If you’re near the Kanab area, the Toadstool Hoodoos is definitely a must-see! Such a unique and breathtaking experience.
Not only is this hike unforgettable for me because of Mother Nature, but I also got EXTREMELY lost on my way back out.
I made some ridiculous mistakes that could’ve very easily taken my life. And no…for once, I’m not being dramatic.
It was terrifying but definitely taught me a hard life lesson that I know I needed to learn.
Read to the end to hear the full story!
Getting to the Toadstool Hoodoos Trailhead
The trailhead is roughly 1.5 miles west of the Paria Ranger Station on Hwy 89.
There is a small parking area marked with a sign and a trail register.
I’d like to add insult to injury and also admit that I didn’t sign in. So, ya know, no one would’ve discovered my frozen body.
Add that to my list of failures on this hike.
But anyway, I digress.
For easy turn-by-turn, Google Map Directions to the Toadstool Hoodoos’ Trailhead from your location, CLICK HERE.
Keep in mind that I’ll be making plenty of jokes and jabs directly at myself in this blog post because of how my experience ended.
…like the fact that I should’ve listened to this (disgusting) graffiti at the trailhead, for example.
At the Toadstool Trailhead, you’ll simply go through the fenced area straight ahead to start the hike. You’ll see a very defined path to follow.
(A lot of irony in that last sentence. Wait for it….)
My first mistake
I hit this trail on my “way out of town”. I was in a hurry to see the Toadstool Hoodoos and get on the road.
I had just finished doing the amazing nearby Buckskin Gulch and I was 50/50 about seeing the Hoodoos because of the time I would be starting. I knew with the time of year we were currently in that I was going to lose daylight fast. But as you’ll soon see, I ignored a lot of my own intuitions on this one, anyway.
I explained away my intuitions by telling myself that the trail was short and I’d be dumb not to do it…especially when the last trail was a short 10 miles away from this one.
So there I am.
When I hit the trailhead, I saw on AllTrails that the Toadstool Hoodoos was a quick, 1.8-mile out and back hike.
I decided I would trail run the whole thing to save time. Trail running is my jam.
I also decided that emptying out ALL of my emergency equipment was a genius idea because it would allow me to run faster.
Like a gazelle.
….Insert some major facepalming here.
I’m sure you can see where THIS is going…
Hiking Toadstool Hoodoos Trail
The trail in (I don’t say out because it wasn’t easy for yours truly) is fairly easy to follow and is well marked by trail markers along the way.
Click the map below to download the heat map to take with you!
There are so many awesome Instagram-worthly spots along the way.
You could be like me and stop a TON, even when you know you’re running out of daylight, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
*Chalk that up to mistake #2 and counting*
As you wind your way through the Toadstool Trail you’ll find yourself connecting and following a dry creek bed (wash). You’ll follow this wash a majority of the way, until you start to see the picturesque Toadstool Hoodoos in all their glory.
Hint: one of these does not belong.
But really, who wore it better?
Once you reach this area, you can explore all over. The views and sights just keep getting better and better.
I may be a little partial here, but Utah is rad, my friends.
As you can see from the above photos, the sun is starting to go down pretty quickly.
I was so fascinated by the awesome area I was exploring that I chose to ignore that fact.
Instead, I just kept telling myself I would “run back fast” when I was done.
To add to this facepalm-of-a-story:
As I was taking these next photos shown, (with my tripod) my phone died.
As we all know, a phone doesn’t just die out of nowhere, (unless you drop it in a toilet) which means I also ignored the fact that my phone was dying as well.
And I let it die.
…You know that phone that included my heatmap from AllTrails to guide me back out?
Yeah, that one.
Out of all the mistakes I made, this 3rd one was one of my biggest downfalls.
That, and not having any other map other than my phone.
I blame my generation.
At the time, I remember thinking it was super easy to hike into the Toadstools, so I’d just follow the same dry wash back out.
What I didn’t realize is that there were multiple washes…
…and I ended up following the wrong one.
Okay, guys, if you read my blog regularly, follow me on social media, or know me in person, you know that my sarcastic sense of humor is just a part of who I am. It’s also a defense mechanism that’s helped me survive my many years on this planet, so I’m not mad at it.
But in the spirit of full disclosure and not hiding behind said humor, let me tell you this: this experience was by far the most terrifying hiking experience I’ve ever had.
I was hiking about 15 minutes from the Toadstool Hoodoos when I realized that I was following the wrong wash. I could tell that I was going in the wrong direction.
So I started to climb back down and follow what I thought was the correct wash.
Well, folks, the joke’s on me again, because that wash was not the right wash, either.
