Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Backpacking - Boulder Mail Trail

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,899 for REI Members
$2,089 for non-members
DeparturesMar 2024-Oct 2024

Travel back in time on a 4-day backpacking trip along the historic and stunning Boulder Mail Trail.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument encompasses 1.87 million acres of monoliths, canyons, arches and natural bridges. It was some of the last unmapped terrain in the continental United States. Within this quiet, ethereal landscape lie the remains of the Boulder Mail Trail. A former causeway for indigenous communities, the trail became a delivery route for mules transporting mail between the towns of Boulder and Escalante. Since then, outdoor enthusiasts have reveled in its quiet, understated beauty.

From the blooming shores of Death Hollow to the chiseled sandstone of Mamie Creek Natural Bridge, we explore many hidden treasures along this legendary route. Our expert guides provide historical and cultural education as well as tips on backcountry travel. We leave with a deep appreciation and understanding of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the crucial role it's played in the lives of those who've called it home.

Enjoy expansive vistas of the rugged desert landscape of the Escalante Valley.

Trip Highlights

  • Backpack the most scenic sections of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Follow the historic Boulder Mail Trail to the edges of Escalante, Utah
  • Explore the green oases of Death Hollow and marvel at Mamie Creek Natural Bridge
  • Learn valuable route-finding skills and backpacking tips from our expert guides
  • Hike in iconic Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Camp at picturesque Kodachrome Basin State Park


This trip is rated Vigorous (4). All participants should have experience hiking and be comfortable navigating challenging terrains such as slick rock, loose rock, sandy trails, and hiking in water. In addition, the short decent into Death Hollow is steep and very exposed, but the sandstone trail provides excellent traction. This is not a trip for first-time backpackers.

All participants will carry their own backpacks weighing 35–40 pounds (including group gear) over distances of up to 6.5 miles in succession. Hiking on the Boulder Mail Trail is exposed with limited shade, often in dry and hot conditions. To safely enjoy this adventure, we suggest a regular training regimen beginning at least 3 months prior to departure. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip are your overall fitness and endurance levels.

  • Backpacking
  • Hiking

What's Included

Campground reservations and meals as indicated on daily itinerary; professional guide service; round trip transportation to/from Las Vegas host hotel and throughout the trip; see this trip's Gear List for details regarding any equipment provided by REI for use during your trip.


Frontcountry campsite, 1 night; backcountry campsites, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Backpacking - Boulder Mail Trail
Day 1

From fabulous Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon & Kodachrome Basin

Our trip begins in Las Vegas where we meet our fellow hikers and guides. Our guides briefly talk us through the basics, ensuring everyone has all they need before we set out. We make our way deep into Utah on a five-hour drive to Bryce Canyon, taking in the beauty of the Southwest as we go. Arriving at the park, we enjoy our first dramatic views from the rim. This chain of natural amphitheaters, formed by erosion, is brimming with thousands of brightly colored spires (called hoodoos) striped in red, orange, and white—some standing more than 200 feet tall. After a quick lunch on the canyon rim, we hike into the hoodoos. After a rewarding hike, we bid adieu to Bryce Canyon and continue to beautiful Kodachrome Basin State Park where we set up camp and get tips for our backcountry adventure. Kodachrome Basin State Park is a geologic oddity with 67 monolithic spires surrounded by layers of vivid sandstone. Photography enthusiasts might remember Kodachrome film, which was the inspiration for the park’s eventual name. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 2.9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +822' / -820'; Van transfer: 5.5 hours

Day 2

Embark on the Boulder Mail Trail to Death Hollow

We rise early this morning to fuel up on breakfast and hot drinks before breaking camp and heading towards the Boulder Mail Trail. After a stunning transfer to the trailhead, we don our packs and set off towards Death Hollow. We’re traversing one of the more remote areas of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument today and the views certainly don't disappoint. We break for lunch and water refills at Sand Creek before continuing toward the rim of Death Hollow, where we set up camp amidst the breathtaking scenery unique to the area. All meals included.

Backpacking: 5.1 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +626 / -967'; Van transfer: 1.5 hours

Day 3

Explore Death Hollow and on to Mamie Creek

We awake to the sun breaching our tents, the aromas of steaming coffee and tea, and the knowledge that we have nothing we need to do today except explore nature. After a delicious backcountry breakfast, we delve further into Death Hollow, a lush oasis and tributary of the Escalante River. After climbing out of the hollow and back onto another stunning mesa we press on towards our next camp at Mamie Creek. We aim to get to Mamie Creek in time for some lunch and relaxation on the beach before setting up camp. Once we've dropped our heavy gear, we set off to explore the Mamie Creek Natural Bridge, a genuine highlight! Tonight, we settle in near the shores of Mamie Creek where we eat a well-earned dinner and watch as sunset fades into one of the darkest skies in the continental United States. All meals included.

Backpacking: 3.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,142'/ -1,539'; Optional hiking: 1.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal

Day 4

Backpack to the Escalante River and return to Las Vegas

Sunrise in the backcountry just can't be beat. As we pack up camp, we reflect on all we've done and all we've learned. For some, this has been their first expedition, while for others it is part of a deep connection with the most remote places on earth. For all of us, we've added an unforgettable experience to our lifetimes, obtained new knowledge of ourselves and our abilities, pushed through discomfort or worry, and come out the other side stronger for it. After leaving camp we climb out of the Mamie Creek drainage and onto the Antone Flat where we spend the bulk of today's hike. Being up on the flats gives us the sense of becoming part of the extensive landscape of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We've spent days hiking and exploring but have still only seen a sliver of the 1.87 million acres that make up this American treasure. As we reach the Escalante River we know we're nearly back to town, so we relish this last mile. Once back in our van we head into town for lunch before the drive back to Las Vegas. We hope to be back in Las Vegas by 6pm, but that can't be guaranteed. If flying out this evening, we recommend booking a flight that departs at 9pm or later. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 6.4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,317' / -1,544'; Van transfer: 5 hours

Itinerary map for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Backpacking - Boulder Mail Trail

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

Provided by REI

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.