Horseshoe Canyon is not only a naturally beautiful canyon, with its steep sandstone walls, cottonwood groves, and ephemeral streams, but it is home to some of the most incredible pictographs in the world. As you trek through the canyon, you will come across several panels, including the High Gallery, the Alcove Gallery, and the Great Gallery. The Great Gallery is the final, and perhaps most impressive panel in the entire canyon. The artwork is extremely well-preserved, and includes figures that are six feet tall. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Historians aren’t entirely sure when these pictographs were made, but they are estimated to be from the Late Archaic period (sometime between 2000 BC and 500 AD). It’s amazing just how well so many of the figures have been preserved. Unfortunately, though, the Alcove Gallery, located inside a large opening in the sandstone wall, has been written on and carved in by past hikers. We really want to encourage you guys to come down to this canyon, enjoy it, but leave it alone. This is some of the most significant rock art ever created, and we want to do our part to preserve it and let future generations enjoy it.
While this hike is generally flat, a significant amount of sand has accumulated throughout the years in the canyon, making the hike much more strenuous than it would be otherwise. In addition, be prepared for rough terrain and a steep 800 foot ascent out of the canyon. If you plan on doing this hike in the summer, pack AT LEAST a gallon of water per person, and wake up bright and early to get started. As the sun continues to get higher, less and less shade is provided. Try to get out and beat the heat so you can really enjoy all that Horseshoe Canyon has to offer.
One of my favorite aspects of this hike actually wasn’t the pictographs, as incredible as they were, but the dinosaur track that can be seen on the sandstone on the way down. Keep your eye out for a large circle of sandstone rocks, this’ll show you where it is.
We absolutely loved this desert canyon hike, and we’re sure you will too.
Trail Length: 7 miles out and back
Time: 4-7 hours
Trail Usage: Hikers and horseback. Pets are prohibited
Elevation Gain: Most of the trail is flat, but there is an 800 foot descent into the canyon, which means a steep hike on the way back out.