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Across the King Bench: Horse Canyon to The Gulch

Canyons of the Escalante | Friday – Saturday, February 26-27, 2021

This weekend I met up with my friends Dennis and Chris inside of the Circle Cliffs west of the Waterpocket Fold so we could explore a few more Canyons of the Escalante. Over the winter Dennis and I had spoken about getting together for a hike sometime this spring since it had been a while, and he told me about his plans to hike over into The Gulch from Horse Canyon using an old stock trail to get up onto the King Bench. This sounded like a great idea to me, especially since I had never driven the road into Horse Canyon before since it used to be an ‘Administrative Road’ in the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, so we made plans to meet up the last weekend of February for the hike.

I left right from work on Friday afternoon and drove into Utah with only a quick stop in Hanksville for fuel. While I was getting gas in Hanksville I was able to watch the gigantic full moon rising over the hills east of town. The wind was strong this evening which killed my fuel mileage, especially on I-70, but when I arrived at our planned campsite in Horse Canyon it seemed to be well-protected from the wind and the temperature out was actually very comfortable. We sat around the campfire for the rest of the evening and I ended up stayed up much later than I normally would have.

On Saturday morning we woke up shortly before sunrise and started our drive down Horse Canyon as soon as we were ready. Right away we noticed that the road into the canyon had recently been graded and we were leaving the first sets of tracks on the road since then.

The drive through Horse Canyon was really beautiful. After a few miles we reached a couple of bends in the canyon with nice reflected light, so I had to stop for a few photos.

Horse Canyon Road

Canyon Jeep

The Swell Jeep in Horse Canyon

Swell Jeep in Horse Canyon

I love that big striped wall in the background of this photo.

ADVENTR Jeep in Horse Canyon

The road through the canyon was a bit dusty…

Dusty Drive

Driving underneath a large alcove.

Big Alcove

Big wall, small Jeep.

Big Wall, Small Jeep

Once we reached the bottom of an old stock trail near Wolverine Canyon we found a place to park and started hiking up onto the King Bench.

King Bench Climb

Chris and Dennis hiking up the old stock trail.

Stock Trail Hiking

Across The Boulders

We had a good view over Horse Canyon as we climbed higher onto the bench.

Horse Canyon

After crossing a lot of sand and hills on the King Bench we eventually reached more sandstone on the other side near The Gulch.

Surveying The Route

Nice clouds over the sandstone.

Sandstone Under Clouds

It seems that Dennis has a knack for finding arrowheads and other worked rocks, including this nice point he found along the way.


Hiking down a swirl of sandstone as we searched for a way into The Gulch.

Sandstone Swirl

The lines in the sandstone around here were very nice! This area reminded me of the Paria Plateau.

Sandstone Wonderland

The Gulch

The Gulch

We eventually found a steep route down into The Gulch.

In The Gulch

After hiking around in The Gulch for a while we climbed back up onto the King Bench so we could start heading back.

King Bench Country

Sandstone Striations

Sandstone Striations

I certainly wouldn’t mind coming back again to explore this area some more!

King Bench Landscape

As we hiked back across the top of King Bench it got cloudy, windy and much colder out, so I didn’t take many more photos on our way back.

Cloudy Afternoon

When we arrived back to our vehicles in Horse Canyon I think we were all pretty tired since the hike was quite a bit longer than we had anticipated. It also took us much longer than we expected and there was only about an hour until sunset. Before heading back to camp we drove to the end of the road so we could visit the line cabin there, which I had visited a few years ago on a loop hike of Little Death Hollow and Wolverine Canyon.

The we stopped to visit this old rail car on our way back up Horse Canyon. I wonder if this has anything to do with the carving of a train that’s found on a canyon wall nearby?

Old Rail Car

As we were driving out of Horse Canyon a little light slipped through a gap on the horizon and lit up the top of the cliffs under the dark clouds in the sky.

Light in the Dark

Our sunset view from camp.

Sunset at Camp

After returning to camp we spent the rest of the evening trying to stay warm around the fire until it was time to get to bed. Unfortunately, the campsite did not seem as protected from the wind tonight and it was much colder out. I headed to bed a little earlier than Dennis and Chris since I planned to get an early start on Sunday morning to get in one more hike just off of the Burr Trail on my drive home.


Rock Art Photos

These faded pictographs found in a small alcove were very cool.

Faded Pictographs Panel

Here’s a closer look at the best figures in the middle.

Faded Details

This is probably one of my favorite pictograph panels in the area as it reminds me of a cross between Barrier Canyon Style and Grand Canyon Polychrome.

Large Pictograph Panel

A closer look at my favorite part.

Polychrome Pictographs

These red and green dots were interesting. Maybe they are fingerprints?

Red & Green Dots

Small Panel


Many of the thin-lined figures at this site remind me of the paintings at the Weavers Caves.

Weavers Cave Style

>> Horse Canyon to The Gulch Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. Anthony
    Anthony March 5, 2021

    Hi Randy, your posts are great and i have enjoyed them in real time the last few years and caught up on your older posts too. You share a great journey. I am a frequent visitor to the four corners and am hoping to move to Moab area in the next 6 months but housing availability is not much. Do you have any recommended towns in Western CO to start searching?

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