Amphitheater Loop

Round Trip Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4102 - 4500 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Hittle Bottom Campground
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic views

The Amphitheater trail makes a 3 mile loop through the northern end of the Richardson Amphitheater northeast of Moab, Utah. The Richardson Amphitheater is a broad valley along the Colorado River that is surrounded by high redrock sandstone cliffs. A cutoff trail bisects the loop dividing it into 2 smaller sections that provide hikers with shorter alternatives to the main loop. The scenic majesty of the Richardson Amphitheater that was carved out from the relentless flow of the Colorado River is further enhanced with distant views of Fisher Towers and Castle Rock.

The trailhead for the Amphitheater Loop is located in the Hittle Bottom Campground. Hittle Bottom is about 22 miles east of Moab, Utah along Highway 128. The trail begins behind the kiosk where it passes through the fence and crosses to the east side of the highway.

The loop begins shortly after crossing the road. The preferable direction would probably be to follow the trail to the right and hike the loop in the counter-clockwise direction. That direction allows for climbing up the one short steep section of the hike which is normally easier than sliding down it.

The trail follows a shallow rocky wash as it heads eastward towards the back of the amphitheater.

The chocolate brown spires of Fisher Towers, about 4 miles away, can't help but to draw your attention in their direction.

The cutoff trail branches off to the left providing an alternate route that avoids some of the scrambling that is required further along the trail. The little bit of scrambling is actually pretty fun and that portion of the hike is also very pretty.

For the most part there are cairns that mark the route but the trail can still get a little sketchy at times figuring out just which way to go. If the wash is dry, as is normally the case, you can manage just fine by following it until the canyon begins boxing you in.

The sounds of civilization soon fade away as a new world opens up before you. Watch for cairns through this area that will lead you away from the main wash.

A small cairn sitting atop a boulder marks the spot where the trail begins looping to the left toward the area where the climbing begins.

Some minor scrambling is required as the trail climbs up to the small mesa above the wash. We had a 5 and an 8 year old in tow for this hike and they had no trouble at all. For them it was a big adventure with countless pretty rocks to examine all along the way.

We spotted the remains of a possible rock shelter beneath a large boulder on top of the little mesa. The line of rocks that would have formed a short wall are the tell-tale sign. It is illegal to dig around sites like this or to disturb them in anyway. Besides, it is a lot more interesting when an experience archaeologist can examine the area and share what they find with everyone else.

The rest of the hike is an easy stroll. Expansive views are laid out before you as the trail crosses the mesa.

A short post marks the top of the cutoff trail. Unless you feel a need to shorten the hike continue around the main loop by bearing right at this point.

The trail drops off the gentle side of the mesa and picks up a smooth bottom wash that it follows around toward the northwest.

The final leg of the hike makes a beeline across the flats back to the trailhead.

The Amphitheater Loop is a nice diversion for people camping at Hittle Bottom or any of the other nearby spots along the river. This stretch of the Colorado River is popular with rafters and kayakers both commercial and otherwise. Many other people come for the mountain biking, horseback riding or simply to take in the exceptional scenery. Whatever your case may be if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.