Access & Egress Routes

A composite image of a damaging path of footprints across soil crust and the damaged area restored back to a healthy crust covered landscape. The crust is brown and there is green vegetation.
Walking on living soil crust causes significant damage. Staff rake and block these "social" trails to discourage their use.


Throughout the park, staff build cairns to mark routes, use wood and other materials to block social trails, and erase damaging off-trail footprints. Canyoneers can help by staying on designated routes, avoiding social trails, and respecting cairns by not knocking them down or adding additional rocks.

Accessing or exiting canyoneering routes on soil crust should never be an option

Well-developed soil crust will not regenerate itself in our lifetime. Soil crust is essential to this desert for contributing soil stability, soil moisture, soil fertility and soil temperature. Disturbed crust leaves the soil underneath exposed to blowing or washing away. Crust located next to footprints is indirectly damaged; its photosynthetic organisms die when buried by blowing sand.

Research has linked higher dust rates in the desert southwest (caused by surface disturbance) to faster snowmelt in the Rockies and the San Juan Mountains. Locally, eroded gullies through soil crusts also reduce the amount of water available for nearby plants and microorganisms.

Canyoneers can do their part to protect park resources by being land stewards, upholding Leave No Trace ethics and educating others to keep access open.
  • Travel in washes or on slickrock.
  • Do not cut corners creating more social trails, especially in wash systems.
  • Respect blocked trails and cairns made by the NPS. Do not make more or tear down.
  • Educate others on desert etiquette.
  • Challenge yourself and others to travel only on durable surfaces.
  • Give yourself enough time to finish a route during daylight hours.
  • Notify the park when routes become impassable or damaged.
Aerial view of a narrow canyon with a red line drawn to show route. There is bare sand colored rock on either side with a dry sandy wash surrounded by green vegetation.
Aerial view showing delineated, low-impact route to exit Lost Spring Canyon using existing drainage and slickrock.

In recent years, Lost Spring has seen significant damage. Park staff delineated an exit route in 2012 using an existing drainage and slickrock, but by 2014 a number of new social trails had appeared. These new trails substantially damaged living soil crust and most of the previously blocked trails showed sign of recent use. Therefore, the following has been implemented to protect park resources:
  • A rock cairn has been placed at the small side drainage where canyoneers are asked to exit.
  • Social trails have been raked and blocked with woody debris to discourage use.
  • Two carsonite posts have been placed marking the minimum impact route via a drainage & slickrock, using a slab move at the dead tree. (This move is no more difficult than moves required further on.)
After a heavy rain event, debris may fill washes, carve gullies, or create muddy/slick conditions. Canyoneers can help make a safe exit for the next party by moving debris or dried invasive plants out of the way. Do not widen the trail just to avoid mud. If remaining in the designated route is impossible due to extensive trail damage, notify park staff.
Exposed rock surrounding an area of sand and soil crust. Small green shrubs are growing in crust. A social trail goes through the crust. There are white and red lines showing that the trail goes on the hard rock surfaces, not through the crust.
From the drainage, follow cairns to exit entirely on slickrock.


Last updated: May 30, 2021

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Moab, UT 84532


435 719-2299

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