Category Archives: Camping

Keg Spring and Wolverton Canyons

In mid-November 2018, my friend Chris and I headed into the San Rafael Desert for a couple days of camping and hiking in Keg Spring Canyon and Wolverton Canyon. Our goal was to hike as many old trails as we could. We ended up hiking four different trails and locating a fifth for future exploration. We met at my house on Friday the 16th, loaded the Jeep, and headed south. We arrived at camp near the west fork of Keg Spring Canyon after dark, started a campfire, and drank some beer before dinner. It wasn’t too chilly at night. We awoke when the sun rose on Saturday morning and the temperature was already quite comfortable.

Starry night at camp
Starry night at camp

Waking up to a warm, sunny morning
Waking up to a warm, sunny morning

After breakfast we started hiking right from camp. This was Chris’ first long hike since breaking his leg earlier in the year and he did quite well, never complaining despite some scrambling and a lot of ups-and-downs. We walked the rim of the west fork, finding many grinding slicks, petroglyphs, and inscriptions close to camp. One of the inscriptions was by Mont Caldwell, and I’d found many other inscriptions by him in my travels. There were also a lot of moki steps in the area, most of which appeared to serve no purpose. We dropped into a small canyon near camp and viewed some more petroglyphs before returning to the canyon rim and heading downstream.

Grinding slicks and sharpening grooves
Grinding slicks and sharpening grooves

Incised glyphs
Incised glyphs

Curvilinear petroglyphs
Curvilinear petroglyphs

Human and sheep figures
Human and sheep figures

Moki step
Moki step

Good ol’ Mont Caldwell
Good ol' Mont Caldwell

Entering a small slot canyon to check out some rock art
Entering a small slot canyon to check out some rock art

Unusual style of petroglyphs
Unusual style of petroglyphs

We dropped back down below the rim to check out a promising cliff covered in patina but didn’t find anything there. Across the canyon, however, were a couple of 1934 inscriptions by Harold Twitchell, whose name I found scratched in lower Moonshine Wash five years earlier. We found our way to the top of the Andy Moore Trail, which I only roughly knew the location of but ended up being easy to find. Some of the sandstone cliffs above the trail had been drilled and blasted, presumably to create enough material to fill in the ledges below. Using that trail we entered the bottom of Keg Spring Canyon and then headed upstream into the middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon. There we found several rock walls designed to contain livestock, as well as a curious stone marker that simply said, “R.I.P. Solitude.” We thought (and hoped) it was a memorial to a horse. Chris and I also quickly visited a cave in the middle fork that I’d been to before.

Walking the rim along the west fork of Keg Spring Canyon
Walking the rim along the west fork of Keg Spring Canyon

H.H. Twitchell 1934
H.H. Twitchell 1934

Heading toward that patinated cliff in the center
Heading toward that patinated cliff in the center

Climbing down below the rim
Climbing down below the rim

West fork of Keg Spring Canyon
West fork of Keg Spring Canyon

Slickrock walking
Slickrock walking

Top of the Andy Moore Trail
Top of the Andy Moore Trail

Drilled and blasted cliffs
Drilled and blasted cliffs

Andy Moore Trail
Andy Moore Trail

Stone fence
Stone fence

R.I.P. Solitude
R.I.P. Solitude

Stone marker
Stone marker

Approaching the cave
Approaching the cave

Chris in the cave
Chris in the cave

Albert Weber, Feb. 18, 1928
Albert Weber, Feb. 18, 1928

Inside the cave looking out
Inside the cave looking out

Broken grinding stone
Broken grinding stone

Next we briefly entered the east fork of Keg Spring Canyon to try locating the Wolverton Trail. We located the trail easily and followed it to the canyon rim. I’d read that this trail was used to carry minerals from a mine near Keg Knoll down to the Green River, but after hiking the trail I think it’s likely that it was only ever used to get sheep from grazing lands above to water down in the canyon. It was certainly no thoroughfare for pack mules hauling minerals.

H.A. Larsen
H.A. Larsen

Junction of the east and middle forks
Junction of the east and middle forks

Trying to locate the Wolverton Trail
Trying to locate the Wolverton Trail

Small cairn marking the route
Small cairn marking the route

Constructed section of the Wolverton Trail
Constructed section of the Wolverton Trail

Hoodoo on the rim of the canyon
Hoodoo on the rim of the canyon

We returned to the middle fork and ascended it until reaching another constructed trail that I’d been on before. From the top of the trail it was a relatively short walk back to the Jeep.

