The Gulch

March 27-29, 2020

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.

Stormy weather east of Boulder Mountain
Stormy weather east of Boulder Mountain

Camp spot in the Gulch
Camp spot in the Gulch

Around the camp fire
Around the camp fire

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.

Gulch drop-in point
Gulch drop-in point

Flowing water in the Gulch
Flowing water in the Gulch

Gate
Gate

Hiking past bare cottonwoods above the watercourse
Hiking past bare cottonwoods above the watercourse

Metate on a flat above the watercourse
Metate on a flat above the watercourse

Herding cows
Herding cows

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).

Twin alcoves
Twin alcoves

Kind of modern-looking petroglyph
Kind of modern-looking petroglyph

Corn cob
Corn cob

Inside the alcoves
Inside the alcoves

View out of an alcove
View out of an alcove

Fallen fence
Fallen fence

Kelly’s Cabin
Kelly's Cabin

Survey marker at Kelly’s Cabin
Survey marker at Kelly's Cabin

Inside Kelly’s Cabin
Inside Kelly's Cabin

Cowed-up Gulch
Cowed-up Gulch

Thin rivulet
Thin rivulet

Natural arch
Natural arch

Sandy creekside
Sandy creekside

Alcove above the Gulch
Alcove above the Gulch

Pit and carved grooves
Pit and carved grooves

Pits in the alluvium
Pits in the alluvium

Potsherds, lithics, and a pit lid
Potsherds, lithics, and a pit lid

Hashmarks in the back of the alcove
Hashmarks in the back of the alcove

Looking out of the alcove
Looking out of the alcove

Sand Holler
Sand Holler

Striations and stripes
Striations and stripes

Fallen fence
Fallen fence

Fence across the creek
Fence across the creek

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.

Line shack
Line shack

Line shack
Line shack

Potty chair
Potty chair

Pot handle inside the line shack
Pot handle inside the line shack

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Pictographs
Pictographs

Deer petroglyph
Deer petroglyph

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.

Overhang in the Gulch with pictographs
Overhang in the Gulch with pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

The Gulch pictographs
The Gulch pictographs

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.

Fallen fence across the canyon
Fallen fence across the canyon

Log bridge
Log bridge

Narrow spot in the watercourse
Narrow spot in the watercourse

Walking through the trees
Walking through the trees

Hoodoos
Hoodoos

The Gulch
The Gulch

Chunk of petrified log
Chunk of petrified log

Steep hillclimb
Steep hillclimb

Saturday’s camp in the Gulch
Saturday's camp in the Gulch

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.

Fish Creek Cove pictographs
Fish Creek Cove pictographs

Lewis Adams, May 2nd, 1887
Lewis Adams, May 2nd, 1887

Rudolph T. Lewis, Oct. 13, 1889(?)
Rudolph T. Lewis, Oct. 13, 1889(?)

O.G. Snow, 9/30 ’05
O.G. Snow, 9/30 '05

Fish Creek Cove pictographs
Fish Creek Cove pictographs

Unknown handprint, July 29, 1919
Unknown handprint, July 29, 1919

11 June, 1880, G. Holliday
11 June, 1880, G. Holliday

Deer petroglyph
Deer petroglyph

Fish Creek Cove pictographs
Fish Creek Cove pictographs

Sheep petroglyph with bloody nasal discharge
Sheep petroglyph with bloody nasal discharge

Fish Creek Cove pictographs
Fish Creek Cove pictographs

Fremont petroglyph/pictograph
Fremont petroglyph/pictograph

Falling snow at Fish Creek Cove
Falling snow at Fish Creek Cove


Photo Gallery: The Gulch