Procession Panel

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4604 - 5180 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Procession Panel
Fee: none
Attractions: Petroglyphs




The Procession Panel trail is located in the Butler Wash area near Bluff, Utah. Butler Wash parallels the eastern flanks of Comb Ridge. The area has a high concentration of cliff dwellings, rock art and other relics of the people that have inhabited the area off and on over thousands of years. The Procession Panel trail begins near the Lower Butler Wash Road and climbs a mostly slickrock trail to the top of Comb Ridge where hikers are treated to numerous panels of petroglyphs as well as the main panel that resembles long chains of people side by side as though in procession.


The current classification by the BLM for the trails in the Butler Wash area at present appears to be some form of a Class II Archaeological Site. What that means for visitors is that the trailheads aren't marked and the BLM doesn't publish their whereabouts. Normally they will still tell you where a Class II site is if you ask them directly. For that reason we have put our own map together to help people find the trailheads. The distances on the map can vary slightly but usually by no more that 1-2 tenths of a mile. All distances are measured from the turnoff on Highway 163. If you click on the map you can print a full size copy to take with you.


The trail begins at the south end of the parking area. Often you will find someone camped at the trailhead. The entire Butler Wash area is open to primitive camping pretty much anywhere that you can find a place to park.


The route to Procession Panel isn't very apparent from the trailhead. The petroglyphs are located near the top of the ridge on the side of the cliff that is facing south or southwest. Note in the picture that the ridge that is opposite of the petroglyph area has reddish sandstone that stands out in contrast to everything else. Also notice the prominent rocky outcrop to the left of the red sandstone. The rocky outcrop and the red sandstone are good landmarks to keep in mind as you hike basically toward the red and stay to the right of the outcrop. You might want to print this picture also.


Recently the BLM has put up a few brown mylar trail markers. The first one doesn't appear until you are away from the trailhead and after you have crossed the wash. By following the right set of cairns you will come across just enough of these trail markers to reassure you that you are following the correct route.


One problem that you will run into is that more than one route has been cairned. Keeping in mind that you are heading generally toward the red sandstone and staying to the right of the rock outcrop should help you pick the most direct route.


After a lot of uphill hiking you will eventually begin descending the slickrock to the area between the ridge of red sandstone and the side of the cliff with the petroglyphs. From that point just head toward the south facing cliff and begin looking for panels of petroglyphs.


We outlined a few images from this photo on our computer to give an idea of what you will find.


The Procession Panel is near the top of the ridge so take your time and work out a route up the talus slope. It is probably a lot easier than it looks in this picture.


If you get back far enough to get the entire Procession Panel in one photo then everything is too small to easily see. Basically you have a large circle to the left with long lines of little human figures going from it in 3 directions. The direction of the anthropomorphic figures suggests that they are all headed toward the circle but who knows for sure. If the circle was supposed to represent a sipapu you might think that they would be headed away from it but maybe they are just coming together for a dance or ceremony and meeting at the circle. That would make sense if the circle was a great kiva.


From the top of the ridge you also get to enjoy the view looking west on the Comb Wash side of the range.


Of all of the hikes along Butler Wash the Procession Panel trail has the most elevation gain and the most distance. And since it is there you have to hike it, right? The petroglyphs and the view make it all worthwhile and we felt it only took a moderate amount of effort to hike. We hiked 5 other trails on the same day that we hiked this one so we were a little tuckered by the time the day was over. You might also notice the log wheel bumper in the photo behind our truck. There are several of them at the Procession Panel trailhead. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.