Trip Report: The Syncline Loop in Canyonlands National Park
View of the Upheaval Valley from the top of the Syncline Loop Trail
“Desert Season” will soon be winding down – at least until Fall – in Southeastern Utah. If you’re looking for a good way to pack in the miles and views, check out the 8-mile Syncline Loop in Canyonlands National Park. My boyfriend Rory and I recently spent 5-hours hiking this strenuous circuit around the Upheaval Dome.
It’s best to walk the trail in a clockwise direction, descending into Upheaval Canyon. We plunged downward, nearly 2,000 ft., in the first two miles. Sandstone spires and sheer red walls towered overhead as we continued into the deep canyon.
There is little to no shade on the trail and, depending on the weather, little to no water. Be sure to wear a lot of sunscreen, wear a hat, pack your eNZees to prevent blisters, and carry at least 2-3 litres of water.
After three-something miles, the trail splits. If your legs have the energy, you can tack on an additional 3-miles to your hike and explore the inside of the Upheaval Crater. We were in a rush to drive back to Durango, so Rory and I followed the main trail up a steep slope and continued a gradual ascent to the rim. This last half of the trail required frequent scrambling and brief exposure over the canyon below.
As I mentioned earlier, the Syncline Loop is strenuous and definitely not for beginning hikers. In the brochure the ranger gave us there is a brief notation warning hikers that the majority of all search and rescues in the Island in the Sky district occur on the Syncline Loop.
Ravens croaked and cackled overhead as we stomped back to our truck, hot, dusty and sweaty. We found a picnic table at the trailhead, cracked open a couple of microbrews, and cooked up a can of chili on our stove as we watched the myriad of travellers explore this National Park.