November 1, 2016

into the Maze

I've always heard that Maze overlook is one of the best overlooks in Utah, but I've seen some pretty nice overlooks in Utah.

Maze Overlook Campsite #1

 Maybe it's just that it's so hard to get to that once the weary traveler arrives he or she is so thrilled to be out of the vehicle that the view wouldn't matter. But, this isn't so. I've been known to go to great extremes for a big view and this one is certainly one of the best in Utah.
October was busy, Lisa had just returned from a field session down south, and I from Oregon. The '77 was running good and needed nothing but some grease after a 2,000 mile round trip through the hinterlands of eastern Oregon and Nevada. With less than 12 hours at home we loaded supplies and rolled out again. We figured it'd be a prudent exercise in the preservation of sanity to get a head start on the infamous Flint trail and the road to Maze Overlook. The plan would be to get close to the park boundary the first night, camping on BLM land. The next day we'd check in with the ranger station at Hans Flat, and have the entire day to make it out to Maze overlook. The National Park Service purposefully leaves the road really bad. They call it "primitive". Ok, I guess, but it's not the kind of thing that's very enjoyable. Not really a 4x4 challenge, but not the kind of thing to take lightly either. Just annoying as hell, grinding away in first gear all day, but I suppose that's what's keeps all the ne'er do wells out, and I suppose that's the reason we're here.
Our experience getting to Maze overlook wasn't quite the 6 hours that the book said, nor the 3 hours that the ranger said. It took us 4.5 hours from Hans Flat to the campground. That's including a lunch stop along the way. Ranger Station said Flint trail was worse than usual. It was 2wd low range going down and 4wd low range coming out. The rest wasn't too bad, but definitely put my transmission and transfer case rebuild to the test.

camp 1: BLM near Hans Flat RS
Camp 2: Dinner a la tailgate

dropping into the Maze

down more
down more

We didn't take the time to take photos at the really sketch-ball place, or the 3 places we lowered packs on a rope.

the bottom

Once we were in the bottom the plan was to drop our packs and do a long day hike out of Pictograph Fork to the last Chocolate Drop, follow CD trail to the Standing Rocks road then drop into the head of Pictograph Fork back to our packs. About a 14 mile day then spend the night. We cut it super close to being stuck in the dark, and with the new moon it would've sucked.
The trail out of Pictograph Fork isn't on the trails illustrated map, but is on my 7.5" quad. Not sure why, it's a lot less technical than the trail coming down from Maze overlook, and makes a rad dayhike out of the Choc Drops and Pictograph Fork, two of the highlights of The Maze.
Pictograph Fork was one of the most beautiful canyons in Utah. Big open parks of grasses, nicely spaced cottonwood trees. It is quintessential Utah hiking.

chocolate drops

chocolate drops from a couple miles away on CD trail

harvest scene

camp 3 under the chocolate drops

pictograph fork

camp 4 sunset

back to the pavement after 160 miles of dirt


  1. Your trip is an inspiration to an area that begs me to explore. I have been told that a longer truck would have a far greater challenge than your beauty, do you agree? (Full disclosure several years ago I chickened out after looking down on the road and spent my time hiking down through the upper part of Happy Canyon)

    1. A couple switchbacks on Flint Trail would suck in a longer wheelbase vehicle for sure, but you could come in from Hite. On Maze Overlook road there's just the one spot after the Ekker turnoff with steep approach angles where you'd probably drag your bumper, but it's soft dirt.

  2. How far are Maze Overlook Campsites 1 and 2? It's so odd I can't find any information about the specific sites. We have #2 already booked, but really just curious. I've tried all the maps and google earth but still, not much info! We've been to the maze a few times (and driven teapot twice), looking forward to hiking in instead of driving teapot for hours. :)