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Book Cliffs Loop

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Since there really hasn’t been any snow to speak of in the area so far this year, I thought it would be a good time to go for a drive up into the Book Cliffs just over the state line in Utah so we could visit some rock art sites that I haven’t been to in a while and that Diane hadn’t seen before. We left home on Saturday morning and took I-70 to the Westwater Exit where we headed north into the Book Cliffs following along Westwater Creek. Unfortunately, even though temperatures were mild, the sky was pretty overcast for much of the day, so I didn’t take too many photos from our journey, aside from of the rock art and a couple of times when the sun did briefly peek out. So if you aren’t interested in seeing a bunch of photos of rock art, you might just want to skip this trip report…

Here are a couple of photos from the first set of pictograph panels we visited which are located high above the road on private property.

High Pictographs

High Pictographs II

Driving into East Canyon in search of rock art in the Book Cliffs.

East Canyon Morning Drive

A nice petroglyph panel on a large boulder.

Three Forks Petroglyphs

There were a few deer walking around in East Canyon as we drove by, so I stopped for a couple of pictures.

Walking Deer

Looking At Me

Petroglyphs on a boulder.

Boulder Petroglyphs

Red Handprints

Red Hands

One of my favorite panels in the area that features Ute petroglyphs over older Barrier Canyon Style pictographs.

Barrier Canyon Style Pictographs

The Baseball Panel

Baseball Panel

A large yellow pictograph of a rider on a horse.

The Yellow Rider

Driving along Westwater Creek as the sun came out again.

Westwater Creek

Another of my favorite pictographs in the area of a horned shield. This seems to be a common style found in this part of the Book Cliffs.

Horned Shield

Another nice panel of pictographs that I’ve seen called a ‘birthing scene’ before.

Book Cliffs Pictographs


While searching for historic inscriptions I came across this carving from 1922.


While we were driving up the canyon I remembered that my friend Dennis had visited a Denis Julien inscription somewhere in the area earlier this year. I had no other information with me besides that memory, so I decided to keep an eye out for it and we spent a little time searching around the areas that I thought might be likely places to find it. I’m happy to report that we were able to locate it! It looks like it says: D Julien 1830

D Julien 1830

There are a lot of petroglyphs and pictographs depicting horseback riders in this canyon which makes sense since it was part of the Old Trappers Trail between the Grand Valley and Uinta Basin.


Among a number of other inscriptions, we also spotted this deeply carved W.J.S. 1896.

W.J.S. 1896

Another horseback rider petroglyph, this time with dots underneath.


Shortly before exiting Hay Canyon onto the Book Cliffs Ridge Road we passed this sign along the road about a life lost in a Horse Accident on the old wagon road through the canyon. I did a little searching when I got home for more information about this incident, but didn’t find anything. If you know anything else, please let me know in the comments.

Horse Accident

After reaching the top of the ridge we followed the road east and took a short detour to explore part of South Canyon. Then we descended into San Arroyo Canyon and followed the road along Bitter Creek out of the Book Cliffs where we met up with the old highway near Mack, Colorado to complete the loop. It was a nice easy day not far from home.

>> Book Cliffs Loop Photo Gallery


  1. Sarah Myers
    Sarah Myers April 11, 2018

    Would love to know more about Thomas Ray Larson’s horse accident now too. Did you ever find out any more information?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat April 11, 2018

      I did some searching online, but never did find out any other info about it.

  2. Danny Reynolds
    Danny Reynolds May 6, 2018

    Really enjoy your site. I just read about the horse accident at the top of Hay Canyon. There is a local author, Kathy Hurt, with a book called ‘Way Points Along the Book Mountains’. page 54 to 56. Tells of the family moving to a new Ranch on Meadow Creek, Ray, one of the children was 12.years old, and during the trip said some odd things that seemed to indicate a premonition. After the accident, the family raced a thunderstorm and flash flood down to the ranch at the intersection of Hay, Middle, and East Canyon (Standiferd place at he time). I have been to the top of the canyon many times and do not recall this sign. Will look closer next time, as well as look for the Julien inscription.
    Cool stuff.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat May 6, 2018

      Thanks for the info Danny! Funny thing is I have that book sitting on my shelf, but I’m behind on reading and haven’t got to it yet. I will check it out now!

  3. Hoyt Arrow
    Hoyt Arrow November 5, 2021

    WOw great work. After seeing the sign Randy found I was wanting to go check it out. I met someone in Thompson springs that spoke of an emotional husband killing a local sheriff in the area for committing adultery with his wife.. I found the guy that has the very gun that was used as the law man got off the train in Thompson springs. Owner of the gun lives in Moab to this day and works at the Hospital. Small world.

  4. John Michael Smith
    John Michael Smith January 30, 2023

    Randy. I have been looking at your pictures for quite awhile now. You have seen many things that I have not as well as many that I have. The buffalo carving I am not familiar with.
    In case you have not seen the, barrier ? style up East Canyon I will give you this info…

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 8, 2023

      Thanks John! I have seen those pictographs in East Canyon. FYI- I removed the directions you left in the comment so they won’t show up.

  5. Andrew Mortellaro
    Andrew Mortellaro February 16, 2024

    Hi! Your blog has been a source of inspiration for some of my explorations. I am planning a trip to focus on the Book Cliffs soon. Did you see everything in this post in a single day?

      • Andrew Mortellaro
        Andrew Mortellaro February 20, 2024

        Thanks – I was able to find some of the pictographs last weekend after reading an old paper that was presented at a symposium. When I get some time I want to read the others.

        It was admittedly a bit tricky navigating around private property; I wasn’t expecting that.

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