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An Unplanned Visit to Horseshoe Canyon

Friday – Sunday, March 12-14, 2021

This weekend I thought I would stick a little bit closer to home in hopes that I would be able to explore a pair of canyons in the Robbers Roost area that I had not been in before. While I knew there was a chance I would have to change my plans because a storm system was supposed to be moving through the area overnight and into Saturday, I was hoping it would miss this area and I would be able to carry on with my plans as normal. But unfortunately the storm did not miss the Roost and the weather would have other plans for me after all! I left straight from work on Friday afternoon and drove west to Green River so I could top off my fuel tank and then make my way into the Roost to find a spot to spend the night. As I zipped by the Book Cliffs on I-70 the light and clouds were looking pretty nice, but I didn’t bother to stop for any photos this time.

I liked the look of the light and these clouds as I followed the Hans Flat Road at sunset.

Friday Evening Cloudscape

When my alarm went off on Saturday morning I looked outside and saw that the ground was covered in snow and it was still coming down pretty good, so I got back into my sleeping bag and slept in a little later. I knew that I wasn’t going to be hiking into any of the canyons I had planned to today, so I had to come up with an alternate plan. Since I wasn’t too far away from the Horseshoe Canyon trailhead I figured that I could hike down into Horseshoe Canyon no matter what the weather was doing, so I decided that’s just what I would do today.

Welcome to the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park! It’s been quite a while since I hiked into Horseshoe Canyon from this trailhead!

Horseshoe Canyon Trailhead

I’ve never hiked this trail in the snow before, though…

Horseshoe Canyon Trail

Not Even Once!

Not Even Once

The High Gallery

The High Gallery

Horseshoe Shelter Pictographs

Horseshoe Shelter Pictographs

The Middle

Right Side

The Hunter

The Hunter

Down at the bottom of the canyon the snow was rain and it was raining on and off for most of the morning. At this point the rain started coming down harder, so I took shelter in that alcove straight ahead and waited it out.

Horseshoe Canyon Rain

The Alcove Wall

The Alcove Wall

Lovely designs on this canyon wall.

Canyon Design

Fremont Pictographs

Fremont Site

Faded Barrier Canyon Style pictographs and some very hard-to-see petroglyphs.

Faded Panel

Now this is an unusual pictograph!

Unusual Pictograph

I wasn’t sure if these were actually petroglyphs until I climbed up closer to them.

Sheep Petroglyph

Disappearing Sheep

No matter home many times I’ve been here before, I always enjoy revisiting the impressive pictographs of the Great Gallery!

Great Gallery Ghosts

Great Gallery Scene

Great Gallery Pictographs

During my hike I had noticed a lot more donkey trails and scat in the canyon than I recalled seeing on my previous visits. To be honest, the canyon seemed pretty torn up! This ‘Invasive Species Alert’ found near the Great Gallery answered my questions about that.

Invasive Species Alert

Walking through the canyon on this overcast afternoon.

A Canyon Walk

As I was hiking back out of the canyon in the early afternoon the sun actually started to come out just a little bit.

Downstream Horseshoe Canyon

Leaving Horseshoe Canyon as I returned to the trailhead.

Leaving Horseshoe Canyon

I wasn’t sure what the weather had in store for Sunday morning, but it seemed like the storm system was moving out of the area so I figured I would try to continue my original plan of hiking into White Roost Canyon and headed that direction to find a spot to camp for the night. After driving many miles across a sandy wash-boarded two-track road to the rim of White Roost Canyon I found a place to camp and ate my dinner. Then I relaxed and read for the rest of the evening until I went to bed early. The sky was still too cloudy for a nice sunset, so I didn’t end up taking any more photos this evening.

I woke up to dreary, overcast and very windy conditions on Sunday morning and really didn’t feel like hiking down into White Roost Canyon, so I decided to drive out to the end of the point for a view over Robbers Roost Canyon and the Dirty Devil River. When I arrived at the point I thought it would be fun to try finding a route down into Robbers Roost Canyon, so I made my way down the steep sandstone. Unfortunately, even though I found a few cairns along the way I was never able to find the way down the last big ledge into the bottom of the canyon and returned back up to the point. I’m actually thankful that I ended up skipping the longer hike into White Roost Canyon this morning, because my shoes started falling apart and filling up with sand on this hike, which started to hurt my feet. I guess that was good luck…

As I returned to the point the overcast sky started to clear and the sun started to come out a little.

Sandstone Wilderness

Sandstone & Clouds

Sandstone Wandering

Exploring the white sandstone below the rim.

Below the Edge

Sunlight and blue sky, finally!

Light on the Landscape

View from the End

The view across the Dirty Devil River to the Henry Mountains was looking good just before I left and headed home.

Top of the Big Wall

Dirty Devil Country

>> Horseshoe Canyon Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. Dianne
    Dianne May 11, 2021

    Your forte is landscapes! I love seeing these. Some of the most amazing rock art in the world I’d guess, too. Thank you.

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