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Horseshoe Canyon: A Hidden Gem

Horseshoe Canyon is a remote canyon in southeastern Utah. While it’s a journey to get to the trailhead, the payoff at the end of the hike is worth the effort. Down the canyon is “The Great Gallery,” one of the largest barrier-style rock art panels in North America.

Is Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park?

Although it’s technically part of Canyonlands National Park, you can’t get to Horseshoe Canyon from the main part of the park. That means you will have to approach the trailhead from either the north or the west.

How do you get to Horseshoe Canyon Utah?

Because it’s so remote, the drive to Horseshoe Canyon is better made using a map than an app. The directions from both the north and the west are included here:

Directions to Horseshoe Canyon Coming from the North

If you’re coming from the northern part of the state, you can approach from either direction. To go through Green River, take Highway 6 until it merges onto I-70. Then, take I-70 east, and get off in Green River. From there, the trailhead is about an hour and a half drive. You will take the airport road heading south, but instead of going to the airport, turn off onto the dirt access road that continues south. The turn-off to the trailhead is clearly marked, and as long as the weather is good, you shouldn’t have a problem driving a two-wheel drive vehicle.

Directions to Horseshoe Canyon Coming from the East

If you’d rather spend more time on a paved road, you can approach from the east. Once you get on I-70 from Highway 6, you’ll drive west. Next, quickly get off onto Highway 24, and follow that until you see the turn-off for the dirt road towards Horseshoe Canyon and Hans Flat. Make sure you get off onto the road towards Horseshoe Canyon when it becomes available, rather than continuing on. All of these turn-offs will be clearly marked, so just watch for signs as you drive.

Can you camp at Horseshoe Canyon?

Horseshoe Canyon camping is a great option if you want to stay overnight and get started early the next morning. While you can’t camp in the canyon itself, the trailhead offers a campsite and a toilet. However, there is no shade, firewood, or any other services, so it’s best used for a one night trip.

If you and your family want a more traditional camping experience, pitching a tent in the sand dunes along the access road to the trailhead may be better for you. 

How long is the Horseshoe Canyon hike?

The Horseshoe Canyon hike is 6.5 miles round trip, so you should plan on hiking for at least 5 hours. The toughest part will be entering and leaving the canyon, because there is a steep elevation change of about 800 feet. Once in the canyon, it’s fairly flat. Be prepared to walk through varying terrain, such as sand, rocks, and uneven ground. You should also be ready to hike in the heat, especially in the summer months. It can get very hot—often over 100 degrees in June, July, and August.

While the gallery is the main attraction, there’s a lot of beauty in the canyon as well. The canyon winds between sheer sandstone cliffs, and offers views of cottonwood trees, spring wildflowers, and the small stream that trickles through the canyon. There are also three other smaller rock art panels on the way to the gallery.

Can you take a guided hike in Horseshoe Canyon?

If you’re uncomfortable going on this remote hike on your own, go on the weekend. Rangers lead the hike to the Great Gallery on Saturdays and Sundays. You can meet them at the trailhead bulletin board at 9 a.m. from April to November.

Even if you are going with the ranger, keep in mind that there is no access to water in the canyon. Make sure to bring plenty of fluids and your own snacks, especially when hiking in the summer.

How old are the Petroglyphs at Horseshoe Canyon Utah?

The Great Gallery rock art is a beautiful example of barrier-style art, which contains both petroglyphs (a rock carving), and pictographs (rock paintings). The paintings and carvings date from between 2000 BC to 400 AD, and contain 20 life-size humanoid images. What is most incredible is the sheer size of the images, as the largest is over seven feet tall. Drawn and carved in rows, these images of people and animals are fascinating, and often created with great detail. The size and scope of the art here is something you can’t find anywhere else in the state.

If you’re willing to go a little bit out of your way, this hike offers one of the most unique and beautiful pay-offs in the state. So pack your backpack, fill up your water bottle, and make the trip to Horseshoe Canyon!

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