I’d been aware of some quite incredible pictographs in the Gulch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for about six years before this trip and had wanted to go in search of them ever since, but I was reluctant to do so without some solid intel. Then about a year before the trip a friend told me roughly where the pictos were and the risk/reward ratio dropped enough to make it worth the hike. This was right after COVID restrictions were implemented throughout much of Utah and Garfield County was one of the few in which I could legally camp and recreate, and the time of year was perfect for this long of a hike. My buddy Chris picked me up at home and it was one of the very few times we’d take his car since we’d be on paved roads for most of the trip. There was snow on Boulder Mountain as we drove Highway 12 from Torrey to Boulder, but the country we’d be in for our hike was clear and dry. We camped along the Burr Trail near the Gulch and saw relatively few people while we were near the main road.
With a long hike ahead of us we got an early start on Saturday morning. There was water running in the Gulch and we had to cross it multiple times, but it didn’t pose much of a problem. We would alternate between hiking alongside the watercourse and climbing above it and walking across the sandy benches above. In one spot we found a metate just lying on the ground next to a cattle trail. We encountered some cows along the stream who ran away from us for quite some time before they found a way up out of the canyon where we could pass them up.
We checked out a few alcoves with signs of habitation, and also Kelly’s Cabin (I haven’t been able to find out who Kelly was). There were also several fences across the canyon, presumably to restrict the movement of cattle, but all of them were in various states of disrepair and certainly weren’t helping to keep the cows in their grazing allotments (if that was, in fact, what they were designed to do).
There was one other line cabin that looked newer and still-used. It had some propane tanks, horse feed, and inside a window was displayed a lovely piece of a pottery jug with the handle intact. Near the cabin were some petroglyphs and pictographs, though certainly not of the quality of those we were out to see.
After quite a bit of walking we finally reached the area where the pictographs were supposed to be. I found them easily but I definitely wouldn’t have without that friend’s help! There were several panels in various shades of red, green, and white. It was surprising to me that in all that distance we’d walked there wasn’t much rock art, and in this location there was a lot of really great stuff.
The hike back up the Gulch went more quickly because we’d already explored the canyon walls on the way down. I was beat when we got back to the road. We camped a short distance from where our hike began/ended.
Some weather was rolling in on Sunday morning so Chris and I quickly packed up camp and headed toward home. We made a short stop at Fish Creek Cove and looked at the rock art and inscriptions there. I’ve passed this place up many times without stopping so it was nice to finally see it in person. Snow began to fall as we were finishing up there so we high-tailed it home.
Photo Gallery: The Gulch