big Water Canyon. You can come in from Cove Canyon to the south, or take Hans Flat Road, Gordon Flats, and the Flint Trail to connect with Lands End just south of the trailhead for Big Water Canyon.
Meet at the Hollow Mountain gas station at the intersection of Highway 24 and Highway 95 in Hanksville.