Hiking Southern Utah: Tuacahn Saddle (Padre Canyon)

Trail: Tuacahn Saddle (Padre Canyon)

Location: Snow Canyon Area

Difficulty: Strenuous

Distance: 3.6 miles

Average Time: Three hours

Total elevation gain: 595’

Access: The Tuacahn Saddle trailhead—also known as Padre Canyon—is accessed from the Tuacahn Amphitheatre parking lot. The Tuacahn main gate is sometimes locked; however, there is a small area for pulling over and parking just outside the gate. The trail can be accessed by walking along the fence into the wash to the east. There is also a trail access at the northeast corner of the parking lot where it connects with the road that leads to the Tuacahn equipment and animal yard. Keep in mind that this is private property, and visitors are asked to respectfully comply with the “No trespassing” signs and follow the designated trail.

The Tuacahn Saddle is a strenuous but scenic hike that can be done as a point-to-point hike by leaving a vehicle at the Three Ponds trailhead parking lot in Snow Canyon to shuttle you back to your starting point at Tuacahn. The hike crosses through private land, parts of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and into Snow Canyon. If this is going to be your plan, make sure to obtain your permit at the south entrance station on your way in or out of Snow Canyon.

The fairly well-marked trail up to the “saddle” is about 1.5 miles and rises approximately 600 feet in elevation. It involves some boulder hopping, especially as you near the summit. Make sure you turn around every once in a while and enjoy the spectacular view looking back down the canyon.

Once you reach the “saddle,” you get an amazing view down into Snow Canyon. After you catch your breath, you could choose to turn around here and backtrack to your car if you do not have a shuttle, but if you decide to complete the route, you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery and some extraordinary rock formations, including a fairly large arch and several natural water holes. Cairns mark the 0.75 mile dirt, sand, and slickrock trail down the north side which connects with the Three Ponds Trail. This latter trail crosses the West Canyon road to get you back to the Three Ponds Trailhead parking lot and is mostly deep, soft sand.

Next time you are ready for an adventure that involves a challenge—with spectacular scenery as one of the perks—put on your hiking shoes, grab your camera, and make your way to Tuacahn Saddle. Make sure to take basic safety equipment with you and remember you are in a desert, so bring plenty of water and plan your hike according to the weather.

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