Round Trip Distance: 6 miles (combined)
Round Trip Distance:1.3 Black Dragon
Round Trip Distance: 1.5 Box Spring
Round Trip Distance: 2 miles Petroglyph and Arch Canyons
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Elevation: 4250-4410 feet
Cellphone: 3-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Dogs - Equestrian - OHV - Biking - Camping
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Black Dragon (mile marker 147)
View Black Dragon in a larger map
We have had the Black Dragon area in Utah on the radar for several years but we have kept putting off the trip until we saw a write-up in the Daily Sentinel by Dave Buchanan. Since shorter hikes are good matches with the shorter days this time of the year the Black Dragon area became a good candidate. The glyph in the above picture isn't the Black Dragon glyph but one next to it that isn't worn as badly and shows up better in a low resolution web picture.
We had to drive 135 miles west of Grand Junction on Interstate 70 to get to the Black Dragon area. Sometimes we just feel like going for a drive to get out of town and this was one of those days. Besides that the area had two things that we like and those are rock art and arches. The rock art turned out to be interesting enough but Spirit Arch really didn't seem like much of an arch. We were in the area so it would have been a shame not to check it out.
We drove about 12.5 miles west of Green River, Utah to get to the turn off which is right at mile marker 147. After turning off the interstate we went through a gate and followed the dirt road toward the reef for about 7 tenths of a mile. There was a bit of a bump on the side road that we didn't want to drive over so we parked the car and began hiking from here.
We hiked up the road toward what turned out to be Box Spring Canyon. The mouth of the canyon was a little muddy from a seep that runs through it.
The floor of the narrow canyon was heavily congested with cottonwoods and willows. There were trails that cut through the thick vegetation but the going was pretty tough and decidedly unpleasant. We knew the canyon wasn't very deep though so curiosity won out and we kept going.
There was a pool of clear water, a couple of feet deep in places, below the now dry fall at the head of the canyon. This look back toward the mouth of the canyon shows how narrow and confined the passage was.
We headed back out the way we came in. There was a solo hiker with his dog hiking in as we reached about the midway point. The elevation on this short hike ranged from 4250 - 4400 feet over a distance of almost one mile one way. Since we parked a little further away than we needed to the hike for most is probably less than 1.5 miles round trip.
Since we were back at the car we decided to go on up the road the requisite 3 tenths of a mile to Black Dragon draw and check out that area. There was a road to walk on all the way which made the going pretty easy.
The canyon was so deep and narrow that my GPS had trouble locking onto satellites at times. Sunlight was also having trouble making it into the canyon.
We only had to walk about 3 quarters of a mile from the car before we reached the area where the rock art was. The BLM had erected a log pole fence to keep cattle away from the the cliff. There was a zigzag path through the fence that only humans are smart enough to figure out.
We could see the petroglyphs from the fence but there was a trail of scree and loose dirt that we climbed up to get a better look. The drawings looked like a group of space aliens staring back at us. It was the uniqueness of the rock art that stirred me to give this hike a 4 Star rating. I was a little torn whether to post the Black Dragon trail separately so I could give it a 5 Star rating. Perhaps I will change it at some future time.
I took several pictures of the Black Dragon but the drawing is so faded that even the hi res pictures are hard to distinguish. There are obvious pot marks where people have shot their firearms at the drawings.
About 50 yards or more to the right of these drawings are some very extensive markings that are completely different. These drawing are under an overhang and aren't noticeable from the road but you might be able to make out someones name that they scrawled over top of some of the figures. If these drawings fade much more they will no longer be distinguishable. It would be nice if they could touch up the drawings and bring them back to life.
After chronicling all the art with our camera we headed back through the shadows to our car. It was about 3 PM when we reached the car. We calculated that there should be enough daylight left for us to make the trip over to Arch Canyon and check out Spirit Arch and the rock art in Petroglyph Canyon.
There was a lady hiker that had started out for Arch and Petroglyph Canyons before us. We saw her wondering around the cliffs above us as we were hiking in. She had apparently never found the correct trail. The correct trail is along a wash that heads off to the southwest from the parking area. If you look on the side of the hill to the right of the wash you will find an obvious trail that heads up the drainage. You can also stay in the dry wash and follow it until you come to a trail that leads out of the wash on the left side. From here the trail navigates above the wash along the cliff. There is one particular place where the trail comes very close to the cliff and a fall would probably be fatal. If you have kids with you then you might want to look for a trail that parallels this one a little further up the hill.
We followed the wash along the reef and entered Arch Canyon. The canyon was less than a quarter mile deep and the hiking was fun and easy.
Spirit Arch is on the south side of the canyon above the notch of the seasonal waterfall. There are three openings that form the arch but they are hard to see and not all that impressive. Still the canyon was there so we gave it a quick once over. Actually that was probably a twice over since we had to hike back out.
We hiked back down Arch Canyon about 300 yards and continued around the corner on the right to the wash that leads into Petroglyph Canyon. Petroglyph Canyon is another box canyon that ends abruptly after hiking only a short distance. We looked all over the head of the canyon for the petroglyphs but didn't find a single thing. From the well worn path we weren't the only hikers to follow this course of action.
We searched the north wall of the canyon on the way out and found one of the panels of glyphs.
This drawing looks a lot like a llama to me.
We found another panel of figures that was a lot fainter. Probably due to the lighter patina that the etchings were carved in. I suggest walking along the north wall of the canyon to find the panels. The drawings are probably less than six inches high so they are hard to see from the main trail. If you still can't find the drawings then plug the following coordinates into your GPS: N38 55.654 W110 25.988.
We hiked back to the car. The entire time spent on this last pair of canyons was a little less than an hour and a half and covered a total distance of almost 2 miles. We easily made it back to the car with plenty of daylight left. All in all we decided to give this group of hikes 3 out of 5 stars. We wanted to go somewhere different and we were able to study 3 totally different types of rock art in one area. It took 2 hours to reach the area from Grand Junction. There are several other areas along the San Rafael Swell that we still have on our list for future outings. If you want to see this area for yourself then go for a drive and 'Take a hike'.
I separated the pictures into 3 different slide shows to make it easier to tell what each hike was like.
Box Spring Canyon
Arch Canyon and Petroglyph Canyon