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The Search for the Sky Faces

Friday & Saturday, December 1-2, 2017

The Sky Faces
A view of The Sky Faces in their precarious location within Canyonlands National Park.

A few years back I came across an old photo of some pictographs I was unfamiliar with called the Sky Faces. Since I’ve enjoyed visiting many of the other ‘Faces Motif’ pictographs in the Canyonlands region (Four Faces, Five Faces, Thirteen Faces, etc.), I decided to try and track them down. It took me a few years, but I was finally able to figure out their location earlier this year and wanted to try and get to them before the year was over. Back in October Jared and I tried to hike to them, but we were unable to reach them via the route we took. With warmer weather sticking around this weekend I decided to head down to Canyonlands National Park after work on Friday and go on a long hike to reach the pictographs on Saturday. I ended up spending Friday night just outside the park in Bears Ears National Monument, which may have been the last time? Looking at the new maps of the Monument, I guess I would have been camped in what is now going to be the Indian Creek National Monument.

This time I was able to reach the Sky Faces and the climb up to them was easier than I was expecting. I was only unable to climb up onto the final ledge right in front of the pictographs for a closer look, but I was sort of expecting that to be the case. It would have been a tricky move with massive exposure below which was definitely too much for me! The total length of the hike ended up being just over 18 miles and a lot of that was through soft sand. I spent the rest of the evening visiting other parts of The Needles and then headed back home just after sunset.

Sunset on the Book Cliffs as I drove through Utah on my way to Canyonlands.

Book Cliffs Sunset

Last Light on The Book Cliffs

First light in the canyon as I hiked up the sandy wash.

First Light In The Canyon

Morning Wash Hiking

Walking across a narrow sandstone catwalk to reach the Sky Faces.

The Catwalk

The Sky Faces Panel

Sky Faces Panel

Since I couldn’t get close to the pictographs, this is a photo taken from the other side of the small canyon that is zoomed in and heavily cropped.

Sky Faces Closer

One more closer look from the side. Again, a heavily cropped photo.

Sky Faces

Exploring Canyonlands in my Jeep before sunset.

Canyonlands Jeep

Exploring Canyons

A small ruin I visited during the hike.

Light & Shadow Ruin

Glowing light though a passage in the sandstone that I used as a shortcut.

Shortcut Glow

I made some time to revisit the Eleven Faces (Blue Faces) while I was in the park.

The Eleven Faces

Three of the Eleven Faces.

Three of Eleven

A nice panel of pictographs and petroglyphs I revisited.

Lower Panel

Warm evening light overlooking lower Salt Creek Canyon toward North Six-Shooter Peak and the Abajo Mountains on the horizon.

Lower Salt Creek Canyon

Paul Bunyan’s Potty

Paul Bunyan's Potty

While most of the ‘Faces Motif’ rock art are pictographs, there is this one incised petroglyph that’s very interesting.

Incised Face

Junction Butte and the Island In The Sky beyond my Jeep.

Island In The Sky

A ruin located high up on a canyon wall with a tall ladder in place to reach it. I was unable to get close enough to tell if this is an original ladder or something built later on to access the ruins. I will say that it would have been a lot of work to get the large log for the ladder up there in the first place.

Ladder Ruin

Much of my day was spent hiking in deep sand like this.

Sandy Wash

An evening view from the Colorado River Overlook.

Sandstone Views

Looking down on the Colorado River flowing through Meander Canyon.

The Colorado River

As I was driving up Indian Creek Canyon on my way back home, the Super Moon rose up above the canyon rim and I had to pull over for one last photo.

Super Moon, December 2017

>> The Search for The Sky Faces Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne December 5, 2017

    I am amazed that it was such long hike. I don’t enjoy sand hiking! The three faces are amazing. Was there a ruin under it? Can you post a close-up of the faces? Spectacular location. The land bridge over it looks small. Thanks so much for sharing your hikes with us. Will you do a photo book of that area some day?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat December 5, 2017

      There was no ruin underneath, but there are others in the canyon. I posted the closest photos of the faces I could get since I could not get too close to them.

  2. Landon McDowell
    Landon McDowell December 7, 2019

    How did you reach the sky faces? do you repel in or climb in? do you free solo it or do you place gear?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat December 12, 2019

      I’m not a climber at all. I hiked up to them as close as I could get.

  3. Dan Wagner
    Dan Wagner March 9, 2023

    Hey Randy, I’ll be solo backpacking Salt Creek Canyon in May and interested in visiting Blue Faces and Sky Faces after. I’m guessing they’re not along Salt Creek Canyon, but in or around Horse Canyon. Any chance you’d be willing to email me anything that might help me locate them? if you’re OK with it. Thanks!

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