My Boulder Mail Trail Hike (Photos)

I packed my bag and headed out toward the destination of Southern Utah, to hike the Boulder Mail Trail route. Being a minimalist I prefer to travel light; so packing it didn’t really take that long. I would first fly into Las Vegas from Seatac (Seattle), Wa. Then met some friends and then rental car to Escalante, Utah. Traveling is really no fun for me, but the destination and company made it all worth it.

escalante backpacking trip
Will Rietveld, Mark, Grant, Mike, Travis, Sherry, Janet, Liz Thomas & I.

Our Route Through the Desert

Once in Escalante, UT we met 6 more backpackers from various backgrounds. Multiple days of traveling would be needed by most parties, from several states, to arrive in this remote piece of the Southwest. The group would then car shuttle to both ends of the Boulder Mail Trail.
For an unknown time this route across open desert and sandstone has been used by Native Americans. In 1902 a government contract was given to carry the US Mail to a man using a mule team. He would lead his animals twice weekly from Escalante to Boulder, UT. In 1910 the USFS ran telephone line along the trail. Sections of wire and glass insulators can still be seen in the tree tops.

backpacking boulder mail trail
Headed out.

desert tree

Options in Our Itinerary

Our path would lead us in a more ambitious direction. Using the main route with our backpacking gear, then setting up base camps,exploring drainages and enjoy the desert. Each of the 5 days were full of choices on which way to wander. With such beautiful landscape, we couldn't go wrong on which direction to head; so much to see.

desert creek hopping

ultralight backpacking group
Rain gear shot. 

grant gossamer gear
Grant checks out the storm.

old arrowheads
Primitive Tools.

Weather Conditions in the Desert

The first day we had a mixed bag of wind, rain and hail. After that passed through the weather was partly cloudy in the day and cold at night on average. Being exposed to sun for a prolonged period made hydration top priority. Setting up a solid shelter for a windbreak, also helped keep sand out of everything.

desert navigation
Will gives us an idea of the route.

walking on slickrock

desert rainbow
Almost a full desert rainbow. 

Landscape in Utah

The biggest thing for me, being from Washington State, is the vast land, where everything must struggle to grow. Whether it be lack of water or natural erosion. All living things must be strong to find life here.

I also found the rock interesting. At each level, the canyons had their own unique colors and textures. One could spend weeks here with a camera in complete bliss.

Our group would wander across surfaces like creek crossings, sand, forest floor, miles of sand stone and even a few remote slot canyons. Even some light scrambling to navigate our way in the desert.

desert landscape

liz thomas

desert wildfire
Wildfire in the distance.

slickrock hiking

desert cliff
Grant takes it all in.

Liz Thomas
Monkeying around.

desert indian paintbrush
Indian Paintbrush and Cactus.

slickrock balance

slickrock sunrise
Seen 3 Elk (not pictured).

desert bird
Camp visitor. 

death hollow ford

backpacking death hollow
In Death Hollow.

walking death hollow
Grant making his way through Death Hollow.

death hollow water

backpacking boulder mail trail
Out of Death Hollow.

navigating the boulder mail trail
Marking the Boulder Mail Trail.

Desert black and white

slickrock climbing

arch in escalante

hiking desert landscape
Grant traversing.

desert off trail

climbing in the desert
Down climb.

cooling the desert feet
Shoe wearing is hot work. 

Hiking Gear Used

In our group every form of backpacking gear and hiking footwear was represented. Traditional tents, ultralight shelters and tarps were all slept under. Various pack designs of all sizes were all worn daily. Each individual represented all forms of foot protection. High and low top boots, hikers, trail runners, zero drop minimalist shoes and sandals. There is no doubt in my mind, that it did not hinder each user's unique experience on this journey. We were all content to just be out in the desert and living in the moment.

luna sandals
Desert footwear - Luna Sandals

backpacking death hollow
Grant & I looking into Death Hollow.

sawyer filter in desert
3 ways to use a Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

trekking pole rock hop
Trekking pole balance.

My Desert Experience

I enjoyed this trip a lot. It brought together many people from various backgrounds and endless knowledge. Felt I could just sit down with each individual and write an outdoor book, from their stories.

This trip had lots of off trail and route finding. What a great way to test map, compass and reading landscapes. Its a great way to see the area.

Utah has a way of leaving a smile on your face each time I visit. Walking open sandstone had the same feel of being in high alpine in the summer. See myself visiting the desert of the Southwest again during late autumn and early spring.

desert oasis

Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Three generations of hikers (not related). 

desert lizard

bolder mail trail
Heading to town after days in the desert.

desert tire swing

Burger in Escalante, Utah

My Short Video from the Trip

Related: Backpacking Grand Gulch, Utah

Updated in May 2016 by Barefoot Jake