Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon is a remote extension of Canyonlands National Park. It contains some of the most significant rock art in North America, including "The Great Gallery," which offers well-preserved, life-sized humanoid figures with intricate designs. Horseshoe Canyon offers excellent hiking opportunities.

The Canyon is not contiguous with the rest of Canyonlands National Park. It is located between the towns of Green River and Hanksville. Most visitors access Horseshoe from the Hanksville side, from Utah Highway 24 via 30 miles of graded dirt road. The turnoff is signed. You can also come in from Green River on 47 miles of dirt road. Driving time is roughly 2.5 hours from Moab or 1.5 hours from Green River. A four-wheel-drive road leads to the east rim of Horseshoe Canyon from the Hans Flat Ranger Station.

Edward Abbey captured the spirit of Horseshoe Canyon in his work, Desert Solitaire. "These are sinister and supernatural figures, gods from the underworld perhaps who hover in space, or dance, or stand solidly planted on two feet carrying weapons - a club or sword. Most are faceless but some stare back at you with large, hollow disquieting eyes. Demonic shapes, they might have meant protection and benevolence to their creators and a threat to strangers: beware, traveler, you are approaching the land of the horned gods...."

Camping is not permitted in Horseshoe Canyon. Camping is allowed at the trailhead and on BLM ground near the rim. A vault toilet is provided at the trailhead. No other services are available and there is no fee to camp.

The trailhead is acceptable as an overnight camp spot if your intent is to get an early start hiking the canyon. It's not a great spot for other activities. There are no trees - no shade or firewood - and it's not a great place for late-night kid games. Sand dune areas along the access road provide better spots for longer camps.

The Hwy. 24 turnoff is signed and is located just south of the Goblin Valley turnoff. The Goblin Valley road goes west; the Horseshoe road goes east. The Horseshoe road also provides access to the Maze District of Canyonlands and to the Hans Flat Ranger Station. Signs clearly mark the entire route to the trailhead.

The trail into the canyon is well marked with rock cairns. When you reach the bottom simply walk up-canyon. The first rock art panel will be on your left about 1/3 mile up the canyon. It is easy to see from the trail and is marked by a sign. Other panels will be on the right and are also easy to see; some are not signed.

Round-trip distance: 6.5 miles

Elevation change: 830 feet

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

Time needed: 4+ hours

Water: Carry all you need. (There may be running water in the canyon, but don't count on it. Never drink stream water unless it is treated or filtered.)

Seasons: Spring and fall are best. Hiking can be pleasant during mild periods in winter. Summers are hot, but hiking can be enjoyable during morning hours.Groups of 20 or more must arrange to hike with a ranger. Contact the ranger station at the number below.

Other rules: No pets; no bicycles; no motorized vehicles. A free permit is needed to bring horses into the area.

Tours: Ranger-led hikes are offered every Saturday and Sunday from April-November. Meet at 9 a.m. at the trailhead bulletin board.

Hans Flat Ranger Station: 435-259-2652.

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