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Desert Delight: the Boulder Mail Trail Backpack

Fully Guided Trip

Beginner-friendly

Remote with great views

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The Boulder Mail Trail is a spectacular 16+ mile route through the heart of Grand Staircase Escalante.  From expansive desert vistas to water crossings and impressive canyons, this backpacking adventure has it all.

Price

$1595

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Tour Length

5 days total: 3 days / 2 nights on the trail + 2 nights in Escalante pre- and post-hike

Departure Times

5pm

Difficulty (1-10)

4

Recommended abilities

For avid hikers; motivated & fit first-time backpackers are welcome. Must be in good cardio shape and able to carry 35lbs+ for three trail days with 4-7 miles and up to 1,200ft of vertical ascent each day.
A permit is required for this tour.

Location

Kanab, UT

Attractions

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Slot Canyon

Special Interests

Geology, Photography
What is included on your backpacking trips?

Backpacking trips include overnight permits, lightweight tents, team cooking equipment, main meals, trailhead transport from the closest town, water purification, team first aid and emergency communication, and of course experienced backpacking guides.  Almost all of our backpacking trips also include a hotel night (double occupancy) before and after the hike, as well as a team dinner pre- and post-hike.

What gear do I need to bring?

Dreamland Safari Tours provides tents, team cooking gear, water purification, team first aid & emergency communications. You need to bring (or rent) a backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, cup/bowl/spoon, and your hiking attire including a waterproof jacket and down jacket. Rentals for backpacks, sleeping bags & sleeping pads are available through Dreamland Safari Tours.

What type of food should I expect?

Dreamland Safari Tours provides breakfasts, dinners, and light lunches while we are on the trail (as well as water, coffee and tea). You can expect both fresh meals and the occasional backpacker's freeze-dried meal. We can accommodate many dietary restrictions with prior notice.

What is the bathroom situation?

Except for the Grand Canyon itineraries, there are no outhouses to be found on our backpacking itineraries. On most backpacking trips, expect to bury solid human waste by digging cat holes. For some itineraries such as the Paria and Buckskin Gulch, the use of wag bags is mandatory.

How much weight will I have to carry?

Standard pack weights for most of our itineraries vary between 35 to 40 lbs, which includes a ~5 lbs team gear allocation in addition to your personal gear. Your gear choices, trip duration, and water availability on your itinerary are the main determinants of final pack weight.

Is it possible to hire porters?

Most of our itineraries are subject to strict group size limits, which makes it difficult to impossible to offer porter services. That said: if you are booking a private backpacking adventure and would like to explore the possibility of adding on porter services, please give us a call or send us an email to discuss.

How do I get to Kanab or Escalante or... ?

Most of our backpacking programs start and finish in small desert towns which can be admittedly hard to reach. Public transport options are very limited, which makes travel by (rental) car advisable. If you are flying in and would like to avoid renting a car, please give us a call - we may be able to assist with car pools with other backpackers or airport pick ups.

Is there a place to leave my vehicle?

There is a safe spot to park your vehicle for the duration of the backpack on each of our itineraries.

Is tipping the guide customary?

Yes! A typical gratuity is $20-$40 per person per day -- so for a 5-day trip, the suggested tip would be between $100 and $200 total. You can read more about guide tipping from the perspective of one of our guides on our blog here.

About Backpacking in Grand Staircase Escalante

Grand Staircase Escalante lies at the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah.  The National Monument encompasses a vast area of 1.87 million acres,  most of which are accessible solely via dirt roads, on horseback or on foot. The Grand Staircase is characterized by five massive rock layers spanning ~160-175 million years of geologic history, and there is no better way to experience Grand Staircase Escalante’s impressive scenery than by backpacking along its expansive plateaus and through its deep canyons. 

About the Boulder Mail Trail and Death Hollow

The Boulder Mail Trail has been called ‘a Colorado Plateau Classic’, and we agree.  The trail follows an old mail route that used to connect the towns of Escalante (pop. 813, as of 2021) and Boulder (pop. 236, also as of 2021) prior to the development of highway 12.  The route follows the path of least resistance as the Boulder Mail Trail crosses vast plateaus that separate the two towns, while also crossing one major obstacle: an impressive canyon named Death Hollow. 

