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.
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 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.
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.