Although officially a detached unit of Canyonlands National Park, the Horseshoe Canyon area could be better described as a little hidden jewel lost in the desert. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to get there. If you already plan on a few days in the Maze, you won’t be disappointed if you spend a half-day of your vacation at Horseshoe Canyon. If you’re going to the Maze from Green River, Horseshoe Canyon is a convenient stop. The Great Gallery is one of four major rock art sites in Horseshoe Canyon, but the fabulous rock art is only part of the attraction. Horseshoe Canyon would be well worth the stop without it. It’s a great day hike in a secluded canyon with majestic cottonwoods shading the sheer sandstone cliffs.
Click for more information from the National Park Service.
Human presence in Horseshoe Canyon has been dated as far back as 7000-9000 B.C., when Paleo-Indians hunted large mammals such as Mastodons and Mammoths across the southwest.
To see the rock art, visitors must descend 750 vertical feet to the canyon bottom and hike approximately 3 miles (4.8 km). The hike from the West Rim trailhead to the Great Gallery is roughly 6.5 miles (10.5 km) round trip, and requires 3 to 6 hours to complete. The trail is fairly well marked, but reaching the Great Gallery requires a certain amount of stamina and endurance, particularly in the heat. A gallon of water per person is recommended to prevent dehydration. Water sources are unreliable in the canyon. Three other significant panels of rock art are passed en route to the Great Gallery.
- 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.