Paradise Flats

May 29-30, 2020

This trip was five years in the making. A friend told me about some rock art at Paradise Flats several years ago, but with a combination of procrastination and bad weather I kept putting the trip off until now. I’d been really feeling my mid-40s and decided this was the year to make it happen before I was too old to make the hike. It really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I hooked up with Chris and we took my Jeep to the trailhead on Friday evening. It was a long drive in, and we got to our intended camp spot in time to see a nice sunset through the dense ponderosa pine trees.

Northern Capitol Reef
Northern Capitol Reef

View toward Torrey (the town, not the dog) above Holt Draw
View toward Torrey (the town, not the dog) above Holt Draw

Factory Butte
Factory Butte

Downed trail sign
Downed trail sign

Sunset through the pondos
Sunset through the pondos


We got up early on Saturday and hit the trail. Although the trail was well-defined it was pretty rough in spots. 20 minutes later we entered Capitol Reef National Park. The trail wended its way through some pinyons and junipers for a bit until we caught our first view into Paradise Flats. After a rugged descent we were finally in the flats near the head of Paradise Draw. The first point of interest we ran across was a basalt rock wall topped with dead junipers. Just beyond that we reached the first rock art panel.

Camp on Saturday morning
Camp on Saturday morning

Trail through the ponderosa pines
Trail through the ponderosa pines

Entering Capitol Reef National Park
Entering Capitol Reef National Park

Rough trail to Paradise Flats
Rough trail to Paradise Flats

First view of Paradise Flats
First view of Paradise Flats

Henrys over Paradise Flats
Henrys over Paradise Flats

Pushin’ daisies
Pushin' daisies

Lupine
Lupine

Rock/juniper fence
Rock/juniper fence

Sandstone blocks
Sandstone blocks

A good sign
A good sign

Chris at the first petroglyph panel we found
Chris at the first petroglyph panel we found



A.G. (?) Duncan, August 25, 1930
A.G. (?) Duncan, August 25, 1930

August 11, 1929, E.P. Pectol
August 11, 1929, E.P. Pectol

Oh bulony, discovered by Hite Williams and J.A. Lee in 1916. Please do not disfidger thoes seenes.
Oh bulony, discovered by Hite Williams and J.A. Lee in 1916. Please do not disfidger thoes seenes.

Ant feeding on a dead baby mouse
Ant feeding on a dead baby mouse










A little farther past that panel we discovered the jumping cactus. There were little fingerling cactuses that would stick to one shoe, and upon the next step they’d firmly attach themselves to the opposite calf. We spent much of the rest of the hike either trying to avoid the cactus or picking it our of our skin. A month later I was still picking tiny, hair-like cactus needles out of my legs.

Jumping cactus
Jumping cactus

Lone ponderosa on a sandstone butte
Lone ponderosa on a sandstone butte

Paradise Flats
Paradise Flats

Bill Hickman 1983
Bill Hickman 1983

Paradise Flats
Paradise Flats


Next we reached the largest concentration of rock art of the hike. There were a couple of different styles, as well as differing levels of repatination. Along with spotting some metates and manos, we also saw some signs of cowboys or early explorers having spent some time in the area.












1923, Wm. Hickman
1923, Wm. Hickman


Mentholatum Reg Trade Mark
Mentholatum Reg Trade Mark

Basalt metate
Basalt metate

Metates and manos
Metates and manos




Another good sign
Another good sign

Chris resting
Chris resting


We pressed on and found some more rock art that my friend apparently didn’t discover on his trip. Everything up to that point I was expecting to see, but this last panel wasn’t on the agenda. It was on a narrowing ledge that petered out to nothing, and not somewhere I’d have expected to find more petroglyphs.



Looking at rock art above a ledge
Looking at rock art above a ledge



End of the ledge
End of the ledge



Everything had been downhill until this point, and Chris and I had to climb out all the way back to the Jeep. We took a different route and checked out some different cliff bands on the return trip, but didn’t find anything new to us. We got back to the Jeep and encountered an unexpected problem. I had the Jeep in 4-low and the transmission started slipping a minute or two after starting the drive out! I tried to take it easy and we proceeded driving back toward civilization, and we never did have any more issues, but it caused a great deal of stress. To top it all off, we ran into a cattle drive coming up the road as we were descending. We had to stop several times to let the cows and cowboys on their horses pass. We made it back to pavement without any more issues and drove on toward our next destination, Jorgenson and Pleasant Creek flats.

Lupine in Paradise Draw
Lupine in Paradise Draw

Green lizard on a cairn
Green lizard on a cairn

Paradise Flats and the Henry Mountains
Paradise Flats and the Henry Mountains


Photo Gallery: Paradise Flats

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