Hell Roaring Canyon

I had a hell roarin’ good time on Friday northwest of Moab. There’s some rock art in Hell Roaring Canyon that I’ve wanted to see for more than a year and I finally got around to doing so. There are two routes into the canyon within easy hiking distance of the rock art: an old constructed stock trail in lower Dubinky Wash and another route zig-zagging over a series of ledges that requires one to crawl on hands and knees. I dropped my mountain bike and chained it to a tree near the top of the “crawl route” and continued driving the truck to near the top of the stock trail. I put the dogs’ packs on them and shouldered my own pack and started hiking toward the top of the trail. There’s an old corral at the top of the trail, and the first short stretch of trail had been blasted out of the sandstone, leading to a ledge that runs below the cliff. The trail then made a sharp turn and traversed a steep sandstone slope. Holes had been drilled and pipes pounded into the holes, then logs, rocks, and dirt had been piled up above the pipes to create the trail (though much of the dirt had washed away). Eventually the trail reached a talus slope and worked its way through boulders and rocks the rest of the way to the bottom of Dubinky Wash.

Torrey and Boulder at the beginning of the hike
Torrey and Boulder at the beginning of the hike

Above the stock trail leading into Dubinky Wash
Above the stock trail leading into Dubinky Wash

View into Dubinky Wash
View into Dubinky Wash

Part of the stock trail that was blasted out of the cliffs
Part of the stock trail that was blasted out of the cliffs

Stock trail following a ledge below the cliffs
Stock trail following a ledge below the cliffs

Constructed stock trail
Constructed stock trail

Boulder and Torrey shading up
Boulder and Torrey shading up

View up the trail from near the bottom
View up the trail from near the bottom

It was a one-mile walk down Dubinky Wash to the confluence with Hell Roaring Canyon, and I stopped at two small springs to let Torrey and Boulder drink. Beyond the confluence I found the large alcove containing the rock art. Pictographs and some faint petroglyphs adorned the walls, as did some late-1800s inscriptions. The most interesting to me were a large ghostly pictograph, a larger-than-life deer petroglyph, and, of course, the Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel. There was a narrow ledge with carved moki steps leading to the top of the alcove but I didn’t dare climb it without anyone around to help me in case I got into trouble. Above the ledge I could barely make out some more rock art. I’ll definitely have to come back with a partner so I can get on top of that ledge.

The dogs at a spring in Dubinky Wash
The dogs at a spring in Dubinky Wash

Riparian area at an intermittent spring in Dubinky Wash
Riparian area at an intermittent spring in Dubinky Wash

Tadpoles
Tadpoles

Confluence of Dubinky Wash and Hell Roaring Canyon
Confluence of Dubinky Wash and Hell Roaring Canyon

Alcove in Hell Roaring Canyon
Alcove in Hell Roaring Canyon

Grinding marks
Grinding marks

View out of the alcove
View out of the alcove

Broken grinding stone
Broken grinding stone

Small red pictograph
Small red pictograph

Chert flakes in the alcove
Chert flakes in the alcove

Large pictograph with a few indistinct figures on the left
Large pictograph with a few indistinct figures on the left

Dogs resting in the alcove with large pictograph on the right
Dogs resting in the alcove with large pictograph on the right

Sketchy climbing route above the alcove where there is more rock art
Sketchy climbing route above the alcove where there is more rock art

Moki steps leading above the alcove
Moki steps leading above the alcove

White pictographs
White pictographs

Arthur Wheeler, April 27, 1894
Arthur Wheeler, April 27, 1894

Larger-than-life deer petroglyph
Larger-than-life deer petroglyph

Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel
Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel

Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel, DStretch-enhanced to highlight the yellow pigment
Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel, DStretch-enhanced to highlight the yellow pigment

Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel
Comet Thrower/Yellow Comet panel

Ruins in the alcove
Ruins in the alcove

The rest of the hike through Hell Roaring Canyon was an easy-going three miles, with frequent stops to let the dogs cool off in the shade. There was no more water until just below the exit route. While looking at the exit route from the bottom it was unclear exactly how to get up each of the several ledges near the top. I got closer and found that each ledge had one or two spots where it was possible to ascend with a little bit of climbing. The dogs, especially Boulder, were growing fatigued. I lifted each of them up the ledges and gave them a push when necessary to keep them moving. The final ledge had a low ceiling and a large boulder choking it down to a crawl near the end. I crawled on my hands and knees until reaching the boulder, then I had to remove my pack and lie prone to wiggle the rest of the way through. Once past the crawl there were two more short climbs needed to reach the canyon rim.

Hell Roaring Canyon
Hell Roaring Canyon

The dogs resting in the shade
The dogs resting in the shade

Hell Roaring Canyon
Hell Roaring Canyon

View up the escape route
View up the escape route

A muddy pool that was a huge relief to the dogs before the climb out of the canyon
A muddy pool that was a huge relief to the dogs before the climb out of the canyon

Climbing up to the canyon rim
Climbing up to the canyon rim

Approaching the crawl-route
Approaching the crawl-route

Torrey at the crux of the exit route
Torrey at the crux of the exit route

Just past the crawl-route
Just past the crawl-route

At the canyon rim looking toward upper Hell Roaring Canyon
At the canyon rim looking toward upper Hell Roaring Canyon

From the rim it was an easy walk to retrieve my bike, and I traded my hat for a helmet and started down the road. Boulder was really dragging. Her paws had a couple of sores on them, but I didn’t see any alternative other than to slowly press on for another 2.5 miles until reaching the truck. The dogs made it back without too much difficulty and were eager to jump into the truck after I turned the A/C on. I had planned on camping right there and doing some mountain biking at Bartlett Wash the next morning, but considering Boulder’s condition I decided to head home. Even if her muscles weren’t sore the next day her paws would have been. Both dogs were limping when I got home, even though Torrey hadn’t been doing so at any point during the hike. I think I have some work to do toughening the pups up before our next long hike. This one was only eight miles total, and with fall/winter coming up–prime hiking season in the desert–I’m sure our hikes will only become longer.

The dogs in some water
The dogs in some water

Hell Roaring Canyon
Hell Roaring Canyon

Picking up the bike shuttle with 2.5 miles left to go
Picking up the bike shuttle with 2.5 miles left to go

Running along the road back toward the truck
Running along the road back toward the truck

Hey, Joe!
Hey, Joe!

Back at the truck where Boulder collapsed
Back at the truck where Boulder collapsed


Photo Gallery: Hell Roaring Canyon
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