Professor Creek

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 8.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4308 - 4742 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Sylvester
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic area, wading




Professor Creek is located in Mary Jane Canyon near Moab, Utah. The trail begins at the Sylvester trailhead and follows the creek upstream for about 4 miles. As the hike travels upstream the canyon becomes narrower until all progress is stopped at a choke stone where a scenic double waterfall makes a ten foot plunge around both sides of the rock. The creek itself serves as the trail for much of the distance making it a fun romp during Moabs hot summer months. Except for some pools the water never gets more than 5 or 6 inches deep after the spring runoff.




To get to the trailhead measure 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 for 2.2 miles where it ends at the trailhead. If you are coming from the I-70 direction and approaching the turnoff from the north it should be around 28 miles from Exit 204 on Interstate 70.


A kiosk on the west side of the parking area marks the beginning of the Sylvester trail. There aren't any signs at present that say anything about Professor Creek.


On the east side of the parking area, opposite the kiosk, look for a trail that enters the wash and comes out the other side. After getting up on the bank on the other side of the wash there is an obvious trail that heads toward Professor Creek.


Once the trail comes upon Professor Creek you have the option of getting down into the creek bed and following it or staying up on the bank and hiking there. Eventually there will be no other choice but to get down in the creek to continue up the canyon.


As things continue there are several branches in the canyon that come up. Since the ultimate outcome is to reach the waterfall be sure not to follow any of the dry forks. In this photo Castle Rock, on the left of the butte, and Priest and Nuns, on the right side, are in full view. It never hurts to have such iconic scenery to enjoy while on a hike.


As the hike progresses upstream the canyon gets narrower and the banks get higher. The canyon does tend to fluctuate though and open back up in places before narrowing back down again.


While there aren't any real swimming holes there are some slightly deeper places that might seem like swimming holes to the younger kids.


The temperatures can drop significantly in the deeper parts of the canyon where the breeze acting upon the cool water and lack of sunshine produces an air conditioning affect.


There are a few places along the banks where poison ivy is prolific. Hopefully you can keep an eye on fido and the kids so they don't get in to it.


The redrock canyon gets more and more awesome the further you get into it. While it isn't as narrow as many of the slot canyons that Utah is famous for it is still fun exploring. There are a few narrower slots that branch off to the sides. The ones that we checked out all ended after a short distance.


The choke stone is sitting on top of a small spillover where it causes the water to fork into two separate streams that flow around it.


This is one spot where you might just be able to take a swim. It definitely looks like a good place to get soaked.


Take note of how high the water can get in the canyon when flashfloods that are spawned by thunderstorms come roaring through. This spot of the canyon isn't even that narrow. The narrower the opening the deeper the water and the higher the velocity. We have been in flashfloods where the water was only a couple of feet deep and it was hard to stand up. The debri in this picture is about 10 feet up the tree.


Professor Creek can be hiked all year round with the right preparation. During the hot summer months it is an ideal place to take youngsters who will thoroughly enjoy playing in the water. If you try to hike the entire distance barefooted it can be a long, slow journey so you might want to be sure to wear water shoes, old tennis shoes, or at least some flip flops. If you would like to see one of Moabs well kept secret places for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.