Murphy Trail is a 9 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Moab, UT that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and camping and is accessible year-round.
Directions from Island in the Sky Visitor Center: Travel southward along Utah 313 6.25 miles to the junction of Upheaval Dome and Grand View Roads. Bear left at this junction and drive 2 miles to Murphy Road. Turn right and travel .25 miles to the trailhead at roads end.
Great trail but not for the squimish. The trail down the rim wall is safe enough but you don't want to be fooling around. Leave the "extreme" attitude and selfie stick at home. Plan on going back up before dark. This is not a trail I would want to do by flashlight!
The views you get will stay with you a long time and you will have a real sense of accomplishment when you complete this trail.
Managed to get this hike in the day before Congress shut down the National Parks and screwed up our hiking vacation. (Don't get me started.) Best to eat your Wheaties before doing this trail! According to our GPS it was 11 miles and 2,000 feet descent/ascent. Along with the GPS, we had a Nat Geo map, PLB's and full emergency supplies with us "just in case." Since the topo map showed elevation on the White Rim Rd. we made it a point to GO RIGHT at the bottom of the trail. That way you go DOWN the narrow and STEEP, White Rim Road (watch out for cars, motor bikes and mountain bikers...sigh). I would've been pissed it I'd had to climb up that road knowing that I still had to deal with the kick-your-ass climb out. We had 156 oz. of water each (along with 2 cans ea. energy drinks) and finished with less than 6 oz. total. Weather: Sunny. Temp was 85.
I did this hike in mid-July, and it was unbearably hot. If you do it during the summer months, get to the trailhead early, as you'll want to to be wrapped up by the peak afternoon temperatures, as there is little sun coverage both above and below the rim. The hike can be found in Canyonlands National Park, and you'll have stunning views of the Islands in the Sky district of said national park.
The hike is a partial loop of about 10 miles, with 1400 feet of elevation change from the rim down to the low point on the White Rim road. The first mile or so of the hike is above the rim, and is relatively flat. The trail here is easy to follow, marked by rock cairns. After about a mile or so, the trail takes you to the rim, and while you're at cliff's edge, you'll think to yourself "There is NO WAY I'm getting down below the rim". At first glance it seems almost impossible that there is a way down, but in fact there is, and the trip down is extremely enjoyable, with stunning views of Canyonlands. No part of the way down is too exposed, but it is steep, VERY steep in some parts. Remember that you have to hike back up this to return to your car, so make sure you have plenty of water for the return trip. The hike back up was extremely strenuous, but more on that later....
As you come down from the cliff, you hike a bit and the trail goes in one of two directions (this is where te loop begins). You can head right and hike the Murphy Hog back trail to the white rim road to the Murphy wash basin or head left to the Murphy wash basin to the white rim road to the Murphy Hogback trail. I headed right and started with the hogback trail, as it is much more enjoyable with much better views. THe hogback trail is several miles until you hit the white rim road. Once you hit the road, make a left and continue on the road for a mile or so until you hit a marker telling you to head left into the Murphy was basin. This part of the hike is completely flat, but you're walking on sand and it can wear the legs out. Also, be mindful of the rock cairns! the trail is poorly marked here and there are a series of intersections where you'll want to look for cairns so as not to get lost (as i did!). I wound up coming to an intersection and saw no rock cairns to my left or to my right. i headed up both ways to look for rock cairns, but saw none either way. You want to head to the right (i unfortunately headed left, d'oh!) and hiked an additional two miles or so when the wash dead ended at a rock wall. Instead of retracing my steps (it was a 105 degrees at this point and nearing 1 o'clock), i climbed up the rock wall to get out of the basin and bushwacked a bit figuring out a way to get back up towards the hogwash trail. When no way could be found, I continued bushwacking in the direction I assumed the Murphy wash trail headed. I sought high ground to see if I could see where the trail may be. I wasted about an hour doing this (with thoughts of being stranded in the canyons without water dancing in my head). I did manage to find the Murphy wash trail, but was thoroughly exausted and running out of water (i had packed a gallon with me) and continued along the hike. I approached the strenuous climb back up to the rim, and took te time to climb under a rock and eat some lunch and drin ka little water and regain some energy. THe climb back up was brutal as it was after 2 o'clock and probably between 105-110 degrees, with little to no sun coverage. after reaching the top the hike back to the car was simple.
If you do this hike I offer 2 pieces of advice: bring plenty of water, and once in the wash basin, play close attention to the trail and rock cairns. there are several intersections and some are poorly marked. Although I got lost and made this 10 mile hike more of a 12-13 mile hike, it was extremely enjoyable and rewarding because the views are amazing. Bring a camera. You'll be glad you did.