Dance, dance, dance the night away
Overview: Dance Hall Rock is where the 1879-80 Mormon pioneer San Juan Expedition spent a couple of months while the remainder of the road was built to the Colorado River (including chiseling out Hole-in-Rock). Dance was an important part of Mormon society, and the good acoustics of the natural stone amphitheater appealed to the pioneers.
The rock itself is absolutely enormous. You could spend days exploring it. There is no defined path across the rock. Hiking across it is likely to involve retracing your steps as you reach impassable craters or rock walls.
Besides the rock, there are some other interesting things to check out. This hike saves the best -- Dance Hall Rock itself -- for last.
Warning: Camping is prohibited. Leave youself enough time to do get to Dance Hall Rock (about 1h45m each way), do the hike, then return before dark -- or find a camping spot in a non-prohibited spot further down, or back up, the road.
Depending on time of year, the craters on the rock may have no, or plenty of, water: In satellite view they are dry; when I hiked it in late September, they all had plenty of water.
The craters have very steep sides, and extracting yourself if you fall in will vary from extremely difficult to impossible without help -- help which is likely not coming. (I was later told one local youth almost died in a crater.) Take care near crater edges.
Finally, flash floods in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are always a potential threat. Avoid the washes if there is any rain in sight.
Hike: From the trailhead, head south into the Right Fork of Fortymile Wash. The wash shows evidence of past flash floods, including bundles of thick brush which will force you against the west wall of the wash as you head south towards the hike's first highlight.
0.60 mi.: Hundred Yard Slot Canyon. Literally a slot canyon only 100 yards long. Really, it is less a slot canyon than a giant rock that long ago split in two. I found at least three instances of graffitti in there which pre-dated Everett Ruess's 1934 expedition: 1929 (09?), 1921 and 1910. Personally, I think that is pretty cool. No "NEMO 1934", however.
After exitting Hundred Yard Slot Canyon, Right Fork turns east. The wash walls are dotted with "divots" (basically, small horizontal craters). Note the alternating sedimentary layers in the wall, especially the red middle layer laced with white x's; that is natural, not graffiti.
0.90 mi.: The sand in the wash begins turning moist, and an underground spring may surface, leading to a small flow of surface water.
1.26 mi.: A small draw on the north side could be used to exit the wash, then explore Dance Hall Rock's south side. Look for birds' nests on the walls.
1.46 mi.: Just after Right Fork joins Left Fork, take the jeep trail south to the top of the wash. At the top, make a sharp left to the mining / irrigation equipment and BM.
1.86 mi.: Just before the barb wire fence, turn left down a small draw, back to Fortymile Wash. At the bottom, check out the rubber-lined wet tank, a BM, and then the rusty tank with holes, continuing back up wash.
2.15 mi.: Fortymile Spring has a lot of reeds. Even if it is not flowing from the pipe, beware the sand around it, which is very wet, soft and sinky. After checking out the spring, return to the dry tank.
2.29 mi.: Turn north up the jeep trail. After a shallow, but steady climb, you will pass through an ungated fence, and onto a plateau. Continue north up the jeep trail, past several hundred yards of scattered PVC pipe. The hiking may not be exiciting, but the views are fantastic.
3.31 mi.: X-intersection with a hitching post and a small cement tank with a metal cover. The jeep trail east and north are obvious. (If you choose to visit Sunset arch, go about a mile east, to the second wash, take that wash north to the arch, then go about a mile west to pick up the jeep trail, then return south to the hitching post intersection; this will add 4+ miles to your journey.) The jeep trail west is much less obvious; it is so old it may not have actually seen rubber tires, but it is there.
3.71 mi.: Lone Rock, so called because it is a half mile from anything else. There may be water at the base of the rock. There is graffiti on the south side from 1937, 1925, 1919 and 1913 -- but again, no "NEMO 1934" that I could find. The rock may be climbed via a crack in the southwest or north face.
If you look at satellite view, you will see that the feint jeep trail continues west from Lone Rock to an X-intersection north of Dance Hall Rock, continuing west until it crosses Fortymile Ridge Road a few hundred feet from Hole-in-Rock Rd. You could take that feint jeep trail or, like I did, cut across the dunes towards this hike's main objective: Dance Hall Rock.
4.24 mi.: Crawl under / climb over a barbwire fence.
4.36 mi.: Northeast corner of Dance Hall Rock. Satellite view makes it appear to be a massive burn scar, but walking it is like walking on Mars. The surface is mostly slick rock, pocked with craters of varying depths and sizes, and some impassable walls. There are many ways to cross the rock, and your crossing will likely involve retracing your steps several times when you reach an impassable obstacle.
5.00 mi.: On the official route, you eventually emerge at the top of a sandy wash, possibly marked with human foot prints. Follow the wash west, emerging on the north edge of the amphitheater's platform, adjacent to the trailhead.
5.26 mi.: Golden Spike time!
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.