Press "Enter" to skip to content

Escalante Canyon and the Uncompahgre Plateau

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jeep & Wildfire
Driving up onto the Uncompahgre Plateau under a plume of smoke from the nearby Kelso Wildfire.

It’s been many years since the last time I visited Escalante Canyon and I figured it was time to go back for another drive through the canyon. The last time I was there it wasn’t yet designated as part of the Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area and I was curious what changes, if any, had taken place since that occurred. I also just wanted to go for a nice scenic drive not far from home, and this loop fit the bill.

Welcome to the Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area that was established in 2009.

Dominguez-Escalante NCA

We stopped to visit a few petroglyphs along the Gunnison River before entering Escalante Canyon.

Gunnison River Petroglyph

Petroglyph Panel

We also took a short side trip up Dry Fork to visit a panel of heavily vandalized Ute Petroglyphs. This is a small portion of the panel with the best petroglyphs.

Ute Petroglyphs

This carving of a horse was also nearby along with some historic inscriptions.

Incised Horse

We stopped to visit the Walker Cabin which was built by Harry Walker and his four sons in 1911.

Walker Cabin

Captain Smith’s Cabin is an interesting structure that was built up against a large slab of sandstone.

Smith Cabin

This engraving is on the outside of the sandstone slab facing the road. He was a Civil War veteran and an expert tombstone carver.

H.A. Smith

On the inside of the cabin he hollowed out a bed-sized alcove and a gun niche.

Sandstone Bed

Following the Escalante Canyon Road beyond the Smith Cabin.

Escalante Canyon Road

We decided to cool off in Escalante Creek at The Potholes Recreation Site. Diane stands at the edge of the canyon before we hiked down to the creek.

Escalante Canyon

There were a few nice pools and waterfalls here.

Small Fall

The cool water felt great on this hot summer day, and we were surprised that no one else was around. We hung out in the water for at least an hour and never saw another person. It was great!

Cooling Off

Escalante Creek

As we continued further up the canyon we noticed more smoke in the air from a nearby wildfire on Kelso Mesa.

Into the Smoke

We could see where the smoke was coming from as we followed the road out of Escalante Canyon and onto Love Mesa.

Smoky Drive

A smoky view over Escalante Canyon.

Smoky Escalante Canyon

We left the desert scenery and temperature behind as we climbed higher onto the Uncompahgre Plateau and entered the cooler forest where the road was lined with plenty of wildflowers.

Pink Flower

There were large patches of Mule’s Ear as we neared the crest of the plateau and Divide Road, which we would then follow back to Unaweap Canyon and home.

Uncompahgre Plateau Wildflowers

>> Escalante Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Bill
    Bill July 3, 2016

    Thanks for the write up! Escalante Canyon is one of my most favorite canyons around here. We use to go up there often when I was a little kid. Smiths Cabin was generally about as far as we’d ever go though. There is so much more farther up, tons of history and mystery in that canyon!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat July 5, 2016

      Thanks Bill. It’s been quite a while since I had been in Escalante Canyon, especially considering how close it is. I really should go back more often 🙂

Leave a Reply