Recommended Users: Hikers
Length: 3.15 miles
Sub-Area: Hurricane Cliffs
Managing Agency: BLM and Hurricane City
Hurricane Hills Trailhead – From State Route 9, turn south on 100 South. Turn left onto State Route 59 at the first intersection. Travel .75 miles and turn left into the trailhead. To reach the Canal Trail from the Hurricane Hills Trailhead requires hiking in 1.8 miles on the Rim Trail
Virgin Dam Trailhead – From State Route 9, turn south on 100 South. Turn left onto State Route 59 at the first intersection. Travel 3.1 miles and turn left onto a gravel road. Travel 3.4 miles to the trailhead.
Description: This trail is rated difficult for its length (remember to add 1.8 miles if starting from Hurricane Hills Trailhead), exposure to steep drop-offs, narrow widths, and steep grades. Only hikers are allowed on the trail as a mix of users is incompatible due to the previously mentions issues. A perfect example of the rugged nature of the trail is “The Drop”, a steep narrow passage with large lava rocks and boulders lining the way. Beginning at .3 miles (from the Hurricane Hills Trailhead) the trail “drops” steeply from the mesa top to the bench where a historical water canal was constructed. It continues to wind across a steep side slope, pressing against the cliff face, and leaving only a narrow pathway.
Twelve tunnels were originally built along the canal through solid rock. Three are included in this trail, but one is closed for safety. You can walk through two of the tunnels, but be sure to bring a flashlight, as the longest is about 40 feet long and pitch black in the center on even the brightest of days. There are also tunnel ‘bypasses’ for those who aren’t so keen on confined spaces. You will also come across a short bridge made of planks of wood, and a couple of names etched in stone dating from the 1980s. There are several interpretive panels along the way to enlighten you on the trails past.
The history of the canal is fascinating. Diverting water from the Virgin River, 7 miles away, was first envisioned by two men in 1893: James Jepson and John Steele, but it was accomplished through the motivation of entire communities. What we see today is the achievement of what seemed like an impossible task, accomplished mainly by determined citizens of neighboring communities. The residents were farmers dealing with flooding, and desperately needed more cultivable land. They spent their summers farming and their winters working on the canal with just hand-powered tools. By 1902 only eight to ten men were left working on the canal. After an influx of money from the Salt Lake City LDS church, the canal was completed two years later, and water flowed onto the Hurricane Bench on August 6,1904, generating 2,000 acres of fertile land.
NOTE: There has been recent rockfall on some sections of the trail (2011); some scrambling is required; use caution.