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West Side Wandering: Fingers of Salt Creek Canyon

Thursday – Sunday, March 12-15, 2020

This year for our annual early season backpacking trip to The Needles we returned to one of my favorite places on the Colorado Plateau- Salt Creek Canyon. Although I have spent a lot of time in this canyon over the years, Diane had never been here before, so I was looking forward to showing her around on her first visit and searching for new traces of the ancient ones that called this canyon home. Instead of it being just the two of us, this time we also invited our friend Jerry along since I know he’s always up for a nice walk through Salt Creek Canyon. We planned to meet up with him on Friday morning at the Visitor Center since I had to stop there to pick up the permit that I had reserved online four months in advance.

After attending a concert in Salt Lake City on Wednesday evening, we spent the night in a hotel and then left the city on Thursday morning to drive down to The Needles. We set up camp at our usual spot outside the park and then drove down the Colorado River Overlook Road so we could go on a quick hike to the Lower Jump of Salt Creek. After that we watched the sunset from along the Pothole Point Trail before returning to our campsite after dark.

Danger: Control All Children


Although I have driven right by here on the road to the Colorado River Overlook a few times before, this was the first time I took the time to walk over to the Lower Jump of Salt Creek for a closer look.

Lower Jump

We spent the evening watching the sunset from along the Pothole Point Trail.

Pothole Point Evening

A nice view of The Needles in the distance when a little light broke free of the clouds.

The Needles

A sunset view from Pothole Point with the La Sal Mountains just peeking up over Hatch Point and the Needles Overlook.

Pothole Point Sunset

Although the weather forecast for the weekend was looking pretty nice, Friday’s forecast was another story. The forecast for Friday was calling for rain and storms all day beginning overnight. The rain started very early in the morning as predicted, but we got lucky and it stopped briefly around sunrise which allowed us to pack up our tent and gear without getting soaked. While we were packing up a person who had camped nearby came over and asked if we could pull out their van which was stuck in sand. We drove over and had no problem getting them unstuck, and then we drove over to the Visitor Center where we met up with Jerry. Once the Backcountry Office opened we stopped inside to pick up our permit for the weekend. While we were doing that it really started to rain pretty hard out again. We waited inside the Visitor Center for a little while until the rain finally started to die down. Once it did, we headed over to the gate near Cave Spring to start hiking and take our chances with the weather. There were dark clouds all around us as we started the hike, but we lucked out and would only encounter a little drizzle when we reached Peekaboo. The conditions turned out to be much better than the forecast had indicated! We had brought along our rain gear but never needed to use it all weekend…

Watching a nice sunset from a sandstone bench above Salt Creek Canyon.

Salt Creek Evening

West Side Campsite: A great place to spend our first night in the canyons.

West Side Campsite

This large pictograph panel was very impressive and a highlight of the weekend. It was painted above a ruin that is now mostly collapsed.

Big Banner Panel

Here’s a view from the other side.

The Big Banner

Of course, there are a lot of white dots which are pretty common in this region.

Banner Corner

The Shark Fin

The Shark Fin

Diane noticed that the handprint on the left appears to have six fingers.

Six Fingers

Hiking through Trail Arch

Trail Arch

This large basketmaker petroglyph was one of my favorite finds of the trip since petroglyphs seem to be pretty rare in Salt Creek, especially ones this large!

The Big Man of Canyonlands

We revisited one of my favorite pictograph panels and waited around for the good light.

Cat Ears

Wall of Hands

Wall of Hands

A beautiful view in warm evening light.

An Evening View

This is another favorite pictograph that I was happy to return to.

Cross Shield

Watching the sunset through an arch with a small ruin underneath.

Evening Ruin

A few crude pictographs that we came across. There were more to the right that were harder to see.

Corner Panel

Strolling along the sandstone next to a creek in a side canyon.

Along The Ledge

Three Little Pictographs

Three Little Pictographs

These handprints were smaller than most of the others in this area.

Little Hands

Concentric Circles Guy

Concentric Circles Guy

Our second night was spent at one of the Peekaboo campsites, which I’ve stayed at a number of times before.

Peekaboo Camp

This was another new panel we found on this trip. I’m not sure if the figure on the right would be classified as Barrier Canyon Style or not? What do you think?

Faded Pictographs

Little White Panel

Little White Panel

A sandstone tower along Salt Creek.

Tower View

Two white anthropomorphs and a pair of red handprints.

Antler Hands

Here’s a nice natural bridge that I stumbled upon while wandering around our first campsite.

Natural Bridge

Three Hands

Three Hands

Diane spotted these remains of a small granary in a little cubby hole from across the canyon.

Cubby Hole

Clearing Clouds

Clearing Clouds

Red & Yellow Handprints

Red & Yellow Handprints

I climbed up the ladder near Peekaboo to watch the sunset on our second night in the canyon.

Above The Ladder

Vertical Hands

Vertical Hands

We visited a new ‘faces‘ panel this trip, too. This time it was the Seven Faces!

Seven Faces

Here’s a photo looking straight at them that’s cropped for a closer look.

Seven Faces Cropped

Dark Clouds Over Sandstone

Dark Clouds Over Stone

The Flying Carpet Panel

Flying Carpet Panel

Vibrant Red & White Handprints

Red & White

Four Little Guys

Four Guys

Morning along the Peekaboo Trail

Morning Up Top

This is an inaccessible granary that Jerry and I have walked by multiple times and never noticed, until Diane spotted it this trip. There’s even a door still in place!

Unreachable Granary

There seemed to be plenty of water around.


Jerry walking across a loose ledge to some crude ruins.

On A Ledge

Circle of Triangles

Circle of Triangles

A lovely view above Salt Creek Canyon.

Mesa Top View

Here’s a Barrier Canyon Style panel that I’ve been wanting to visit for many years, so I was glad to finally make it here!

Three BCS Panel

Pictographs of Three



Peekaboo Potholes

Peekaboo Potholes

An obligatory photo of the popular pictographs found at Peekaboo.

Obligatory Peekaboo Shot

Just a nice little granary.


Window View

Window View

Row of Hands

Row of Hands

Salt Creek Arch

Salt Creek Arch

A nice petroglyph panel we revisited.

Petroglyph Panel



Round Ruin

Round Ruin

The cliffs of Hatch Point in the distance shortly before sunset.

Hatch Point Cliffs

>> Fingers of Salt Creek Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne April 3, 2020

    You’ve outdone yourself with these. Amazing. Such rich rock art and I love the pothole point landscape. Just beautiful. You are a skilled photographer. Thanks for posting!

  2. David Sucec
    David Sucec April 3, 2020

    …surprised that you didn’t include a pic of the ***** **** Panel.

  3. Rob Shields
    Rob Shields April 4, 2020

    Thanks for sharing. Love the “Circle of triangles”.

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