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Dark Canyon Wilderness

National Forest
The lower reaches of Dark Canyon Wilderness. Lost Canyon. Most popular for hiking in the spring and fall. – San Juan County, Utah Visitor Services

ADA Accessibility Notes

The area is not accessible to the physically challenged unless they are outdoor enthusiasts used to traversing difficult and demanding terrain.

The Wilderness area is not officially accessible to the physically challenged unless they are outdoor enthusiasts used to traversing difficult and demanding terrain. Horse and llama pack trips are available into the canyon.

Dark Canyon was the first major Colorado Plateau Canyon terrain to be added to the Manti La Sal National Forest Wilderness system. The area, jointly administered by the US Forest Service and the BLM, is characterized by deep sandstone canyons with vertical walls ranging from a few hundred to thousands of feet in height as well as by high altitude mesa terrain on the west side of the Abajo Mountains. It contains arches, springs, seeps, and hanging gardens. Life zones range from ponderosa pine and aspen-covered high country to desert vegetation in the bottom of the canyon. Specific regulations govern the use of the area; contact the appropriate agency prior to entering the wilderness.

Views include those from the top down into the vast canyons of the Wilderness and views along those canyons from the bottom.

Depending on where one enters the Wilderness and where one travels, the fauna and flora will differ greatly from Ponderosa Pine and Manzanita brush to Prickly Pear and Yucca. The fauna ranges from elk and mule deer to lizards and snakes. Various ecosytems are present in the Wilderness.

At times the number of people entering the Wilderness might be considered large since it is a favorite hiking area for students on spring break at regional colleges and universities. The lower elevations are best accessed in March and April while the upper elevations are accessible later in the summer - sometimes, depending on snow accumulation, as late as July. Since travel is limited to foot and horseback the number of visitors is not overwhelming.

Pet Friendly Notes

This is a wilderness area and wildlife is abundant. Pets and stock animals can attract bears and cougars. Traveling with dogs, in particular, can be dangerous due to steep drop offs and difficult trails as well as the interest cougar have with dogs. Visitors traveling with pets must be acquainted with their pet's ability in a wilderness setting and must be willing to carry water and food and clean up after them. It is required that non-seed hay be fed to pack animals for two weeks prior to entering the wilderness. Wilderness permits are required.

Contact the appropriate agency: the Monticello Field Office of the BLM, 435-587-1500,, 435 North Main Street (US Hwy. 191), P.O. Box 7, Monticello, UT, 84535 or the US Forest Service, Monticello Ranger, 435-587-2041,, 496 E. Central, Monticello, UT 84535.

Recreational Opportunities

Dark Canyon Wilderness offers stellar back-country and remote hiking and camping opportunities.


Seasons Accessible

The Wilderness is accessible year round, weather permitting and depending on the elevation accessed. Higher elevations are not accessible after the first winter storms race through the area in mid to late October. The lower elevations are open longer during the year.