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Cane Wash: Locomotive Point to the San Rafael River

Friday – Saturday, November 6-7, 2020

I was originally planning to spend three days alone on Cedar Mesa this weekend, but the weather forecast had other plans for me with rain and snow predicted for much of that time. So instead of driving all the way down to Cedar Mesa and getting shut down by the weather, I planned to stay a little closer to home in the San Rafael Swell so I could try to get a hike in on Saturday morning and then head home before the storm arrived. I decided that hiking down Cane Wash to the San Rafael River sounded like a good plan because I figured that even if I didn’t beat the storm this hike and drive wouldn’t be a problem in the rain or snow.

I left after work on Friday evening and drove west to the San Rafael Swell and then followed the Buckhorn Wash Road towards the San Rafael River. I found a place to camp near Road Draw below Calf Mesa and went to bed early. I was woken up by a few drops of rain around 4:30am, but they didn’t last very long.

It was cloudy when I woke up before sunrise on Saturday morning to drive over to the trailhead, but the temperature was a nice 50 degrees out.

Cloudy Morning Drive

On my way over to the trailhead I stopped to visit a few old cars and mining ruins that are near the southern point of Calf Mesa.


An old truck with Window Blind Peak in the background.

Old Truck

I have no idea what this is? Do you?


An old structure built out of railroad ties and covered with dirt.


When I reached Cane Wash and started hiking downstream between Calf Mesa and No Mans Mountain the sun broke free of the clouds for a little bit and lit up the canyon walls nicely!

Cane Wash Morning

Canyon Light

The clouds were moving fast this morning, so the light was constantly changing. It started to get windy out as I neared the river.

Cane Wash Canyon Wall

Cliff & Clouds

Here’s a nice faded Fremont pictograph I came across.

Fremont Figure

I stopped to revisit a small shelter with a few designs painted inside.

Shelter Art

Shallow Alcove Designs

Then I climbed up to The Notch in the canyon wall between Cane Wash and the San Rafael River so I could see up the Little Grand Canyon.

The Notch

Looking down over lower Cane Wash.

Lower Cane Wash

I spent a little time revisiting some really nice pictographs at Pictograph Butte.

Split Panel

These are some of my favorites in the area!

Red & Yellow Panel

Diagonal Red & Yellow

Red & Yellow Stripes

Cherry Bomb

A view from The Notch as I headed back into Cane Wash and started hiking upstream again.

View from The Notch

Most of the hike back was overcast with wind and some on and off rain, but the light started to come out again as I neared the trailhead.

Clouds & Light

Since the hike down Cane Wash was pretty flat and easy, I made great time and still had plenty of the day left for more exploring, especially since the storm seemed to still be holding off. I had no other plans for the rest of the day, so I decided to complete a traverse of Cane Wash by driving to its beginning near Locomotive Point.

From Hiking to Driving

It stayed windy this afternoon and I could tell the storm was coming, but the clouds looked great!

Swell Scenery

Cane Wash Drive

Sandstone & Clouds

Lovely Clouds

This was a cool old trough along the road that was carved out of a large log.

Log Trough

Cane Wash Road

When I reached Locomotive Point I knew I had to go revisit some of the amazing Barrier Canyon Style pictographs in the area while I was there.

Locomotive Point

Skeleton Shaman

Skeleton Shaman

Barrier Canyon Style Pictographs

Barrier Canyon Style

I spent a little time exploring the Head of Sinbad after checking out the pictographs.

Locomotive Tower

Head of Sinbad Exploring

I found a great view over the Head of Cane Wash.

Head of Cane Wash Overlook

Leaving Locomotive Point

Leaving Locomotive Point

Since it was right along the way, I had to stop for a photo of Dutchman Arch.

Dutchman Arch

I drove over to the trailhead of the Devils Racetrack and stopped to have a late lunch. I was considering hiking over to The Blocks before heading home, but while I was eating lunch the wind really picked up and started blowing a lot of sand and dust around. The storm was finally arriving and it didn’t look like it would be a good time hiking through the dust storm, so I decided to save that hike for another day and head home. It had been yet another great day in the San Rafael Swell!

>> Cane Wash Photo Gallery

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