I knew I was turned around for sure at this point, but instead of panicking (initially, anyway) my thought process was that I just needed to get to the top of a mountain so I could see the road and parking lot below.
Then I could just simply make my own path down to it.
Seems simple and smart, right?
Where it went horribly wrong
I scaled the first large and steep mountain I could see in front of me. As I hit the top, I looked down and was very discouraged to see that there was no road and no parking lot to be seen – just more mountains, ravines, and washes that went on for what seemed like forever.
So I went down the other mountainside then back up yet another steep, tall mountain. When I reached the top of the 2nd mountain, I had the same view as the last. No road, no Toadstool Hoodoos parking lot. More ravines, washes, and mountains. Not even the sound of the (presumed) nearby highway 89.
It wasn’t until I had literally clawed my way to the top of the 3rd mountain (so steep and slippery that I had to climb up it on all fours) and saw there was STILL no view of any type of road whatsoever, that the panic actually set in for me.
I will NEVER forget that heart-sinking feeling.
That realization hitting me that I was completely alone, that no one knew I was here, and that things could go really bad for me really quickly, was horrific.
The sun was going down fast and I realized not only was my phone dead, but I had REMOVED all the emergency equipment that I usually pack with me.
I had nothing. Temperatures around the area at night were averaging 10 degrees or below. I knew that if I didn’t find my way out before the sun went down, I could literally freeze to death.
It wasn’t a joke.
This was happening.
Screaming for help
I started screaming as loud as I could (so loud that I almost lost my voice the next day). I was screaming “HELLO?” and “HELP!”, knowing that there wasn’t a soul around, but hoping there would be a straggling hiker somewhere that would yell back and let me know which direction to turn towards.
I didn’t just scream for human help, and I’ll tell you one thing – I wasn’t out there alone.
My prayers were definitely answered.
As I scrambled up another mountain, I still couldn’t see the road or cars but I could faintly HEAR them.
I just started RUNNING. I was bawling my eyes out and running faster than I have ever run in my life. We are talking bionic running – when I found out how far I had actually gone later, the distance I went in the timeframe that I did it just didn’t add up to something I could ever reasonably do.
But here we are.
Let’s also stop for a second and give “anxiety” (AKA Tom) some credit here. That fight-or-flight feeling may be horrible when you don’t need it, but when your adrenaline is pumping in a moment of life or death, you’ll surely be grateful for your body’s natural reaction.
So thanks, Tom. (I named my anxiety Tom because I hate the word anxiety. Don’t ask questions.)
I could faintly start to see a glimpse of the freeway, so I just kept running.
Eventually, as I got closer to the highway, I came across an ancient and stiff bobwire fence that I couldn’t push down to fit through, so I ended up throwing my equipment over it and ripping my shirt open crawling through.
It gets better.
As I stumbled my shaky legs to the highway, I realize that my (now dead) phone, which was in my back pocket, was now missing.
I lost my phone, too.
I Made it to the road!
As I reached the highway, I had ZERO idea where I was in reference to the trailhead I had started at. I had told myself that all I needed to do was get to a road and I’d be fine.
My sense of relief was quickly replaced with more despair as I tried to flag down over 20 vehicles. Every single one of them went purposely around me and didn’t even look back.
Now listen, I get that even good people are hesitant to do good deeds these days (like pick up or stop next to a hitchhiker) but let’s be real you guys…
You’ve seen what I look like. I don’t mean this in a vain way whatsoever. I’m talking about looking like a poor, helpless female.
Here is a very accurate and visual depiction of me in this current moment: carrying all my equipment, ripped shirt, bawling my eyes out, standing on the side of the freeway.
I didn’t look like I was about to jack your shit, let’s be real.
It was disheartening to have no one stop to help me.
I had made it to the road but I didn’t know where I was. I wasn’t even sure which direction to start walking. I was turned around, overwhelmed, and extremely anxious.
All I really wanted was for someone to stop and tell me which direction to walk. That’s it.
Finally, an angel came to my rescue.
A man driving a truck with his 2 kids turned around on the highway and drove back to me. I was crying so hard that I was having a hard time speaking and all he said was, “Get in sweety, where are you headed?”
All I could do was repeatedly thank him. I didn’t have the right words to express how much his simple act of stopping truly meant to me.
This angel man (his actual name in my phone) then drove me back to the trailhead.
Keep in mind: this trail was only supposed to be 1.8 miles ROUND TRIP.
Let’s show a visual of how far in the WRONG direction Jessi hiked, shall we?
- I reached the Toadstool Hoodoos Trailhead at 3:03 PM.
