Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Maze District campgrounds
I woke up after spending the night in the BLM campground at the entrance to the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park. I ate and headed out for a hike before it got too warm. My destination was the Great Gallery, the best known panel of rock art in Horseshoe Canyon, although I intended to visit the other three rock art panels in the canyon on the way there. The Horseshoe Canyon Unit has become more popular since the release of the movie 127 Hours, which depicts events that occurred there in Bluejohn Canyon, a slot canyon that attaches to Horseshoe Canyon, but is still very remote and undeveloped.
From the trailhead at the BLM campground it is a 6.5 mile round-trip hike to the Great Gallery with 750 feet of elevation change. Although that doesn't sound like a particularly long hike, it generally requires about six hours due to the heavy sand and uneven trail conditions. During the first part of the hike you work your way down into Horseshoe Canyon. You then walk through the canyon to the four panels of rock art on the canyon walls.
The rock art in Horseshoe Canyon is estimated to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. Most of it is amazingly well preserved, although there is some damage from graffiti. The graffiti itself is almost historic, dating back to the early 1900's. The canyon used to be called Barrier Canyon. While the name didn't stick to the canyon it did stick to the style of rock art, which is now known as "Barrier Canyon" style.
I met a ranger at the Great Gallery who informed me that the occasional downpours in the area cause flash floods that trap people in the canyon, sometimes for days. I didn't realize that my visit could be so easily extended. He also informed me that the Hans Flat Ranger Station, where I needed to pick up my backcountry permit for my visit to The Maze District of Canyonlands, was a longer drive than I thought and closed earlier than I expected and that I needed to get moving to get there before closing time so I rushed back to the car and headed over. I arrived in time, got my permit and headed for the North Point Campground for the night.