To complete the Boulder Mail Trail, you will cover slightly more than 16 miles with ~3,000 ft of vertical gain (and more than 3,000 ft of descent).  While much of the trail has a relatively gentle grade and follows easy paths on sand or slick rock, you have to be prepared for a steep and somewhat exposed drop into Death Hollow, short sections of mandatory wading as we travel along the water course at the bottom of Death Hollow, and a steep climb out of Death Hollow on the far side.  

About Dreamland’s Guided Boulder Mail Trail Backpack

The Dreamland Safari Tours Boulder Mail Trail Backpack starts and finishes in the town of Escalante. For stress-free logistics, your trip fee includes a hotel night and team welcome & closing dinners in Escalante before and after the trail portion, in addition to the three days and two nights that we spend on the Boulder Mail Trail.  The Boulder Mail Trail Backpack entails shorter daily mileage than most of our other backpacking adventures, making it suitable for motivated first-timers as well as seasoned backpackers who enjoy the peace of mind of having a guide direct the planning and logistics for an adventure like this. 

We are proud to utilize our decades of experience in desert adventures, backcountry risk management and expedition planning to share with you an unforgettable time exploring Grand Staircase Escalante from the immersive perspective of a backpacker.  You bring your personal backpacking gear & camera; we take care of the team gear logistics. Rental options for select gear such as backpacks and sleeping bags are available.

Our 5-day guided Boulder Mail Trail & Death Hollow Backpacking Adventure includes:

  • 3 days on the Boulder Mail Trail plus two nights in Escalante (one before the backpack, and one afterwards)
  • Main meals & lodging in Escalante pre- and post-trail, double occupancy; contact us to inquire about the possibility of a single supplement
  • Trailhead transport from and to Escalante
  • Experienced backpacking guides at a 1:4 guide-to-guest ratio
  • Lightweight backpacking tents (unless you prefer to bring your own)
  • Team cooking equipment
  • Breakfasts and dinners while on the trail
  • Water purification and/or water resupply
  • Team first-aid kit and Wilderness First Responder certified guides
  • Satellite messenger communication in case of emergency
  • Human waste bags where required
  • Pre-trip gear & training advice as desired
  • Overnight permits for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

You will receive a detailed trip handbook & gear list once you reserve your spot on this adventure. Meanwhile, the below rough gear list provides guidance on what backpacking equipment to bring or rent:

  • Backpack (55 – 65 liters)
  • Sleeping bag, rated to 30 degrees or warmer
  • Sleeping pad/s
  • 3 liters of water capacity
  • Personal bowl, cup and spoon
  • Hiking boots
  • Down jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking attire
  • Personal snacks

Gear provided by Dreamland Safari Tours:

  • Tents
  • Trekking poles
  • Team cooking gear & meals
  • Water purification
  • Team first aid kit
  • GPS communication

Permits & Group Size

Please note that there is a 3 person minimum for this itinerary.  The maximum group size is 10 guests + 2 guides.  Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument requires overnight permits; we take care of all permitting requirements on your behalf.

2023 DATES

June 1-5 2023

Check back as we intermittently add new dates to our schedule.
Interested in a private Boulder Mail Trail & Death Hollow backpacking trip just for your group? Call us at 435.644.5506.

 

Fully Guided Tour

Photography Paradise!

Interesting Geology!

Itinerary

Day 1
5pm – Hotel check-in, team meet & great and trip briefing 

~7pm – Team welcome dinner 

Dinner & double occupancy lodging are included in the price of this adventure

Day 2
Gear check, trailhead transfer and lunch, followed by the first backpacking miles.

Establish camp for the night. ~4-5 miles hiking, 600 feet of ascent.

 

Day 3
Today we cross Death Hollow prior to establishing camp at Marmie Creek (3.5 miles). While the miles are short today, the views are grand! Once at camp, we have the opportunity for an optional ~1hr excursion to visit a natural bridge.

Day 4
Hike from Marmie Creek to the Escalante Boulder Mail Trail trailhead. (7 miles, 1,400ft of ascent).  Afternoon trailhead pickup and return transfer to Escalante, hotel check-in. Team celebration dinner.

Dinner & lodging are included in the price.

