As part of Canyonlands National Park, 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.
I’ve been to Canyonlands National Park several times already. However, I’ve never heard about the famous site until recently. The reason, as I found out, is it is quite remote—about 3 hours drive from the main district, Island in the Sky, of the park.
And the road to the Horseshoe is unpaved. I asked several people, including rangers, whether it is okay to drive there with my regular car. The answers I got were positive. “As long as it’s not raining and the road isn’t muddy.”
So I decided to visit this seemingly famous, yet not so popular place.
The unpaved road is pretty good, for most parts. It is hard packed dirty road. As soon as I felt good about driving, I encountered a problem—the wind was so strong that it blew a lot of sand to potions of the road. Driving on the sandy area was like that on snow. I felt my car sway, fish tailed from time to time. I even heard the noise sounded just like driving on the slush of snow! It wasn’t a good feeling, not at all! And worse yet, there was no one around. I kept on thinking that I wouldn’t recommend anyone to drive there with just a regular car.
After driving almost an hour and a half in about 30 miles, I finally reached the trail head. The information board alarmed me, again—the trail is called as “very strenuous”. After hiking some strenuous trails, I was worried about whether I was able to handle “very strenuous”. It turned out, though, the trail isn’t even close to strenuous, in my opinion.
Well, walking on sandy area, going up and down the canyon (6 miles round trip), takes an effort, and being exposed under scorching sun will be uncomfortable, but it is not strenuous. I was worried about scrambling some slippery rock faces or crawling on some high ledges—those will be very strenuous, to me.
As I was walking along the canyon, I was surprised to see a familiar figure in the not so far distance. “It can’t be him?” Yes, it was Phil, a hiker from Sedona. And soon, I met up with two more hikers, Jeanie and Becky, whom I’ve hiked in Sedona before!
Well, I knew they were coming to Canyonlands. There was a meetup event. In fact, that was where I learned about the Great Gallery. However, they should have gone back to Sedona a couple of days already. It turned out that they extended their stay! What an odd to run into people you know in a remote area hundreds of miles away! Besides them, there was only one group of five people I met during the trail (those people were cousins, and one was from Ketchikan, Alaska. When he heard I’ve traveled to Ketchikan before, he actually offered me a book about the area).
The rest of the day was fun and easy, with people I’ve known well. It also felt safe, when I drove back the “long” stretch of sandy road. I know, if I get stuck, that someone will lend a helping hand (with a 4 wheel drive). That was such a comfortable feeling!