This page provides an alphabetical listing of some of the basic hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, camping, and archaeological terms that one might encounter while preparing for an adventure in canyon country. The definitions on these pages are meant only as a beginning, a point from which to get familiar as quickly as possible with the jargon of the trail. Please do not consider these explanations as definitive nor comprehensive. There are outside resources listed and linked for more in-depth definitions.
The area of a national park or other park that is away from the roads and general tourist areas. The backcountry is wilderness and the animals encountered there are wild and should be treated as such. You are on your own in the backcountry and should take all precautions necessary for survival. Backcountry in most parks and monuments is defined as any area 150 feet from the center line of any road or any area 150 feet from the perimeter of any front country facility, such as a campground.
A region nearly devoid of vegetation where erosion has cut into soft, easily erodible rock forming an intricate maze of narrow ravines and sharp crests and pinnacles.
A series of coalescing alluvial fans along the base of a mountain range. Spanish for descent or slope.
Barrier Canyon Style
A rock art style most common in eastern Utah. Dating is uncertain, but possibly from 1000 B.C.E. to C.E. 500. It includes anthropomorphic figures that appear supernatural or shamanistic and are elaborately decorated. Includes both petroglyphs and pictographs.
A fine-grained igneous rock that solidifies from molten lava at the Earth's surface. It is usually black, due to the predominance of dark-colored minerals.
An extensive depressed area into which the adjacent land drains.
Basin and Range Province
A physiographic region in the western United States that consists of fault-block mountains and intervening sediment-filled basins. The province lies between the Sierra Nevada on the west, the Columbia Plateau and Snake River Plain on the north, and the Colorado Plateau on the east. On the south, the province extends through southern Arizona and into northern Mexico.
(1500 B.C. - A. D. 750)
Early Basketmaker people were primarily hunters and gatherers, but they were also beginning to grow corn, squash, and, later, beans, and to settle into more permanent pithouses. People began making baskets and plain pottery during this time, and also began using the bow and arrow.
A huge body of plutonic rock that has been intruded deep into the Earth's crust and later exposed by erosion.
A small amphitheater.
Depositional layers or planes dividing sedimentary rocks of the same or different lithology.
Any solid rock exposed at the Earth's surface or covered by unconsolidated material.
A well-maintained trail with a good walking surface and no unsafe terrain. The route is well defined and has adequate signs.
A surveyor's mark made on some stationary object of previously determined position and elevation, and used as a reference point in surveys.
A natural or man-made raised bank of earth that forms a low ridge.
A fleshy fruit with one to many seeds.
A plant that completes its life cycle and dies in two years. Flower and fruit production usually occurs in the second year.
When discussing rock art, these are images that resemble patterns on textiles.
Bureau of Land Management
Glacial boulders of the same sort of rock, extending from the source or parent ledge, perhaps for many miles, in the direction that the ice moved.
Travel across large relatively stable rocks. This is very exhausting and slow since the hiker is constantly stepping up and jumping down.
Where a canyon is blocked by a mess of boulders fallen from the canyon walls.
Metate made in a boulder. Because of its large size its location is permanent.
A large depression left in the earth by a retreating glacier, often part of a cirque.
Partially salty water.
A general term, commonly used in wildlife management to signify brushy plants utilized as feed by deer, elk, or cattle.
A small pocket compass with sights and a reflector attached, used in geological surveys.
A short underground stem, the swollen portion consisting mostly of fleshy, food-storing scale leaves.
Off-trail travel through brush where no cleared path exists and hikers have to force their way through the branches.
A conspicuous isolated hill or small mountain with very steep sides; a small mesa.