• Spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone in Chesler Park (Needles District)

    Canyonlands

    National Park Utah

Horseshoe Canyon

photo: Fall colors in Horseshoe Canyon
Fall colors in Horseshoe Canyon
NPS Photo by Neal Herbert
 

Horseshoe Canyon contains some of the most significant rock art in North America. The Great Gallery, the best known panel in Horseshoe Canyon, includes well-preserved, life-sized figures with intricate designs. Other impressive sights include spring wildflowers, sheer sandstone walls and mature cottonwood groves along the intermittent stream in the canyon bottom. Horseshoe Canyon was added to Canyonlands in 1971.

Location

Most visitors access Horseshoe from the west. Two-wheel-drive vehicles can usually travel the 30-mile graded dirt road from Utah Highway 24 (near Goblin Valley State Park), or the 47-mile dirt road traveling south from Green River. 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. Visitors to this area should be prepared for unpredictable weather (such as rain or sand-shifting wind) that can quickly change road conditions from two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive condition. Check road conditions page or call ahead for the current road conditions at (435) 259-2652 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Hiking

Notice: Summer conditions in Horseshoe Canyon are HOT with deep sand. Temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees, making the hike back out very difficult, especially if you do not have enough water to keep yourself hydrated. Rangers do not patrol the canyon regularly in the summer months. Be prepared for thunderstorms creating a flash flood in the canyon! If entering the canyon after a flash flood watch out for quicksand.

  • The hike to the Great Gallery is seven miles round-trip, requiring five hours or more.
  • A steep descent of 780 feet at the beginning means a steep climb back up at the end of your hike.
  • Pets are prohibited on the trail or below the rim of Horseshoe Canyon.
  • Group size is limited to 20 people. Larger groups must arrange in advance to go with a ranger or split into smaller groups.
  • Bring your own drinking water (one gallon/4 liters per person is recommended). There is no water above the canyon rim and water sources are unreliable within the canyon.

Camping

Visitors may camp at the west rim trailhead on public land managed by the BLM. A vault toilet is provided but there is no water. Overnight camping is not allowed in Horseshoe Canyon within the Park boundary.

Interpretive Activities

When staff are available, guided walks into Horseshoe Canyon are offered during spring months. To join, be at the west side Horseshoe Canyon trailhead bulletin board at 9:00 a.m. to meet the ranger. This is a strenuous seven-mile hike lasting 4 to 6 hours and visitors should be prepared with a gallon of water per person, lunch and other hiking essentials.

Horseback Riding

The trail into Horseshoe Canyon from the west rim trailhead is an old 4WD road that is suitable for horses. Group size limit is ten animals and ten people. Permits are free and may be obtained at the Hans Flat Ranger Station or by phone at (435)259-2652. The following regulations govern the stock in Canyonlands:

  • Horses, mules and burros are the only animals permitted. Other domestic animals are prohibited in the backcountry (including dogs).
  • Stock must be fed pelletized feed for 48 hours in advance of and during a trip in order to prevent the spread of exotic plant species.
  • Grazing is not allowed. Animals may not be left unattended and must be staked at least 300 feet away from water sources and away from vegetation where possible.

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