Horseshoe Canyon Trail

Canyonlands National Park - Horseshoe Canyon Unit, Utah 84525

Distance3.5mi
Elevation Gain3,042ft
Trailhead Elevation5,334ft
Top5,334ft
Elevation Min/Max4684/5334ft
Elevation Start/End5334/5334ft

Horseshoe Canyon Trail

Horseshoe Canyon Trail is a hiking trail in Wayne County, Utah. It is within Canyonlands National Park - Horseshoe Canyon Unit. It is 3.5 miles long and begins at 5,334 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 7.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,042 feet. The Horseshoe Canyon West Trailhead parking is near the trailhead. There is also an information board. The Alcove Gallery, High Gallery, and Horseshoe Shelter attractions can be seen along the trail. The trail ends near the Great Gallery attraction.

Horseshoe Canyon Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Horseshoe Canyon contains what is probably the finest display of prehistoric Indian rock art in the United States. The famous Great Gallery, largest of several Horseshoe Canyon sites, is 200 feet long, 15 feet high, and contains dozens of intriguing red, brown and white pictographs. The paintings are at least 2,000 years old, and possibly as old as 8,000 years.

As you approach Water Canyon be sure to watch for the first two pictograph sites, one on each side of the canyon. The trail passes right by them. These sites, like the other two that you will see later, were painted by the Archaic People between 2,000 and 8,000 years ago. The third site is situated in a huge alcove on the west side of the stream, about 0.6 mile up-canyon from the first two. Unfortunately the alcove site has sustained substantial damage, both natural and man-caused, and it is not as impressive as the others. Finally, 1.3 miles from the alcove site, or 3.7 miles from the beginning of the trail, you will come to the Great Gallery."

"Horseshoe Canyon is located in southeast Utah, in the western section of Canyonlands National Park, also called the Maze District, a more remote and much less visited region. The Green River divides the park into eastern and western sections; the western side is more difficult to reach. As you walk upstream around a bend, you’ll see the Holy Ghost pictograph looking down on you from the north wall. As you approach the site, you’ll see an increasing number of figures. In all more than fifty images cover a span of 300 feet. The best viewing time is when the panels are in the shade in the afternoon. The National Park Service (NPS) bills Horseshoe Canyon as possibly having the best pictographs in North America.

Moving upcanyon, keep your eyes open for a panel of pictographs high up on the cliff face on the south side of the canyon. If you follow the cairns, you’re more likely to see the panel. If you stay in the creekbed, you may miss it."

"Horseshoe Canyon is a popular and well-known destination among avid hikers in Utah, though it’s rarely explored by out-of-state visitors. It’s part of a detached unit of Canyonlands National Park, so it’s not located near a visitor center, park entrance station, or any other town or public facility. In short, it’s about as remote a location as you’ll find in the contiguous United States. You really have to go out of your way to visit Horseshoe Canyon, so the hikers you encounter on the trail tend to be serious and sophisticated.

What they're usually after is the chance to stand in front of the Grand Gallery, a 200-foot-long panel featuring the finest example of prehistoric American Indian rock art in the United States. The panel portrays dozens of human and animal figures in red, brown, and white paint. The rock art is at least 2,000 years old, and possibly as old as 7,000 years; no one is really certain because this art is difficult to date."

"Located north of the remote Maze District of Canyonlands, the Horseshoe Canyon Unit is separated geographically from the park’s main area. But it is well worth the trip out, particularly if you are doing a tour of the region’s national parks, as the trailhead is accessible en route either to or from Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. Horseshoe Canyon is mostly known for its famed Great Gallery, a naturally protected petroglyph site high up on the canyon wall. The beauty of this canyon is just as stunning as the human-created artwork within it.

The trail starts on the southwest end of the parking area and is somewhat level before it begins to switchback and descend into the canyon. Spring through fall, keep an eye out for evening primrose clinging to the ground, offering up delicate blooms that unfurl early and late in the day."

"Horseshoe Canyons South and North are proposed wilderness areas that bracket the Horseshoe Canyon detached unit of Canyonlands National Park. The famous rock art panel “Great Gallery” is the centerpiece of a canyon system that boasts the greatest concentration of Barrier Canyon–style art in the San Rafael Desert. In places, art as old as 5,000 years bears an overlay of more recent rock paintings. Hiking the national park section of the canyon and then continuing south or north into Bureau of Land Management areas offers several advantages.

The signed, easy access and marked trail provided by the national park gets you off to a good start, and you are guaranteed a view of some of the best rock art. Leaving the park boundaries means leaving most of the crowds behind—solitude and unimproved campsites that don’t require fees or reservations are the reward for those willing to backpack, or to take longer day hikes. There are no marked trails in the BLM wilderness study areas. This trail guide includes descriptions of Horseshoe Canyon South, Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park."

Horseshoe Canyon Trail Reviews

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5/18/2010
If you're into rock art, this is definitely the trail to do! We took a Malibu to get to the trail. Just take it slow. A 4X4 is definitely worth takiing if accesible. The trail is very sandy. Bring something to cover your face bc you're gonna get pelted. The pictographs are really neat and the canyon was a lot prettier than I expected. Binoculars help for the high gallery.
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Trail Information

Canyonlands National Park - Horseshoe Canyon Unit
Nearby City
Canyonlands National Park - Horseshoe Canyon Unit
Parks
Canyonlands National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Sugarloaf Butte
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018