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Into the Dark: Canyons of the Dark Canyon Plateau

Southern Utah Wanderings | Friday – Monday, September 29 – October 2, 2023

The time had finally come to get back out into the desert on the Colorado Plateau and I was definitely ready to begin my annual trip into Southern Utah with my friend Jared. This year we decided to start out hiking and exploring a couple of canyons that cut deep into the Dark Canyon Plateau and Elk Ridge so we could continue what we had originally began during our 2021 trip around the Abajo Mountains before we were chased out of the higher country by wet and stormy weather at the time. As usual, I left from work on Friday afternoon, grabbed a quick dinner in Fruita and then drove straight through to Monticello, where I topped off my gas tank so it would last me the next couple of days in the backcountry. It had been a very windy drive, which would be just a taste of what was in store for us over the next couple of days. From Monticello I followed the Harts Draw Loop Road into Indian Creek and then headed up onto the Salt Creek Plateau where I stopped at our usual campsite in the area and waited for Jared to arrive later in the evening.

The fall colors were looking pretty nice as I drove along the Harts Draw Loop Road around the flank of the Abajo Mountains.

Abajo Colors

I watched the sunset as I drove high above North Cottonwood Creek and below Bridger Jack Mesa.

North Cottonwood Sunset

On Saturday morning Jared and I were up early to watch the sunrise from camp and then finish our drive out onto the Dark Canyon Plateau.

Seven Sisters Buttes

We passed by Boundary Butte…

Boundary Butte

…and then had a nice view over Salt Creek Canyon country.

Salt Creek Overlook

After reaching our planned trailhead, we set out cross-country toward the edge of Bowdie Canyon where we had great views over Cataract Canyon to the Orange Cliffs.

Orange Cliffs

As we searched for a route into the canyon we passed by this small arch.

Little Bowdie Arch

Bowdie Canyon

Bowdie Canyon Overlook

It was a little convoluted finding our way into the canyon, but after some trial and error we were eventually walking along the bottom.

Exploring Bowdie Canyon

It was a nice canyon to explore, but because of the long drive and route-finding issues, we didn’t have as much time to spend in the canyon as we would have liked.

Canyon Ridge

Canyon Hiking

Bowdie Bridge

Bowdie Bridge

Looking down the canyon beyond a large pourover.

Down the Canyon

Here’s one last look into Bowdie Canyon as we climbed back out of the canyon and made our way cross-country to the Jeeps.

Bowdie Canyon

We arrived back to our vehicles late in the afternoon and then headed back up onto North Elk Ridge so we could find a campsite near the trailhead for our next hike into upper Dark Canyon. We arrived at camp after dark, ate a late dinner and then went to bed early.

On Sunday morning we were up before sunrise and drove down to The Notch, where we left my Jeep, and then we took Jared’s back up to the Horse Pasture Canyon Trailhead and started hiking down the trail into the Dark Canyon Wilderness.

Although it was pretty cloudy out this morning, there were some nice sun rays above the horizon to the east while we were up near The Notch.

Morning Sun Rays

Welcome to the Dark Canyon Wilderness.

Dark Canyon Wilderness Sign

The first part of the Horse Pasture Canyon Trail was in the trees with limited views until we started the final descent to the canyon floor.

Descent Into Horse Pasture Canyon

While we were hiking through the tall grass along the trail-less floor of Horse Pasture Canyon the sun did start to come out from behind the clouds a little.

Horse Pasture Canyon

Horse Pasture Canyon Clouds

We explored an alcove or two on our way to Dark Canyon.

Horse Pasture Exploring

Jared walks along the ledge into a large alcove.

Along the Ledge

The Alcove View

Alcove View

As we neared Dark Canyon we saw a group of six wild horses in the distance. As soon as they noticed us they started running our way.

Six Horses

They came right up to us and had no fear. I’m not sure how wild they really were?

Wild Horses

Shortly before reaching Dark Canyon we passed by this small cabin.

Horse Pasture Cabin

Just beyond the cabin were the remains of the old Scorup Cow Camp.

Scorup Camp View

And around the corner was the historic Scorup Cabin. We headed inside for a closer look.

Scorup Cabin

Scorup Cabin Kitchen

Scorup Cabin Kitchen

Home Comfort

Home Comfort

Solitaire Coffee

Solitaire Coffee

Rex Pure Lard

Rex Pure Lard

Scorup Cabin Bedroom

Scorup Cabin Bedroom

Bedroom Stove

Scorup Cabin Bedroom Stove

Outside views of the Scorup Cabin.

Scorup Cabin

Scorup Cabin View

Scorup Cabin

There was a nice view down Dark Canyon from the cabin.

Dark Canyon

From the Scorup Cabin we headed into upper Dark Canyon on The Notch Trail and had to cross a number of these large arroyo cuts along the way.

Arroyo Cutting

Upper Dark Canyon

Upper Dark Canyon View

The sandstone and clouds were looking nice this afternoon, even though it was still very windy and had been all day.

Two Knobs

Dark Canyon Cliffs

Here’s Jared walking along the typical trail found in upper Dark Canyon- there really isn’t much of one. There was quite a bit of bushwhacking along the way…

Typical Trail

Upper Dark Canyon Views

Upper Dark Canyon

Upper Dark Canyon

Here’s another view toward the Abajo Mountains after reaching my Jeep at The Notch and then starting back to pick up Jared’s Jeep.

Notch Canyon & Abajo Mountains

We passed by this overlook of Cherry Canyon as we made our way down onto Dry Mesa in search of a campsite for the night.

Cherry Canyon

Looking north to North Long Point on the other side of Dark Canyon shortly before sunset.

North Long Point

After a stormy night filled with wind, rain, hail, thunder and lightning (some strikes were pretty close), we woke up to a nicer morning Monday, although it was still very windy out. By this time we were getting a little tired of the constant wind…

Dry Mesa Morning

We spent the morning hiking along the rim of Dark Canyon.

Dark Canyon

Dark Canyon & Clouds

Dark Canyon Exploring

Here’s one final overlook of Dark Canyon before we returned to our Jeeps and then headed into town for fuel and supplies.

Dark Canyon Overlook



Ruins of the Dark Canyon Plateau

Below are photos of some of the ruins that we came across while exploring the Dark Canyon Plateau the past couple of days.

Room With A View

Room With A View

The remains of a wall in a shallow cave.

Cave Wall

Little Doorway

Little Doorway

This kiva was a bit interesting to me since it appears to have a curved stairway to the top. I cannot recall ever seeing that before?


Rough Ruins

Rough Ruins

Two Ruins

Two Ruins

Square Ruin

Square Ruin

Interior of the Square Ruin


Rectangle Ruin

Rectangle Ruin

Ruins on a high ledge that looked pretty inaccessible.

Ledge Ruins

Three Kivas

Three Kivas I

Three Kivas II

Three Kivas III

Alcove Granary

Alcove Granary

>> Canyons of the Dark Canyon Plateau Photo Gallery


  1. Randy Gerdes
    Randy Gerdes October 10, 2023

    Very interesting ruins, and I’m fascinated that so much of the “accessories” are still in the cow camp cabin. I always enjoy your posts, and your photos are consistently great.

  2. Sue Jasper
    Sue Jasper October 10, 2023


  3. Mark Magnuson
    Mark Magnuson October 12, 2023

    Great photos! I was in Peavine canyon on sept. 26th and the road to the cabin was washed out. The road in is not for the faint of heart. Thanks for sharing, I enjoy reading about your trips.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 15, 2023

      I think that road has been washed out for as long as I can remember (at least from the junction in Dark Canyon). Did you hike to the cabin from the washout?

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