Bull Pasture and the Pinnacles

November 8-10, 2019

I feel like you could throw a dart anywhere at a map of Utah and land somewhere fairly interesting, but I wouldn’t expect a hit anywhere in the Robber’s Roost to be boring. This trip, however, was just that. Chris and I spent a weekend exploring the Bull Pasture near Larry Canyon, and the Pinnacles near Twin Corral Box Canyon, but we came away feeling as though we’d been shorted. We drove down on Friday evening and put up a new sign that a friend had made to replace the missing iconic sign that a rancher had put up many years ago. We camped near Robber’s Roost Ranch and on Saturday morning drove to the start of our hike into the Bull Pasture.

Hittin’ the dirt road into the San Rafael Desert
Hittin' the dirt road into the San Rafael Desert

New old sign near Antelope Valley
New old sign near Antelope Valley

Friday’s camp near Robber’s Roost Ranch
Friday's camp near Robber's Roost Ranch

The Bull Pasture “Trail” is really an old bulldozed road, cut through talus and across slickrock, leading from Robber’s Roost Flats down into the Bull Pasture. If you look very closely in Google Earth, you can find a much fainter track that continues to near where the Bull Pasture drains into the Dirty Devil River, then follows a winding path along the rim of the Dirty Devil and goes a couple of miles up Twin Corral Box Canyon. The track ends near a stone circle that appears to be man-made. I’m extremely curious about this, but didn’t have the energy or the time to investigate it on this trip. We started hiking down the more obvious part of the dozer road and followed it to a rock wall built to keep livestock down in the Bull Pasture.

Top of old road dropping into Bull Pasture
Top of old road dropping into Bull Pasture

Faded sign
Faded sign

Bulldozed road through the slickrock
Bulldozed road through the slickrock

More dozer road down the sandstone
More dozer road down the sandstone

One of the Bull Pasture canyons
One of the Bull Pasture canyons

Foot trail on the old road
Foot trail on the old road

View into Larry Canyon
View into Larry Canyon

More slickrock road
More slickrock road

Tiny fragile arch
Tiny fragile arch

Bull Pasture alcove
Bull Pasture alcove

Rock walls sealing off Bull Pasture
Rock walls sealing off Bull Pasture

We’d seen an alcove while descending the road so we made a short detour to check it out. Inside was a flat floor surrounded by stacked rocks, but I didn’t see any lithics, potsherds, or other artifacts to indicate it was occupied prehistorically.

Inspecting an alcove
Inspecting an alcove

View out of the alcove
View out of the alcove

Next we hiked up three side canyons off the main drainage of the Bull Pasture. The first was about a mile long and we only saw one small overhang that didn’t hold anything of interest.

Hiking up the first canyon
Hiking up the first canyon

Balanced rock
Balanced rock

Checking out an overhang
Checking out an overhang

Back in the main watercourse
Back in the main watercourse

The second side canyon was very short but was the most interesting of the three. It contained a small seep and riparian area, above which was a ledge with some sort of rock structure on it. Below the ledge was a stack of rocks that modern people had used to climb up, but we tried it and still couldn’t get up on the ledge. Chris and I wrestled a long, thin rock into place that was taller than the stack of rocks, and he climbed up and took the best photo he could with my camera of the rock structure, but we still couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be. On the cliff below the ledge was a smudge of pigment that I’m certain isn’t natural but doesn’t resemble a traditional pictograph.

Ledge with a structure on top and rock step below
Ledge with a structure on top and rock step below

Stone structure atop the ledge
Stone structure atop the ledge

Stone structure atop the ledge
Stone structure atop the ledge

A smudge of pigment, the only rock art I’d see all weekend
A smudge of pigment, the only rock art I'd see all weekend

The third side canyon, which I suppose is actually the main drainage leading into the Bull Pasture, had a spring and pool and a single cottonwood tree at its mouth. We ascended it, climbing a section of large boulders, and came up against a dryfall. There were several sets of footprints leading in just one direction down the canyon, leading us to believe this is a canyoneering route. I wish I’d have known that beforehand because we would have descended the canyon one-way and cut out a lot of hiking.

Starting up the third canyon
Starting up the third canyon

Climbing around some boulders
Climbing around some boulders

End of the third canyon at a dryfall
End of the third canyon at a dryfall

We reversed course at the dryfall and returned back to the Jeep the way we’d come in, totaling almost 12 miles by the end of the hike. We drove less than two miles along the road and found a decent place to camp near the head of Alcatraz Canyon.

Balanced boulder
Balanced boulder

Walking back up the old road
Walking back up the old road

Hilgard Mountain on the horizon with Factory Butte below
Hilgard Mountain on the horizon with Factory Butte below

Henry Mountains
Henry Mountains

GPS stats for the Bull Pasture hike
GPS stats for the Bull Pasture hike

Saturday’s camp near the head of Alcatraz Canyon
Saturday's camp near the head of Alcatraz Canyon

On Sunday morning we could see a blanket of smoke covering the Henry Mountains. We had good cell service so I went online and found that the source of the smoke was a prescribed fire near Monroe Mountain. After a drive of about ten miles we were at the head of Twin Corral Box Canyon and ready for an easy hike to the Pinnacles. I’ve seen this rock formation many times when driving back from the Hans Flats area and I’ve always been curious about it. Our route took us along cattle trails and an old road, past a stock pond and watering trough, and near some cliffs and a pair of alcoves. The alcoves looked promising from a distance but there was nothing remotely interesting inside them.

Bull Mountain and Mount Ellen obscured by smoke from a prescribed fire near Monroe Mountain
Bull Mountain and Mount Ellen obscured by smoke from a prescribed fire near Monroe Mountain

Alcatraz Canyon
Alcatraz Canyon

Stock pond on the way to the Pinnacles
Stock pond on the way to the Pinnacles

Trough below the pond
Trough below the pond

Walking a closed road
Walking a closed road

Alcoves
Alcoves

We reached the Pinnacles where I hoped to find some inscriptions, which we did, but only one was all that old–the others were made in my lifetime. It read, “Ole Olsen, Ferron, January 1, 1900.” After reading it I imagined Ole, at the turn of the century, lonely and cold and huddled against the cliff with a fire going while watching his livestock. The inscription was the most interesting thing we’d seen on this trip but it painted a sad picture. Chris and I trudged back along the closed road to the Jeep and drove home, somewhat disappointed with the trip but recognizing that Ole Olsen most certainly had a rougher journey between his home in Castle Valley and the Pinnacles than we did.

Hazy Henrys
Hazy Henrys

The actual Pinnacles
The actual Pinnacles

Hiking down from the not-really-Pinnacles
Hiking down from the not-really-Pinnacles

Horseshoe near the Pinnacles
Horseshoe near the Pinnacles

Ole Olsen, Ferron, January 1, 1900
Ole Olsen, Ferron, January 1, 1900

Above Twin Corral Box Canyon
Above Twin Corral Box Canyon


Photo Gallery: Bull Pasture and the Pinnacles
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints: Google Earth KMZ