Backpacking in Moab: Lathrop Trail

Continuing on with our Memorial Day Moab trip:

The cactus incident concluded any risk taking on mountain bikes for me, and we decided from now on we’d plan higher risk activities such as mountain biking at the end of our trips .  After finishing the Brand loops (cautiously) we grabbed lunch before driving to our next adventure at Canyonlands National Park.  Canyonlands is a rare gem; it’s relatively unknown and uncrowded because most tourists are visiting the neighboring Arches National Park, and if you like desert-like backpacking, it’s just amazing. 

Lathrop Trail

We had chosen to do an overnight hike on the Lathrop Trail in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.  This inverse summit hike would take us from the canyon the rim to the Colorado River for a total of 22 miles roundtrip and 2000’ elevation loss to the river. 


There is no water until the river, so our packs were a little heavier on this one.  I tend to like trails with no water, because even though you have to pack more, they are less populated, and less people = more time to enjoy nature.  This would be my first backpacking trip and always has a special place in my heart! 


The first mile or two towards the rim are fairly flat and easy trail, then the terrain turns into smooth rocks and you can see the river below, which would be our final destination for the night.


We soon approached the descent, along a breathtaking red rock canyon.  I wish the pictures could do this justice; looking down from it is one of my top five favorite scenes, easily.  to make things even better, I think we only passed one or two people on this whole hike.


The descent was surprisingly hard with all the weight we were carrying.  My legs were so shaky by the end, and I went slowly to keep from falling.  Looking up, we came a long way!


My Body Pump muscles at work:


The end of the trail towards the river was through a river wash, then along a road, and then through a canyon that seemed to go on forever.  I was tired by this point.


I was so tired and hadn’t eaten much that I started bonking (feeling weak due to low caloric intake).  To make matters worse, sunscreen had dripped into my eyes and clouded up my contacts.  I figured out later that I’d been drinking tons of water, but no electrolytes, so once I added a little Gatorade to the water I was much better.

We finally approached our campsite and David was so kind to set up the tent since I was feeling so terrible.  The campsite was pretty awesome, and we were the ONLY ones there!


Dinner with a view.


I fell asleep but awoke around midnight thinking “why is there a spotlight glaring at me?”  It was the moon, which was SO bright!  Like a big flashlight overhead. 


The following morning, we ate our oatmeal mix (I like the one they sell at REI with bananas and powdered milk, and it’s more than enough for two), then packed up.


I was a little sad to leave such a great spot, but it was time to hit the road and ascend upwards to the rim.


It was a long way up, but felt like such an achievement to reach the top.


One of my favorite parts about the hike was the guiding rock piles – love them!


A few miles after reaching the rim, we were back at the trailhead and feeling very accomplished.


Before leaving Canyonlands, we stopped by Upheaval Dome and did the overlook trail hike.  The view was kind of cool, but in all honesty, it was really touristy (I sound like such a miser, I just really love being alone in nature sometimes).



Arches National Park

Our last stop on this whirlwind trip was to the iconic Arches National Park.  We couldn’t leave Moab without a quick drive through.  It was memorial day weekend, so there were tons of minivans circling the park!! And lots of people at the various lookout points and stops.  We liked the quick trip to see the arches, but were glad we didn’t plan any extended amounts of time here on such a busy weekend.  If I were to spend time at Arches again I’d want to do it on a road bike – there were some great roads for cycling.


And that concludes an action-packed 4-day weekend, with two very tired backpackers that slept well on the plane home!


Just a few notes on Moab itself: I LOVE this town!  The food and atmosphere are great – small, eclectic and a bit hippie.  For Memorial Day weekend, it was also relatively quiet.  My favorite cafes were the Love Muffin Café (great veggie options!) and the Red Rock Bakery & Café (superb bagels).  The only disappointing place was the brewery, but all in all, Moab is really neat.  As Utahans have told us “Utah is the best kept secret, don’t tell anyone!”

8 thoughts on “Backpacking in Moab: Lathrop Trail

    1. We had planned for 5-6 hours, but I think it might have taken 6.5 (we usually plan for 20mins/mi hiking pace + 30mins/1000′ elevation gain or loss + 15 min break/2 hrs)

      1. Great. Thank so much. We are heading there to backpack one night this weekend. Your post inspired me to do this one.

      2. One more question. The Island in the Sky office wasn’t super helpful this morning for me .. it was super easy to get a permit for this specific trail right? Was there a fee?
        Thanks! Will report back!

  1. Yes, it was very easy because no one was doing the hike. They only have a limited number of back country permits, but this part of the park should be fairly easy to get one for (you need a back country permit to camp in the canyon).

    1. It was pretty amazing, great views, challenging backpacking for the mind and body.We ran into about 6 people, but still very calm, private trip!
      Was a bit surprised regarding the camping fee of $30 dollars .. but I guess it is a NP.

      1. Glad you enjoyed it! We really liked how isolated it was considering it was Memorial Day weekend. Yeah, we may have paid, but thought it was closer to $20? Maybe they raised it.

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