Fantastic desert backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park with views for days.

The trail to Murphy Loop begins in Island in the Sky in Canyonlands. Most hikers start from the top and work their way down to White Rim Road, however, you can drive and start from the other end. Here we will discuss the trail from the top with the optional detour to Murphy Point in this outdoor guide for a  backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park.
backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park

Backpacking Trip to Canyonlands National Park

The first few miles of the hike are very easy, mostly flat land with low brush makes for an easy trek. The hard part comes when navigating down the narrow trail that drops about 1600ft to the bottom of the canyon. It’s important you watch where you step here. The great thing – all of this trail is a backpacking zone, meaning, if you decide traversing down the side of a cliff with a 40lb pack is a bit scary – you can set up camp at top. We decided to set up in a deep part of the cliffside as we saw a snow/sleet storm head our way. It honestly made for some incredible views!
backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park
When you eventually make your way down, you’ll see the Murphy Wash and many structures along the path to White Rim Road and Murphy Hogback Campground. It’s incredible hiking through the canyon, but your trip back up will be very hard. Keep in mind that the way down is very steep, if there’s a chance of rain or ice you should tread very carefully or not at all.
Once you get to the bottom, you can go left or right – both ways are equally difficult in terms of mileage/elevation and will bring you back to the steep wall you’ll have to make your way back up. Keep in mind that there’s NO WATER on this trail, so you’ll have to pack it in. Also, Island in the Sky requires a backpacking permit which can be secured there or in advance.
backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park



  • Water
  • Backpacking gear
  • Possibly microspikes
  • Camera gear
  • Backpacking stove – no fires
  • Canyonlands backpacking permit

If you enjoyed my outdoor guide on what a backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park is like, feel free to check out my other outdoor guides, here!