Horseshoe Canyon: Getting Down to Business

January 14, 2017  •  1 Comment

Horseshoe Canyon... this place is on my list of where to go again, considering the number of places I have yet to go in Utah that is saying something. It may not rival Coyote Gulch for sheer splendor and arches to walk under, but it is a beauty! 

The approach from the trailhead is flat and easy until you get to the edge... then it gets a little scrambly. Nothing ridiculous, my 13 years older than me brother with a desk job managed it with a few rest breaks. You simply follow the cairns and try to not fall.

This shot is looking up canyon. As you can see the trees were changing color, and the light was pretty dull from the overcast. It was breathtaking no matter what the light was like. I could just sit here and enjoy the view for hours.

When you get done sitting and are ready to go down to the bottom, you get to negotiate this and then a steep sandy bit before you are on the bottom. I really don't know when this was blasted out of the rock, or why. The cables holding the rock pile below in place look quite old, at least as old as me.

One of the first things I noticed once I was down in the streambed, is that it had rained not too long before and left some fabulous textures in the sand. Mother nature throwing a few golden leaves down on top of the ripples distracted me for quite a while...

Tearing myself away from the sand ripples, leaves and mud, I felt it best to press on to the walk through the bottom of the canyon, my brother being a good sport and a photographer as well had been content to explore close by. What a lovely place this is to be on the last weekend in October, we were hiking in t-shirts, the leaves were rustling in the gentle breezes and the colors were fabulous. Cottonwood trees in the desert in autumn are a special treat.

Hiking along the fairly flat bottom of the canyon was pleasant, leaves crunching everything was shades or red, yellow or green. The temperatures were perfect. (Hint: Late October to early November is the BEST time to go to southern Utah.)

Now, the raison d'etre for Horseshoe Canyon is the Barrier Canyon style rock art. There are few spots that rival this main panel.

The meaning of the art is unknown, explanations are controversial and often ill informed. Personally, I think it is a memorial for the honored dead of some kind, but that is just my opinion.

My favorite activity besides photographing them is to sit and ponder them. Look them in the eye and ask them to tell me what they are, sadly they don't answer. 

I am always awed at the rawness of the area, the beauty that comes from the sheer isolation and ruggedness, the effort to just get there, even with our modern conveniences makes me wonder how the folks that lived here did it. Hope there was more rain.

The cottonwoods that abundantly thrive in the canyon bottom amaze me. Standing tall through flash floods and drought, searing summer heat and winter freeze.

The contrast of desert varnish to sandstone, shades of red brown to yellow green.

As the sun peeks under the cloud it transforms the walls and everything becomes dipped in gold. The skeletal remains of a cottonwood that succumbed to the harsh climate, in shadow and skeletal against the glow.

The last rays of light glance off the walls, adding color to the canyon and urgency  to the steps of those who wish to not hike in the darkness, as the trail is steep, and likely named "Deadmans Trail" for a reason.

On our favorite jutting ledge the golden light warms the changing leaves and takes the breath of the observer. I nearly turned around and went back down, just to explore.

As the light fades the color leaches away, but the memory remains.

Looking back down the trail (such as it is) the longing to stay and cement the awe in your mind grows stronger, not knowing when you will pass this way again.

The last light paints the sky with warmth then fades to dark. The adventure tucked firmly into your brain, you trudge across the cooling sagebrush plain to the trailhead and camp. 

Today, this day, at this time, there is no other place you would rather be. No matter the difficulty of the road to get there, the aches and pains of the trail to get back out, you would not trade this day for anything else, anyplace else.

A special thanks goes out to my brother for being willing to take his old body and brand new truck into the wilderness.


Garth Baiiley(non-registered)
Fabulous, Lloyd! My faourite is the 7th to last one with the light highlighting the rock camera left. Perfectly exposed and framed. The wall art makes one wonder. There are petroglyphs in the Rockies not too far away from where I live, similar to these. Also, I have been in caves in France where there is prehistoric art. Down the road from Lascaux in lesse known caves where you can still view the originals. What caused these people to express themselves in this way? I think you are correct in the case of these drawings - they are honouring the dead. Rather like a modern headstone. We think we know all about the world, but i am happy that there are still mysteries. Thanks for sharing these.
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