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Gallivanting Through The Grabens

Southern Utah Wanderings | Friday – Saturday, October 5-6, 2018

After spending the previous two nights at the Horsehoof Campsite in Canyonlands National Park it was time for us to move on. When we got our permit for Horsehoof on Wednesday morning we also picked up a backpacking permit for the Red Lake / Grabens At-Large Backpacking Zone for tonight, so we still had one more night left in the Needles District. Aside from driving through Devils Lane a bunch of times and hiking down the Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail earlier this year, I had never really explored this remote area of the park and was looking forward to it. I really don’t think very many people venture out this way.

Our last morning at the Horsehoof Campsite. My tent was wet from a few rain showers overnight.

Last Morning At Horsehoof

There had been some more rain and wind overnight, but I still slept pretty well. We woke up with the sun to mostly clear skies and spent the morning taking down camp and packing our backpacks for our overnight trip deep into The Grabens. It was nice being able to use the picnic table that was at our campsite for this. When we were all set we got in my Jeep and drove back over SOB Hill into Devils Lane and parked at the intersection located there. We originally thought about hiking down Chesler Canyon into Butler Wash, but decided it might be easier to follow the Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail and old road in Cyclone Canyon, even if it was a little bit longer.

A quick stop for a photo of my Jeep as we drove back to Devils Lane.

Canyon Driving

When we reached the end of the road in Cyclone Canyon we descended down a steep boulder-filled chute to Butler Wash and started exploring Red Lake Canyon. We searched the walls of these canyons for rock art and old inscriptions and ended up setting up camp on the horst between Red Lake Canyon and Twin Canyon. There was a nice view from up there and it was pretty centrally located to the areas we wanted to explore more.

This section of Butler Wash was a little more rocky than I thought it would be.

Rocky Butler Wash

A view down Red Lake Canyon from Butler Wash.

The Lower Canyon

This was the first petroglyph we found. It wasn’t much, but it was pretty cool.


While hiking over a natural pass between two grabens I found this broken point on the ground.

Broken Point

Near that pass we also found this very faded rock art site.

Faded Pass Panel

My campsite on the horst between Red Lake Canyon and Twin Canyon.

Grabens Camp

This is a view into Twin Canyon from my campsite.

View Near Camp

A nice sandstone tower in Twin Canyon. There were a couple of faint inscriptions nearby, but they were barely visible.

Twin Canyon Tower

Twin Canyon was a nice place to explore.

Twin Canyon

This was the best petroglyph panel we found.

Little Petroglyph Panel

Looking down into Twin Canyon from the rim as we climbed up and over into another unnamed graben. As we climbed up a slope into the next graben I almost stepped on a small rattlesnake that rattled at me and then slithered under a nearby boulder. We gave it plenty of room as we continued the climb.

Twin Canyon View

Unsuccessfully searching for rock art on this ledge.

On A Ledge

Shortly before sunset we did find this panel of Barrier Canyon Style pictographs.

Three BCS

Hiking back to camp under a beautiful sky.

Graben Sky

There was a touch of magenta in the sky over The Grabens just as we returned to our campsite.

Last Color

Since we returned to camp just after sunset it was another late dinner for us, which seemed to be common for us on this trip. Although we hadn’t been able to check the weather forecast since we were at the Visitor’s Center on Wednesday morning, I recalled that there was supposed to be a storm system moving in some time on Saturday, so I sent Diane a message from my SPOT X to see if she could send me an updated forecast for Saturday. She returned the message to let us know that it was supposed to start raining on Saturday in the early afternoon and it wasn’t supposed to stop for a few days. We decided it would be best to hike out first thing in the morning and get back over Elephant Hill before the storms arrived.

There was a touch of color on the horizon on Saturday morning, but there were too many clouds for a great sunrise.

First Light

Looking down Twin Canyon with a little light on Junction Butte in the distance.

Twin Canyon Morning

After taking a few photos at sunrise on Saturday morning I was just about to start taking down my tent when it started to rain, so I got into my tent and waited for it to stop. The rain didn’t last long, but it was just long enough to get my tent wet and I hate packing up a wet tent! Once we got everything back into our packs we started the hike back out. There were a few more rain showers during our hike, but nothing that really got us wet.

Hiking down into Red Lake Canyon as darker storm clouds moved in overhead.

Red Lake Canyon

I’m not sure if that was rain or virga in the distance, but it looked pretty cool over the canyon as we hiked down the wash.

Dark Sky

Of course we kept an eye out for rock art as we hiked back. It’s a good thing we did since we ended up finding a pictograph panel that I’ve been searching for for years! I was happy to finally see this one.

Backpacker Panel

Hiking through another boulder-filled wash.

Boulder Wash

Leaving Cyclone Canyon as we hiked back up to Devils Lane.

Leaving Cyclone Canyon

Jared also spotted this Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel that we’ve both passed numerous times before and never noticed! It’s definitely an unusual one…

Overlooked Panel

The rain really started to come down hard just as we reached my Jeep. Perfect timing! We drove back over Elephant Hill in the rain which made things a little more difficult, but we made it over just fine. After transferring Jared’s gear back into his car we parted ways and headed home a day early. As I drove back to Moab there was a lot more heavy rain, waterfalls cascading over the canyon walls and washes full of water. Heading home a day early was a good call, otherwise it would have been a very wet night!

>> Gallivanting Through The Grabens Photo Gallery

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