Eardly Canyon Hike, San Rafael Swell

Eardly Canyon has been on our radar since we hiked to the pool last year and it did not disappoint. It is near where we like to camp and ride so it can be a fun diversion from the riding. The hike to the pool and back is a leisurely 2 mile walk to the bottom pool known as Eardly Pool and back to the truck. The canyon hike we did this year added a long steep climb up
Beautiful Canyon With Lots of Water
the ridge next to Eardly Canyon, a hellacious drop to the canyon floor, a long boulder filled canyon speckled with deep pools of water, and 5 rappels before you finally return to Eardly Pool and the wash that leads back to the trucks. It's hard to know the exact distance on this hike because your not very often travelling in a straight line but going off a gps we had and mapping it on google maps I would estimate around 10 miles. Be aware that even though we took young kids on this hike I do not recommend this. With our large group and not leaving quite as early as we hoped, we got out of the canyon by the skin of our teeth before the sun set. The wind that was present during our trip to the canyon made the wait between rappels very very cold. Pool after pool the wind was drawing heat away from us and there was no sun in the canyon. I recommend leaving as early as possible on this hike. The wash and the ridge were very hot and if we had left earlier in the morning we could have avoided this as well as had more sun in the canyon when we needed it so desperately. Also keep in mind that this is a long hike through very rough terrain, make sure you bring a good pair of shoes. Ideally a group of 5 or less "adults", ages 14 and up, with their own harness would make this hike no problem, however, this hike was a proper challenge for our ragtag group of 10 with very high water and varied rappelling experience.

  • Distance Traveled: around 10 miles
  • Difficulty: very difficult
  • Best Time: Summer, Spring, Fall
  • Type: Hike and rappel
  • Location: San Rafael Swell (see map)
  • or click for Directions to the Turn Off from your location. Then follow the dirt road to the trail head as seen on the map below

Key GPS Points
  • Turn Off Of Pavement: 38.760392, -110.44825
  • Parking/Trail Head: 38.785797, -110.488566
  • Short Cut: 38.789558, -110.509251
  • Eardly Canyon: 38.786389, -110.518056
  • Saddle Entrance: 38.800358, -110.527001
  • Start Down Eardly: 38.8, -110.531944

Towards the very beginning of the hike there is a very good set of Indian Pictographs hidden in the trees. Take the time to see these, you'll be glad you did.

After the approximately 2 mile walk in the wash this is where the loop portion of the hike begins and ends. Up the ridge to the right between the two boulders to start, then back down Eardly Canyon to end. If your not ready for a real hike at this point, do yourself a favor and take the short route up the canyon to the last pool then back out. For the adventurous however, the whole hike is a must.

About halfway up the ridge we pause to look back to the cliffs that once surrounded us in the wash. Amazing how high this climbs. The hike up the ridge is very long.

Route finding up the ridge is difficult at times. Look for Carins to save some time. Generally you stay near the canyon as you go up, here we took the route to the right of the tree away from the edge of the canyon.

Finally we make it to the saddle. The saddle is fairly obvious.

Upon reaching the saddle we realize that we are in for quite the hike to reach the bottom. The route down is quite menacing. With our group size we had to take great care to not dislodge a rock and send it hurdling towards those below.

Working our way down the upper portion of the saddle. If you can take helmets for everyone this would be a good place to put them to use. We took a lot of time being careful and we still dislodged one rock that resulted in a close call.

The canyon floor was a welcome accomplishment for us. It was hot and the water and shade felt great. The water level varies in the canyon, most of the time pools like this will be a little more hard to come by

Awesome canyon, don't take too long to look, there's a long way to go

The canyon gets increasingly narrower. I was glad our kids had lifejackets. Glad my wife insisted on it! If you don't have one however, blow air back into your camelbak as some of us did, it works quite well actually. My son came up with this idea and probably saved our butts a bit. We all got tired and it was a big help.

We do finally get to the rappels. There are 6 rappels in all and they are all fairly close together towards the end of the canyon. The water was so high that we only actually harnessed up for 2 rappels. This saved us some precious time that we may have lost by having to swim more, but it's hard to say. This is the second to last rappel. We actually could have jumped this one but rappelled to be on the safe side and warm up for the big one at the end. The last rappel is 50 feet to the base of the biggest pool

From very hot earlier in the day to doing everything possible to stay warm. Getting in and out of the cool water and having the wind kick up really drew the heat out of us, especially the kids. We had to huddle up to stay warm between rappels. Leaving early would have helped us be cooler in the morning and not as cold on the way out of the canyon. We misjudged how long the hike would take, we would have given about anything for another hour or two here and some sun. This little shelf was just before jumping into a pool before the final rappel.

This final picture is from our trip to the pool the previous year. You can see the slot above where the final rappel is. This is every bit of a 50 foot rappel, my 100 foot rope was just long enough. We were perched on this little bit hoping to get to the sun as it crept down the side of the cliffs, wind blowing up so hard as to blow water up the cliff face chilling us all to the bone. This hike is no joke, go prepared and leave plenty of time. Keep in mind that unless everyone has their own harness it doubles and triples the time to rappel each time you switch. Best to get everyone in their own harness and even their own figure 8 to make it quick. Waiting between rappels was a killer. Be realistic with the time and don't go in unprepared as we did. This canyon can turn bad in a hurry. Overall though, I think we will remember a very challenging and memorable experience that was fun for the most part. We will be back more prepared, this hike requires that it be done the right way with the right equipment.

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