Day 5 – Depart

Guest Experiences with Dreamland Safari Tours

We had a phenomenal winter adventure walking the length of the Paria canyon with some side canyon explorations. This was major bucket list check off! Sunny did a fantastic job as the lead guide. Our meals were plentiful and excellent. She had some great tips and tricks for comfort for winter camping. I enjoyed learning about the Paria from her and getting to know her better. She is a great steward of Leave No Trace ethics and safe backpacking practices. I also really enjoyed hiking with Maddi and Andrea who also guide with Dreamland.

Sunny was great about pre-trip communication. She developed a thorough pre-trip packet and answered my emails promptly. I really appreciate the extra time she took to give me gear, day hike, and reading recommendations. Booking was easy and I think the price is spot on for all that is included and her service. Her itinerary included hotel stays before and after the trip with associated meals. This was a huge perk that other groups do not routinely offer. It was great to have a “home base” in Kanab at either end of the trip.

I highly recommend this multi-day backpack excursion with Dreamland as well as their other day trips.

Diantha W – February 2021
TripAdvisor

My family and I did a 42 mile hike down the Paria with Sunny and Nathalie. It was AMAZING. I felt so completely confident with the terrain knowing that Sunny was scouting quick-sand and drop-offs for us. It was the most beautifully in-nature immersive experience I’ve ever had. I learned so much from each of these marvelous women and can’t wait for my next trip with them. The trip was technically through Sunny’s company AWExpeditions, and supported by Dreamland.

From what I understand, the conditions during our particular trip were a little more cumbersome than usual due to this season’s floods. We trained the whole year in advance and did great, we were aged 34-68, and I’m heavy enough that people don’t reach for the term “athletic” when they see me, but we all did great. Felt good to live in my body and move in tune with my body for 5 whole days.

Also, shout out to Jan who drove us to the trailhead and picked us up; her enthusiasm and support was memorable.

Shannon B – October 2022
TripAdvisor

WOW! I just completed a two night backpack through Buckskin Gulch with Sunny and Orion from Dreamland Safari Tours. Both guides were really capable, knowledgeable and fun to be around. I appreciated all the pre-hike planning that Dreamland put into this difficult hike through this wet slot canyon – this enabled me to be prepared for this rigorous tour.

I would definitely recommend Dreamland for your future adventures.

Neal W – October 2020
TripAdvisor

Wow! Just wow! Everything I was hoping for and more. The geology was jaw dropping, the trip organization was stellar, and Sunny’s intimate knowledge of the canyon allowed us to see the little secrets that other will miss. But the best part was Sunny’s competency in not only leading the trip, but invoking a camaraderie and chemistry amongst a group of strangers that will inevitably lead to long term friendships. That is is a gift to all of us!

Tina Q – October 2021
TripAdvisor

What to Expect on this Boulder Mail Trail Guided Backpacking Trip

The Boulder Mail Trip is a moderate desert backpacking adventure and one of the less physically demanding guided backpacking trips that we offer; that said, you do need to be ready for 4-7 miles and up to 1,400 ft of vertical ascent each day.  The terrain is mostly sand and slick rock, with a few steep and exposed sections around Death Hollow.  Individuals with an extreme fear of heights would likely not enjoy the crossing of Death Hollow (you might like our Buckskin Gulch or Paria Canyon Backpacks instead!).  While the Boulder Mail Trail Backpack is a fully guided adventure and Dreamland Safari Tours will take care of group logistics, you have to be prepared to carry your own overnight gear as well as up to three liters of water, snacks, and your share of the food required for the entire time on the trail. Depending on your gear choices and packing discipline, your backpack will likely weigh around 35 pounds.  

If you are at all concerned about your physical ability to complete and enjoy this backpacking adventure, please give us a call at 435-644-5506 to discuss the feasibility of your participation.

What Gear Should I Bring for the Boulder Mail Trail?

All participants will receive a comprehensive gear check list as well as recommendations for gear to buy or rent for this trip. We provide tents, cooking gear & meals but ask that participants bring their own overnight gear (i.e. backpack, sleeping pad, sleeping bag etc.). Dreamland Safari Tours has rentals available for select gear items such as backpacks, sleeping bags, and trekking poles, which may be reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis.

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