Domes on the canyon rim
Domes on the canyon rim

Water in the middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon
Water in the middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon

Middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon
Middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon

Middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon
Middle fork of Keg Spring Canyon

Path through some vegetation
Path through some vegetation

Trail near Keg Spring
Trail near Keg Spring

Exiting via a constructed trail
Exiting via a constructed trail

Walking back to the Jeep at camp
Walking back to the Jeep at camp

We drove a while to the rim of lower Keg Spring Canyon and checked out a couple of water tanks. We also located the top of the Chuchuru Sheep Trail but didn’t feel like descending it all the way to the canyon bottom, so I’m saving that for another trip.

Chris getting a look into a water tank
Chris getting a look into a water tank

Upper end of the Chuchuru Sheep Trail
Upper end of the Chuchuru Sheep Trail

Chuchuru Sheep Trail
Chuchuru Sheep Trail

Old semi trailer turned into a water tank
Old semi trailer turned into a water tank

Water tank filled with trash
Water tank filled with trash

After some more driving we arrived at Saturday’s planned camp spot at the Wolverton Overlook but found a vehicle there. There’s only room for one group to camp there, so we approached the two fellows to see what their plans were. They were from back east somewhere and were only there for the evening to fly drones above the Green River at sunset. Chris and I decided to give them some space and went for a short drive, then returned at sunset. We hiked out to the overlook for some photos, then set up camp and enjoyed the evening. It sprinkled on us briefly, but we slept out on our cots and had a comfortable night.

Panorama near Bull Hollow
Panorama near Bull Hollow

Book Cliffs 30 miles in the distance
Book Cliffs 30 miles in the distance

Green River from the Wolverton Overlook
Green River from the Wolverton Overlook

One of two guys flying drones at the Wolverton Overlook
One of two guys flying drones at the Wolverton Overlook

Green River from the Wolverton Overlook just after sunset
Green River from the Wolverton Overlook just after sunset

The La Sals glowing pink
The La Sals glowing pink

Bright clouds after sunset
Bright clouds after sunset

Saturday night’s camp above Labyrinth Canyon
Saturday night's camp above Labyrinth Canyon

On Sunday morning after packing up camp we set out for one last hike. I parked the Jeep a short distance from camp and we started down an old two-track road for a bit, then cross-country toward Wolverton Canyon. We took a slight detour when I saw some cliffs that caught my interest. There we found a couple of metates but no other signs of habitation. Farther down the canyon we had to bypass two dryfalls before reaching the top of the constructed trail in Wolverton Canyon.

Sunday morning at camp
Sunday morning at camp

Old two-track leading toward Wolverton Canyon
Old two-track leading toward Wolverton Canyon

Descending toward Wolverton Canyon
Descending toward Wolverton Canyon

Heading down to check out some cliffs in the distance
Heading down to check out some cliffs in the distance

Maybe a metate?
Maybe a metate?

Definitely a metate
Definitely a metate

Ledges where I found a couple of metates
Ledges where I found a couple of metates

Wolverton Canyon
Wolverton Canyon

Descending back into the canyon after bypassing a dryfall
Descending back into the canyon after bypassing a dryfall

Another big dryfall coming up
Another big dryfall coming up

The top of the Wolverton Trail had only a little construction. We reached the bottom of the canyon and couldn’t tell where the trail went. Chris set off into a boulder field, while I searched the opposite side of the canyon. I found where the trail ascended the other side and then continued down-canyon just below a cliff band. Along the way I spotted a small inscription by C.H. from one hundred years earlier. We followed the trail down to the Green River. The lower section was heavily constructed and could have served as a wagon road, except that there was no way for a wagon to get through the upper section of trail!

Chris at the top of the constructed trail
Chris at the top of the constructed trail

Top of the trail
Top of the trail

Chris unknowingly took the difficult way through the boulders
Chris unknowingly took the difficult way through the boulders

I found where the trail goes up the other side of the canyon
I found where the trail goes up the other side of the canyon

Likely route of the original trail
Likely route of the original trail

Very tiny inscription: C.H. 1918
Very tiny inscription:  C.H. 1918

Rock wall supporting the trail
Rock wall supporting the trail

We poked around the mouth of the canyon hoping to find some inscriptions or rock art but unfortunately came up empty. With our exploring done, we ascended the trail by the same route we’d come in on, got back in the Jeep, and headed home.

At the Green River
At the Green River

Rock wall near the river
Rock wall near the river

Going back up the trail
Going back up the trail

Horse or burro skull
Horse or burro skull

Almost back to the Jeep!
Almost back to the Jeep!