Utah Off The Beaten Path Tips by pfsmalo Top 5 Page for this destination
Utah Off The Beaten Path: 108 reviews and 154 photos
View down the canyon from the trailhead.
Although officially part of Canyonlands N.P., Horseshoe Canyon is a seperate entity, not even attached to "The Maze". A lovely hike down the cliff and into the canyon itself is a bit steep in places but well-marked with cairns and traces of passage. Turning right at the bottom you walk along the streambed. I was here in April and there was very little water in the bed so no need for wet weather footwear. Afair distance along you first come to the Alcove where there are a set of Pictographs. Further along there is the Shelter where the images are so much clearer. Upon reaching the end of the canyon after a slight bend, wonder of wonders, "The Great Gallery" appears. Approx. 50 metres long the panel painted in the "Barrier Canyon"** style is like a giant slap in the face. Standing looking at these images that may be up to 5000 y.o. is so moving. When we arrived there were two rangers there who gave us a detailed visit of the gallery. Stupendous!!!
One of the highlights of my first trip to this side of the U.S. The whole hike is about 10 kms there and back and in all can take 5/6 hours. Make sure you have enough water for the climb out of the canyon.
**Horshoe Canyon used to be called Barrier Canyon and Barrier Canyon style was a term first used by Polly Schaafsma an expert on rock art. For those that wish to learn a bit more about the style can have a look here. http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/upload/HorshoeBook.pdf
Another site for a look at the gallery is :http://www.so-utah.com/capitol/horsshoe/homepage.html
Directions : From Ut.24 there is an entrance close to the Goblin Valley turnoff on the opposite side of the road. almost 50 kms of graded dirt but with a fair amount of sand. Passable in good weather. Have a map with you as navigation is not easy. Another route in is directly from Green River along 75 kms of graded dirt.
Old barn with the Hanksville meeting house behind.
Originally settled in 1882 but only incorporated in 1999,lying on the intersection of Hwys 24 and 95, and not far from Capitol Reef N.P. and Goblin Valley, Hanksville is one of the original remote "frontier" towns (pop. 203 at last census 2006). There are a couple of good stores for stocking up, a couple of motels I didn't find and Hollow Mountain filling station, but apart from that........We just took a walk into the historic section for a couple of photos and found the "one-horse" part of town.
Johnson Canyon can be used as a through road if coming from Page and going up towards the Bryce Canyon area. Easy paved road at the beginning becomes graded dirt after about 25 kms and is treacherous in the wet. Has the added interest of being the home of the "Gunsmoke" film set, plus about 50 other films have some scenes shot here. The movie set is on private grounds and was closed to the public for many years but apparently there is a plan to restore it and there will be guided tours. The movie set is about 8 kms up the canyon road from Hwy. 89. The canyon road starts about 16 kms from Kanab and is also the route for Willis Creek and Bull Valley slot canyons that I have yet to visit.
Update from Sept.'09 - All the photos are from Sept. 2009 showing that nothing in the way of renovation had been undertaken since my first time here in 2003.
Entrance to Blue Valley Ranch.
Along Hwy 24 heading towards Capitol Reef and Torrey, about 8 kms from Hanksville is this strange scene, showing all that remains of the ghost town of Giles. There is a small parking lot with an information board. Settlers came here in the 1880's to farm the land on the banks of the Fremont River, but after withstanding much flooding and ruined crops, by 1919 the town was empty. Depicted on the photos are the relics at the entrance to the old "Blue Valley" farm. The original town site is further on, down the trail, but when I tried to walk there I was halted bya swift flowing creek. Apparently there are only a couple of roofless crumbling ruins to see now.
Not far from Green River is a cold water geyser going by the name of Crystal. Apparently it goes off once every 10/12/15 hours. There's not a lot of people actually stay there long enough to have a good idea, so even in town we found no-one that could actually pin the time down. So, of course we didn't see it, but did witness quite a bit of hubbling and bubbling. The owner of the motel we stayed in gave us the reason for the pipe that is rammed into the head of the geyser and that it is a security measure. A while ago in another area, a small child slipped into a geyser's head as wide as this one, so there was a widespread panic over all geysers that are in un-watched areas such as this. Green River solved the problem of this one by having this long pipe rammed into it. Not very aesthetic but......
The road out is quite simple : Follow Main street out to the east past the truck stop (they do a great breakfast) and over the I-70. a hundred metres on take the left at the T-junction. Follow this through to the first crossroads and turn right. There is an information board here and a couple of old buildings that are part of an ancient missile site. From there follow the road round always keeping to your right. There are a couple of signs to help out.
The Holy Ghost and Companions.
The spectacular Great Gallery is awesome to behold with ghostlike images, most without arms, just long flowing robes. Some of the images are over 2 metres high. On other parts of the gallery can be seen hunting scenes, the bighorn sheep are quite clear. But, what does it all mean ? Nobody has worked it out yet, although there are plenty of theories.
I urge you to have a look at the pdf file booklet on the archaeology of the area from the NPS site address or directly with address given in the previous tip. Very interesting for those interested. The Moab visitors centre has a leaflet available to help you find other sites, but nothing as large as the Great Gallery.
Although I haven't visited it yet there is another major pictograph and petroglyph site at 9-mile canyon near Price, Utah. http://climb-utah.com/Misc/ninemile.htm
Hell's Backbone bridge.
This is an experience for those that have a sense of adventure and a head for heights. This road takes from near Boulder to Escalante as an alternative to Hwy 12. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's it is an unpaved spectacular drive up through the Dixie Forest. I stopped at the Hell's backbone bridge for a walkabout and to take in the views. The bridge is actually just a one lane wooden one with steep drop-offs down to Box/Death Hollow Canyons that meet up at this point, and it is nearly 2800 metres high. On the way back down we met up with some curious wild mule deer.
Part of the Grafton townsite.
A short side trip before getting into Zion Canyon is a visit to Grafton. Grafton is a small ghost town made famous by the scenes from 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where Paul Newman rides his bicycle around with Katherine Ross on the front bars and the song "Raindrops keep falling on my head" is playing behind. Not much left now, a couple of wooden shacks and the old cemetary. Even the front porch of the outlaws house has been set on fire by vandals. On Hwy 9 in Rockville cross the iron bridge over the river, about 600 metres on your right is the Grafton road, just follow it round for a km or two. This is a dirt road not recommended in wet weather but it's not that far from civilisation so help is just around the corner.
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