Sundance Trail To Dark Canyon Utah Backpacking
An Epic Experience

Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Trip Code: UTDC

Duration: 5 Days

Distance: Up to 45 mi/72 km

Fitness: 4
Comfort: 1
Solitude: 5

Origin: Flagstaff, Arizona

Cost: $1325/person

Trip Description:

The Dark Canyon Wilderness and Primitive Area Complex is one of the true last frontiers.  Our Sundance to Dark Canyon Backpacking tour explores this Grand Canyon-like setting that has a little bit of everything; sweeping views of the Escalante Canyon Country, cross-country hiking and exploration, deep and spectacular narrows, fascinating geology, and utterly remote solitude.  Just getting here is an adventure in and of itself, as we take our shuttle off the beaten path along thrilling 4wd trails to the Sundance Trailhead where this epic hiking adventure begins.  We will have the opportunity to hike and explore much of Dark Canyon's outstanding wilderness, and see some of the finest views in Utah or the American Southwest.  The best thing is, you just might have it all to yourself!

  1. Anasazi Ruins in Dark Canyon, Utah
  2. Dark Canyon Wilderness, Utah
  3. Dark Canyon, Utah
  4. Waterfalls in Dark Canyon, Utah
  5. Waterfalls in Dark Canyon, Utah
  6. Dark Canyon, Utah
  7. Dark Canyon Wash, Utah
  8. Dark Canyon Views, Utah
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Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

The Sundance to Dark Canyon Backpacking tour begins in Flagstaff, Arizona where after final preperations we will hit the road on a scenic drive through Arizona's famed Painted Desert, Monument Valley, the wonderful Mexican Hat, and into Natural Bridges National Monument.  At Natural Bridges, we will stretch our legs with some relaxed hiking, photography, and lunch before continuing our journey towards Dark Canyon.  After an epic 4x4 adventure, we will arrive at the Sundance Trailhead, where we will make camp overlooking this impressive desert canyon landscape.
Drive Time: 6 hours
Distance & Elevation: 5 miles, 600 foot descent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

Today’s hiking adventure begins with sunrise yoga overlooking Dark Canyon before we start our thrilling descent.  The hiking is rugged, but you are up for the challenge!  The outrageous scenery will distract any misgivings however, as this is one of the most spectacular views in the entire American Southwest.  The sun will dance across the orange, red, purple, and blonde rocks as we descend into Dark Canyon, arriving in its depths after a few miles to make our basecamp for the remainder of the journey.  After a well-earned lunch, we will begin our exploration of the Dark Canyon Complex.  Get ready, this canyon is absolutely outstanding, and its hiking opportunities are nearly endless!
Distance & Elevation: 6-12 miles, 1500 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 3 & 4:

Days 3 & 4 of the Sundance to Dark Canyon Backpacking tour is all about exploration from our basecamp.  We will navigate the depths of Dark Canyon along with its several tributary canyons such as Lost Canyon, Youngs Canyon, Lean-to Canyon, and even make it down to the Colorado River!
Distance & Elevation: 6-12 miles each day, 300-600 foot elevation gain/loss per day
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

Our final day on the trail retraces our steps up and out of Dark Canyon via the Sundance Trail, continuing to marvel at the sweeping and seemingly endless views across the Colorado Plateau and Escalante Canyon Country.  After we reach our shuttle, we will pile in and celebrate our great trip like geologists, with a cold beverage at a local watering hole before heading back to Flagstaff, likely arriving in town around 7pm. 
Distance & Elevation: 6 miles, 1000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch
Drive Time: 6 hours

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Flagstaff to Dark Canyon and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits

Meals: what to expect
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day's activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we're more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide.  Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods.  There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other "gorp" style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee

What’s Not Included:
Transportation to/from Flagstaff, Arizona
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Utah will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 8 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble's scheduled trips.  This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation , we require an initial deposit of $500 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.  Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536
Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?
This trip will begin/end in Flagstaff, Arizona and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Flagstaff. You will want to fly into either Phoenix (2 hour drive) or Flagstaff. Please visit our  Travel Resources  page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel in Flagstaff. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.  Most trips will depart between 5am and 6am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel in Flagstaff and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there

What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back in Flagstaff by 6pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2017 Dates
April: 27-31
May: 5-9
September: 17-21
October: 17-21

2018 Dates
April: 27-31
May: 5-9
September: 17-21
October: 17-21

More dates to come soon…
Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!
Call 1-602-904-2536 or email us  for details.