Horseshoe Canyon, UT • Canyon Trip
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 This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Preferred" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Horseshoe Canyon, UT

Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
  4.5 of 5 
38 4 0
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,321 feet
Elevation Gain 800 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 - 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Ruins, Historic & Seasonal Creek
 Backpack No
 Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
4  2019-06-21 Johnnie
16  2015-05-02
The Great Gallery
18  2009-05-10 Trishness
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 0
Photos 720
Trips 187 map ( 1,244 miles )
Age 64 Female Gender
Location Apache Junction, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Apr, May, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Spring
Sun  6:08am - 6:43pm
0 Alternative

Follow in the footsteps of the ancients
by Trishness

 Likely In-Season!
Horseshoe Canyon (originally called Barrier Canyon) is a detached unit of Canyonlands National Park that was added in 1971. Its intriguing rock art is often considered to be the most significant in North America. The petroglyphs here are said to be dated to 1 A.D. based on carbon dating of the surrounding areas and predate both the Anasazi and Fremont cultures, some of them possibly being > 8,000 years old. There are four galleries of petroglyphs to view in this canyon and each one left us speechless. These four galleries are: The High Gallery, Horseshoe Shelter, The Alcove and The Great Gallery. Archaeologists are still trying to decipher just what the figures in each gallery mean.

This is a wonderful high desert hike and we (my cousin Carol and I) did this on May 10, 2009. The drive to the trailhead is an adventure all in itself and required about 1.5 hours to the trailhead and then another 1.5 hours back out. The hike itself takes about 5-6 hours round trip due and while I initially thought we could easily hoof this one off in 3 hours... well... I'll get to that in a bit. Just plan on an all day event but it is well worth the time and the effort. Since we visited in May and it was already hot, I can't imagine doing this one in the heat of the summer so Fall or Spring would be my choices and bring a MINIMUM of 3 liters of water. I originally thought to rate this as a moderate hike but thought twice about that and decided that it was probably more moderately difficult due to the elements. You can camp at the TH but it is very exposed and windy most times with a pit toilet.

Once you find the trailhead (directions to follow) you head immediately across slickrock and start descending into the canyon. The trail in this area is readily marked with cairns and easy to follow. When we arrived at the TH it was already 11:00 AM and very gusty winds blowing. We were dressed in long sleeves and zip offs but once we got 1/2 a mile down we were strippin' off the layers because there was no wind or even a breeze and only relentless sun. You descend 800 feet in a little over a mile and then the lovely slickrock ends and you are hiking in fine sand. There are supposedly dinosaur tracks in this sandy portion as it meets the canyon floor but we were unable to find them. Maybe they were buried under all the sand? Hang a right once you get to the canyon floor and you are on your way to all the galleries and petroglyph heaven. The canyon floor is dotted with dispersed but welcoming shade from cottonwoods but the entire hike from this point on is in SAND.

The first gallery is the High Gallery located on your left (to the east) or at N38 27' 41" W110 11' 54"

The second gallery is the Horseshoe Gallery on your right (to the west) about 1/4 mile down the canyon or at N38 27' 45" W110 11' 58"

The third gallery is the Alcove on your right another 1/2 mile or so or at N38 27' 22" W110 12' 21"

The last and best gallery is the Great Gallery about a mile or so down the canyon located on your right (or west) at N38 26' 49" W110 12' 47"

All the galleries are amazing but the Great Gallery is an immense panel of life sized petroglyphs. The Holy Ghost and companions are here. There is normally a ranger here to give you history of the canyon and will allow you to climb the small ledge to view them closer. We met Ranger Sarah that day who was based in the Hans Flat Ranger Station (gateway to the MAZE) The petroglyphs are almost alien in design as they are armsless/legless mummy looking humanoids and there are obvious animals in the mix also... deer, dogs etc. But I was left wondering... what were the Ancients trying to tell us? Is it a life story? Is it a migration? Is it an alien encounter? The immensity and detail of these petroglyphs just blew me away.

Did I mention this entire hike was in fine sand. Ohhhh and I really dislike hiking in sand. It was at least 90 degrees this May afternoon with a little bit of a breeze and some shade here and there from the cottonwoods. There was a little bit of stagnant water that could be filtered in a pinch but I went through 3 liters in 5 hours. The sand is why I decided to give this a moderately difficult rating. Once you've hiked a couple of miles through the sand and then back out, you then have to trudge uphill 850' climb through MORE sand and then across the slickrock out.

It was an amazing hike and well worth all the sweat and sand. Directions to the TH will follow. I wouldn't even attempt to drive to this TH in bad weather or if there were recent heavy rains due to all the sand. We had cell phone signal from Verizon at the trailhead!

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2009-05-20 Trishness
    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.

     Permit $$
    no fees or permits reported

    if incorrect tell us about it

    Canyonlands National Park
    Vehicles: $10 (Good for 7 days)

    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From Green River Utah.....take I-70 westbound to exit 149 or UTSR 24 to Hanksville. Follow this for about 25 miles just past mile marker 135 and about 1/2 mile past Goblin Valley State Park entrance take a left onto a well graded, well maintained dirt road. There will be signs here that say "Horseshoe Canyon 32 miles" Follow this road for about 25 will come to a junction that points to the right to the Hans Flat Ranger station and to the left to go to Horseshoe Canyon. Stay to the left. Follow this for about 5 miles down a hill and then take a right onto another road that leads to you the last 1.7 miles to Horseshoe Canyon TH. There is quite a bit of sand on these roads but I did it easily in my 2WD X-Terra. My SLIP light came on a few times during this road adventure but I saw cars on this road too. If there is rain or bad weather, I don't think I would go there and the roads become impassible even to 4WD.
    page created by Trishness on May 20 2009 8:11 pm

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