Pelican Arch

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 6.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4638 - 4782 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Lockhart Basin Road
Fee: none
Attractions: Natural arch, granaries, rock art




Pelican Arch is located off of the Lockhart Basin Road in the Indian Creek Recreation Area between Moab and Monticello, Utah. Due to its remote location it is probably one of the least visited arches in the state which boasts a variety of natural arches and bridges that number in the thousands. While a person could drive all the way to the arch with the aid of a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle, or get within a half mile or so with a regular 2-wheel drive vehicle, we opted to hike to the arch which allowed us to spot several granaries and some rock art along the way.


To get there either drive south for 40 miles from Moab or north for 14 miles from Monticello on US Highway 191 and turn west on US Highway 211. Continue along Highway 211 for 12 miles to the Newspaper Rock Site where there is a restroom. From Newspaper Rock keep driving toward the Needles District of Canyonland National Park for another 16.7 miles. The Lockhart Basin Road comes up a couple of miles before reaching Canyonlands.


Follow the Lockhart Basin Road for about 3 miles and park just before crossing the creek at Indian Creek Falls. Under normal conditions passenger cars should be able to make it this far with little or no trouble. From the parking area the falls is on the left. To get to the pictographs you could follow the wash upstream for about a quarter mile where you can easily spot them. A keen eye should be able to spot 3 granaries that are tucked away beneath overhangs in the point of cliffs on the other side of the wash. The slideshow at the end of this post shows photos of the granaries, as well as the pictographs, that we took on the return trip. To begin the journey to Pelican Arch you can follow the road or take a shortcut up to where it passes through the gap in the cliffs to the right of the granaries.


After passing through the gap in the cliffs the road continues paralleling Indian Creek until around the half mile point where it turns away toward the east. Vehicles that are able to make it across the creek would have little trouble following the road for the next several miles to the turnoff to Pelican Arch.


As the road descends the hill on the north side of the gap there is a petroglyph that is high up on the cliff that looks like a basket from a distance. There are a few other marks on the cliff a few feet below it that you can only see after climbing up to it. That climb, by the way, is a little rough.


Interesting rock structures and views of Indian Creek and its canyons make for a pleasant experience for the first mile or so.


After that the road travels out in the open across the basins mesa.


Near the 1.2 mile point the road passes through a fence. At the 2 mile point it is joined on the right by another road. Once it reaches the 2.7 mile point the route leaves the road and begins following Trail #25. From this point on the route gets a lot rougher and a 4.4 vehicle or other OHV is recommended.


It is only a little over a half mile down the wash before Pelican Arch comes into view.


The arch isn't all that big but if you like to hunt down arches like some people enjoy finding geocaches then it is worth the visit. There is a cozy little campsite on the north side of the arch if you feel a need to stay awhile. The point of the cliff that you can see through the opening is the Needles Overlook.


Back at the gap above Indian Creek Falls you can walk around the cliff and get a closeup look at one of the granaries. Be sure to stay out of it and don't touch the walls as it wouldn't take much for it to collapse.


There is a second granary further down the cliff that looks to be in perfect condition. That might be due to the fact that nobody can get up to it and lean on its walls. A third granary can be spotted to the west of this one that is mostly rubble.


The pictographs are about a quarter mile on up the wash from the falls. They can be seen from the road if you know where to look but for a closer view you will need to do a little more hiking.


We indicated that there is a restroom for this hike. What we are referring to is one located next to the road at the Hamburger Rock Campground and an outdoor privy that is just before the falls. They clean the restrooms around here on almost a daily basis so they are actually pretty nice. There are primitive campsites all along the Lockhart Basin Road as well as a large group site that has a covered shelter. We opted to park our trailer at the quaint little Hamburger Rock Campground where they have tables and fire pits. While Pelican isn't the grandest of arches it is still worth a visit just to see the surrounding country and the Indian ruins and rock art. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.