Category Archives: Trip Reports

Arches Backcountry II

March 30-31, 2019

After spending the previous weekend exploring the Arches National Park backcountry with Chris, I returned alone on Friday evening after work. We had previously struck out near the Delicate Arch trail and so this time I thought I had a better idea of where to look for the rock art we’d missed. I parked at the Delicate Arch trailhead and set off for some nearby cliff bands, and almost immediately I found a few petroglyphs on a boulder. I continued on toward several alcoves and found some petroglyphs, pictographs, and a couple of whole and broken metates.

Boulder with a few petroglyphs on it
Boulder with a few petroglyphs on it

Bighorn sheep petroglyph
Bighorn sheep petroglyph

Bear paw print?
Bear paw print?

Seep below the cliff band
Seep below the cliff band

The Windows Section
The Windows Section

Two more alcoves to check out
Two more alcoves to check out

Pictograph dots
Pictograph dots

Find God among these rocks, among people
Find God among these rocks, among people

Squiggly petroglyph and bird shit
Squiggly petroglyph and bird shit

View out of an alcove
View out of an alcove

Spring water flowing through a slickrock wash
Spring water flowing through a slickrock wash

Slight overhang
Slight overhang

Upside-down metate?
Upside-down metate?

Yep!
Yep!

Another overhang
Another overhang

Faded pictograph
Faded pictograph

I briefly rejoined the Delicate Arch trail to get above the initial cliff band and found several more alcoves, but this time they were mostly devoid of rock art. I did, however, find a flat, sandy area full of metates and lithic scatter. Right at sunset I heard the crowd at Delicate Arch cheering! I’m not sure what that was all about. Not wanting retrace a longer route back to the trailhead, I tried shortcutting a more direct route and was relieved that it worked out. I got back to my vehicle well after sunset and drove out of the park, taking a few long exposure shots above the winding park road. I camped that night along the Dalton Wells road, even farther out than where Chris and I had camped the previous weekend–there were even more campers along the road this time!

Joining the zombie horde
Joining the zombie horde

La Sal Mountains
La Sal Mountains

Nah, I’m gonna hang a left
Nah, I'm gonna hang a left

Hoodie bros on the Delicate Arch trail
Hoodie bros on the Delicate Arch trail

Slickrock wash
Slickrock wash

Crumbling alcove
Crumbling alcove

Cave primrose (Primula specuicola)
Cave primrose (Primula specuicola)

Metate
Metate

Broken metate
Broken metate

Another metate
Another metate

Yet another metate
Yet another metate

Whoa, so many metates
Whoa, so many metates

Lithic scatter
Lithic scatter

Alcove view
Alcove view

Possible natural arch in the distance
Possible natural arch in the distance

Weepy sandstone
Weepy sandstone

Last light on the cliffs
Last light on the cliffs

Another weepy alcove
Another weepy alcove

Salt Wash at sunset
Salt Wash at sunset

Old rock wall to contain livestock
Old rock wall to contain livestock

Sharpening grooves in a boulder
Sharpening grooves in a boulder

Alcove panorama
Alcove panorama

Enjoying a PBR at the Delicate Arch trailhead
Enjoying a PBR at the Delicate Arch trailhead

US-191 and park road at night
US-191 and park road at night

I awoke to rain early on Saturday morning. I drove into the park along the main road and the rain didn’t seem like it would let up soon, so I left and drove into Moab and bought some beer that I can’t get at home. By the time I returned to the park the entrance line was a little long but still not too bad. I parked at the visitor center and started hiking toward some rock art I’d learned about from a friend since last weekend’s trip. The first part of the hike was along an old road that I assume was the original wagon road through Moab Canyon, probably traveled by the Elk Mountain missionaries in 1854-1855. Soon, and still within sight of the visitor center, I found a boulder covered with petroglyphs.

Possibly the original wagon road through Moab Canyon
Possibly the original wagon road through Moab Canyon

1978 NPS survey marker
1978 NPS survey marker

Shed deer antler which, unfortunately, I had to leave in place
Shed deer antler which, unfortunately, I had to leave in place

Petroglyph boulder
Petroglyph boulder

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Possible Barrier Canyon Style petroglyphs?
Possible Barrier Canyon Style petroglyphs?

I continued hiking along the rim and then struck out cross-country until I reached the area where my friend thought the petroglyphs were. She’d only given me a rough description of where to find the panel, but the rock art was in precisely the spot she described it to be! And, boy, was it a great panel, especially considering its unusual location. The panel is in a very minor drainage with no permanent water nearby, and there’s not much good shelter nearby. One important factor in its location may be that, during the equinoxes, a hole in the cliff allows sunlight to shine on the panel in certain way, though I was there too late in the day to experience that (and I was about 10 days too late). I lunched nearby and then hiked back to the Jeep. Since the clouds had mostly cleared it got quite warm on the way back. I reached the Jeep and then headed home, having enjoyed yet another couple of days in Arches exploring places that few know about.

Walking along the rim
Walking along the rim

Lonely Swell Jeep
Lonely Swell Jeep

More rim walking
More rim walking

Good-looking cliffs but no rock art
Good-looking cliffs but no rock art

Park road
Park road

Two hawks on a sandstone pillar
Two hawks on a sandstone pillar

Moab Canyon
Moab Canyon

My first view of the petroglyphs
My first view of the petroglyphs

A pretty sweet panel
A pretty sweet panel

Lower-right panel
Lower-right panel

Upper-right panel
Upper-right panel

Fat sheep
Fat sheep

Doggos!
Doggos!

Young bighorns
Young bighorns

Half of a bighorn sheep
Half of a bighorn sheep

Hole in the rock that projects light on the panel during the equinoxes
Hole in the rock that projects light on the panel during the equinoxes

Long-necked sheep
Long-necked sheep

Line to get into Arches National Park
Line to get into Arches National Park


Photo Gallery: Arches Backcountry II