- The last photo taken before my phone died was at 4:10 PM.
- The sunset at 5:14 PM.
I have no idea how many actual miles I hiked, or how I went that far in such a short amount of time, but I found the road right as the sun was officially going down behind the mountains.
I’m so grateful that I didn’t end up spending a freezing night out there by myself, unprepared, and I’m fully aware of how much worse it could’ve been.
Blessings and life lessons
While this experience is something I never want to experience again, the number of blessings and life lessons that came out of it is overwhelming (in a good way).
First of all, Angel Man who rescued me also happened to work for the BLM.
Not only did he pull over to help and take me back to my car, but he then proceeded to go back a day later and FIND MY PHONE.
Yup. You read that right.
He volunteered to go back and trace my footprints to try and recover my phone for me.
I think you’re probably seeing why I call him Angel Man.
Because he is.
I’d like to pause and make a statement about the fact that the power of intention and manifestation (mixed with prayers, of course) creates miracles.
I expect and accept miracles.
That’s one of the mantras I include in my meditation. I’ve seen it work and this right here is a prime example.
From the second I got back into a hotel in Kanab for the night, (I felt too tired and traumatized to go home as planned) I kept saying over and over that he was going to find my phone. That the how didn’t matter. It was going to happen.
Fast forward to the very next day, where I received this message from him:
What I learned from this experience
1. Listen to your intuition
I had a feeling I wasn’t supposed to go, and this was long before I made the various mistakes I mentioned.
I reasoned myself out of listening to my own intuition.
When I was taking out my emergency equipment I knew it was dumb, but I automatically justified my actions in my head by reminding myself of the short hike and removing the items anyway.
It’s vital that you pay attention and listen to your own intuition.
Don’t be like Jessi.
2. Always, always, always hike prepared
I don’t care how experienced of a hiker you think you are.
ALWAYS hike prepared.
It does NOT matter how short you think the trail is, how close the trail is from home or the fact that you may NOT be hiking alone at all.
NEVER PRESUME SAFETY.
I shouldn’t have removed my emergency gear and I’ll never be making that mistake again. In fact, said emergency gear is so lightweight that me removing it honestly makes zero sense when I look back at it.
https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17970746974336347/?hl=enHere’s what I (usually) carry in my pack (all on Amazon!):
- Emergency blankets
- Emergency Drinking Water
- Emergency Water Drinking Straw
- Emergency Defense Keychain
- Emergency Sleeping bag
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency bracelet (includes a paracord, fire-starter, and more)
You can also easily see these items by checking out my Instagram Highlight > Hike Safely, which includes easy swipe-ups to view and purchase items, by clicking here:
3. It can happen to you
I consider myself a pretty experienced hiker. And although I usually hike with emergency gear, I never thought I would ever actually have to use it.
…Especially on a hike that was under 2 freaking miles roundtrip.
If you’re reading this and you’ve done the Toadstool Hoodoos before, you’re probably asking out loud “How in the world did this girl get lost out THERE?”
The short answer: I don’t know.
But it happened.
There are still good people out there
We live in a world so full of negativity that some people tend to assume the worst in others.
The reality is, good people still exist.
People that want to help a stranger. People that end up being an answer to our prayers because they listened to THEIR intuition, even though you ignored yours.
I’m personally so thankful for every person that helped me.
This, of course, includes Angel Man, but also: the random dude at Subway that told me where the Verizon store was, the Verizon worker that took the time to print off mapquest directions for me to help me find my way home without a phone, the man at my home Verizon store that got me hooked up with a new phone and a sick trade-in, for coworkers that literally offered to drive to Kanab and pick me up if I didn’t feel comfortable driving home, my parents and my boyfriend for their love and concern, and most importantly: MYSELF.
I’m proud that in those moments I chose not to give up. I’m proud that I kept running, kept pushing, and that I was able to instantly recognize all the blessings amongst the chaos.
Everything we experience in our lives that we consider negative is actually a life lesson that we need to learn. Perspective and what we take from it is what really matters.
This experience never for even one second made me think that I wouldn’t solo hike or solo travel ever again.
I’m looking forward to all my continued travels and adventures, I’m just taking these life lessons with me.
and in conclusion...
(If you're still with me)
Welp, that was a novel.
Virtual high five if you’re still reading.
Don’t let my experience deter you from seeing this amazing (and easy – if you do it right) hike.
It’s worth every step and I still wouldn’t change a thing. (Other than being stupid, getting lost, and almost dying.)
WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT IT?!
Have you ever had a scary hiking experience?
Tell me about it in the comments!