If you like old Indian stuff, like I do, one of the most spectacular sites for Indian rock art is the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon.
The first time I saw it was from a small airplane. The ranch I was working for was still missing some cattle on the desert so we hired a pilot from Hanksville to fly us around and see if we could find them. While we were flying I asked him about the Indian paintings in Horseshoe Canyon. He said, here I’ll show you and the next thing I knew the plane was diving into this red rock canyon. The pilot said, look right over there that is called the Great Gallery.
I had to look out the side window and up as the plane was flying sideways in the canyon. Seeing the amazing life size Indian paintings was a great experience so as soon as I had a chance I took a horse and rode into horseshoe canyon. The trail was good although a little steep in a few places. Once I rode into the bottom of the canyon it was just riding up the bottom of a wash with beautiful tall red rock walls, small springs,and tall cottonwood trees. There were smaller paintings as I rode up the canyon, but when I arrived at the Great Gallery I knew it. The wall of paintings is about 200 feet long. The paintings were actually larger than life size and truly amazing.
A few years later, when I starting working for A.C. Ekker, we would take guests into the canyon horseback. By this time the park service had put a gate across a narrow part of the trail, to help regulate, and to keep ATV’s out. Then if you want to take horses in, you had to go to Hans Flat Ranger Station and get a permit. When you received a permit they read you the rules, and gave you the combination to the gate. It was interesting taking dudes in there, and listening to the comments from people who hadn’t been out of town much. They had never seen anything like this.
I liked going on this ride. We usually went once or twice a year, while I worked for A.C. It was about a 6 mile ride round trip. Back then the trail was pretty good, and it was a good ride for a young horse. When I first started going in there, I hardly ever saw anyone else. Now it has become more popular, and there is almost always someone there. Hikers love this trip.
I remember one time A.C. encountered a park ranger on the trip. We had about ten guests with us. A.C. and I were holding horses while the others walked up closer to the paintings to take pictures. A ranger came over and starting talking with us. A.C. told him “Back before the park service starting managing this canyon, we ran cattle in here. The cows made a trail about a foot wide in the bottom of the canyon. Since you guy’s starting running hippies in here, the trail is about twenty feet wide. You tell me what’s worse.” Although, A.C.’s language was more colorful than mine.
The last time I’ve been to horseshoe canyon was in the fall of 2013. My wife and daughter had heard me talk so much about it they wanted to see the paintings. I hadn’t been there for about 12 years and things had changed Now there is a huge parking area at the trail head, lots of people, and even restrooms. There had been a lot of rain in the area that summer, and it had washed the sand off of the rocks on the trail. Some places we had to get off and lead our horses. It was rougher than I remembered, but still a great ride. I would recommend this trip to any one who likes beautiful scenery and Indians paintings.
The Great Gallery is located South of Green River UT. Take SR 24 towards Hanksville. You’ll see a sign that says Roost Flats, Hans Flat Ranger Station. From there it’s about 30 miles of dirt road. You can follow the signs. If you are taking horses, call Hans Flat Ranger Station ahead of time and get a permit. The number for the ranger station is 435-259-2652. If you ever get a chance to make this trip, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.