Professor Creek/Mary Jane Canyon Trail

Moab, UT

The temperatures for Friday were predicted to be in the high 80s, so it was a good day to hike in a canyon with the cool water of a creek around us.  With that in mind we headed out to hike the Professor Creek Trail through Mary Jane Canyon.  The creek is named after Dr. Sylvester Richardson, who with his wife Mary Jane, were among the first settlers in the area back in the 1880’s.  Sylvester’s nickname was ‘Professor’ for which the creek and surrounding valley is named. The canyon that Professor Creek flows through is named after Mrs. Richardson.

To get to the trailhead drive 18.4 miles from the intersection of US 191 and UT 128 on the north end of Moab.  The turnoff is marked by a sign which reads “Ranch Road Dead End.”  Follow the dirt road a little over two miles to where it ends in a small parking area.  There are two trailheads that share this parking area, one is the Sylvester Trail while the other is the Professor Creek Trail.  Beyond the parking area is a great view of the rock formation known as the Priest and Nuns.

Parking area with the Priest and Nuns and Castle Rock in the distance

A closer look at the Priest and Nuns with Castle Rock on the left

The Professor Creek Trail begins at the north end of the parking area and proceeds along a sand path for a short distance before dropping down along Professor Creek.

For the rest of the hike the trail meanders along the creek, crossing back and forth as it heads up into the canyon.

The first of 1,243 creek crossings

The first two miles of the hike are along the creek in a shallow canyon.  After that the canyon deepens and the wall loom over top of the trail.

In some spots there is no room for the trail along the water so the trail is forced to go up and over some boulders before returning to the creek bed.

We picked a good time to visit this trail as the water level was low enough to walk along its bank for most of the hike.  If the water was a little deeper the trail would disappear in sections, requiring wet feet.  As it was we did get a bit wet and some hikers just walked up the middle of the creek in the ice cold water.

The hike ends in a narrow section of the canyon where a large boulder about fifteen feet above the trail creates a strongly flowing waterfall and blocks further progress.

Approaching the waterfall

Pool at the base of the waterfall

Looking back down the canyon from the waterfall

Hiking back down the canyon

One of the 1,243 creek crossings on the return hike

Back out of the canyon

This hike was listed as a bit over eight miles round trip, but we found it to be almost ten and a half.  While there is very little elevation change, the rocky terrain and many creek crossings along with the distance of the trail made it a challenging hike.  But the beautiful views in Mary Jane Canyon and the cool waterfall made it well worth the effort.

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16 Responses to Professor Creek/Mary Jane Canyon Trail

  1. Sue says:

    Looks like a sweet hike, water, red rocks and no one else around. Too bad for me its so long, I’d love to see the deep canyon from the bottom…..

  2. I know where that parking lot is, which means we would know how to get to this trail one day. Oh John you are so funny disclosing 1,243 creek crossings. You just gave us an idea to hike this trail in fall 2017our planned return of the area.

  3. Jim and Barb says:

    I think we will have to work up to this one, 7 miles is our longest hike so far. I like the narrow canyon and waterfall pictures!

  4. geogypsy2u says:

    WOW!! What a magical canyon with a waterfall bonus.

  5. Laurel says:

    What a cool hike — in so many ways! This looks like a fun one. I’m going to count the stream crossings when we do it so that we can compare notes. 🙂 Would be even more fun if we could hike it with you.

  6. Gay says:

    What a great hike…love the waterfall ending!

  7. paul weaver says:

    My gosh, that is so beautiful!!! I love Utah 🙂

  8. Looks like a great hike, but the difference between an 8 mile hike and a 10.5 miler is pretty significant. I imagine counting all those stream crossings made the miles just fly by!

  9. LuAnn says:

    Looks like another great hike, with a bonus waterfall at the end.

  10. Jacquie says:

    Haha! 1,243 water crossings – your boots must have been waterlogged. I love the names they give these monuments. “Priest and Nuns” is actually apropos. The waterfall is definitely a bonus! Another great hike for you both.

  11. It’s annoying when posted mileage is quite different from actual mileage! Glad you found a relatively cool place to hike on a hot day!

  12. Sherry says:

    So you say this trail had a lot of water crossings? LOL! Nice waterfall pay off at the end. Looks like a great way to spend a warm day near Moab. I really love hikes with creeks or any water actually. Your pictures make it look spectacular and I hope you were as alone in this place as it appears.

  13. montanaclarks says:

    Beautiful hike! The Arch Canyon trail has many, many water crossing–of course we were on ATVs so our feet stayed dry!

  14. girlonahike says:

    One of my favorites in Moab! – Alicia @

  15. I just did this hike for the first time, about a week before you posted this. It is my new favorite. I gave up on avoiding the water though and just hiked barefoot for the last mile till I got to the falls and then put my sneakers back on and just let them get wet at that point. -Heather

    • placestheygo says:

      I was wet coming back, Heather. I made it dry for 5.1 miles then my one foot slipped off a rock and went under. From there I didn’t worry. We didn’t hike in the water, but I wasn’t as concerned as we went back and forth. I knew I could hike in wet boots without problem so I wasn’t too worried but had no desire to hike right in the water. It is a great hike though isn’t it! I believe we hiked it at the perfect time.

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