After spending a couple days in Nine Mile Canyon (link), I was anxious for some good hiking or preferably some good backpacking. I stopped at the USFS office in Price to see if they had any ideas. The ranger sadly told me the nearby forest is inaccessible for at least another 3-4 weeks. He referred me to the BLM office. The ranger happily told me about Little Grand Canyon in the San Rafael Swell. From my previous visits (link), I knew I loved the geology of the swell but had never visited the northern end.
If only this was the scene I’d observe over the next few days. Instead I was jarred by the fact that this is an ATV playground and it was Saturday. My initial memory is dust, dust, dust, traffic and people. Definitely not my idea of fun. Why oh why did I listen to the BLM rangers? I clearly told them I liked more isolated places and was looking for hiking.
I decided to visit the Buckhorn Wash Rock Art site first. The BLM ranger said this panel was far superior to what I’d seen in Nine Mile Canyon. I was skeptical.
This is a restored site as it had been severely vandalized over the years with paint, chalk, carvings and bullet holes.
Here are some before and after photos.
The detail of the art is exquisite, much finer detail than I’ve seen elsewhere so for that reason and for the fact they were able to resurrect this panel, I’ll say it exceeded expectations.
The panel is primarily known for it’s pictographs (painted), but there were also a few petroglyphs (carved, pecked or chiseled).
I especially liked this one that seems to represent trees and plants.
I also liked this one that shows friends or family holding hands, so much nicer than the hunting scenes.
Although I’d originally planned to continue to the Swinging Bridge over San Rafael River, the amount of dust and traffic had me thinking otherwise.
Will I be impressed?
I spent the afternoon walking along the rim enjoying many views. It was indeed impressive and just as challenging to photograph as the Grand Canyon.
As I walked along the rim, I watched for possible places to gain access. I saw this group just bail off the edge. They had no experience and were kicking rocks into each other. Was this an accident in the making? I don’t know, I kept walking.
The rim was delightful to walk; it would be easy to walk or bike for miles and miles. Camping is problematic. A sign is posted that no camping is allowed past this point but it was clear many areas had been used previously as there was road access. In this photo you might be able to see a van and at the very point a tent.
I wanted to break the rules too, but just couldn’t bring myself to taking the risk of being fined. Oh why can’t I be a rebel?
Instead I found a legal campsite about a mile away that seemed to be safe in stormy and wet conditions.
While walking along the rim, I found a safe escape hatch into the canyon. So early the next morning I was off to explore.
As I made progress into the canyon, the view back up to the rim and especially the corner with the tent camper looked so very different. I was thrilled to be IN the canyon.
I found a lot of cool geology including this rock that appears to be a mud fossil???
I can’t remember what these are nodes are called.
While I was unsuccessful in finding a route down to the river, as I wandered about I came upon this survey marker.
Trash is a serious problem. You can tell trash is regularly tossed over the rim. I found a lot of broken glass bottles. I picked up a few water bottles and other trash. While I was hiking in the canyon a group of young men were tossing rocks over the edge. They need to go to Junior Ranger class and learn why that behavior is NOT okay.
While I was in the canyon, I found a place where I could see campers. Later I hiked more of the rim and found many floating the river. It looks like a fun journey!
Always happy to find flowers on my adventures.
The tiniest cactus I’ve ever seen blooming.
The Claret Cups were just starting to bloom.
Sadly my camera is on the fritz. The lens got stuck in this out position but after a bit of work I was able to get it to recede but it’s glitchy and there seems to be a spot on my lens now. I have it insured but I’m going to try to limp it along through the last few weeks of this trip. I apologize in advance for photos with the spot which I can’t edit out while traveling.
- Would I recommend for hikers? NO! But for cyclists there is a great around the canyon option I’d consider.
- The “rules” have been bent significantly and don’t seem to be enforced. There were at least 50 campers in a small area near the primary overlook. I noticed a crew blocking access areas with huge boulders and logs. It seems to be the only area to ensure compliance.
- For lesser known rock art and ancient sites, please turn off or remove geo-tags from your photos.