Davis Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5270 - 5328 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs.
Trailhead: Davis Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: rock art, ruins, arches




Davis Canyon is located in the backcountry of the  Needles District of Canyonlands National Park between Moab and Monticello, Utah. Within the canyon hikers have the opportunity to visit multiple archaeological sites that include granaries, cliff dwellings and rock art. There are also multiple natural arches that are easily viewable from the canyons main wash.


To get to the trailhead follow the directions for the Davis Canyon Road. A high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle or OHV is required to travel the 9 mile distance from Highway 211. Current road conditions can be obtained at the Needles Visitor Center.


After signing the trail register there is a faint route that leads to the main wash. It is easier to find a few of the sites by heading straight across the wash toward a distant alcove where there are ruins from a cliff dwelling and/or granaries. From there other sites like the 5 Faces Panel are easier to find by hiking on around the cliffs. After that you can head back to the main wash and follow it past the natural arches to the Log Ruin. There are also a couple of pretty nice granaries several levels up on the right side of the point of cliffs between the main branch of the canyon and one of the side canyons.


Just before reaching the ruins in the first alcove there is a massive rock on the right that has a couple of targets on it. We outlined them with red in this photo. The concentric circles on the right are thought to be a 'god' symbol in some books.


This is what you should be seeing in the first alcove.


As you hike around the cliffs and turn up the next side canyon you should be able to spot this granary.


To the left of the granary about 50 feet or so are some petroglyphs. One of the images has some red paint on it.


Continuing on around to the next little side canyon is the alcove with the '5 Faces Panel'. You should be able to see the images from a distance. To get to them you need to mount the slickrock on the left and work your way around the ledge to the alcove. As you enter the alcove there are several large rocks with metates worn into them from grinding grains and such.


The 5 Faces are well sheltered in a shady place allowing them to be preserved remarkably well considering their age. Notice how each image is unique from the others. On the ground below the panel there are traces of some of the blue pigment that was used to paint them. There are also some more grooves worn in a boulder beneath them. Be sure not to touch the images and get oil from your hands on them.


We didn't climb up to the granaries that are near the top of the cliff that is opposite from the 5 Faces but we did see a route that would lead up there on the south side from the main wash.


After leaving the 5 Faces Panel a good option is to head back to the main wash and begin hiking up it. About 1 mile up the wash there are a few arches that begin showing up on both sides of the canyon. The first on the left is Nook Arch followed by Pinyon Pine Arch. The arch in this photo is Junction Arch which is on the right side of the canyon. After that on the right is an unnamed arch that hugs the canyon wall and opposite it on the left side of the canyon is Flection Arch.


Continuing up the canyon past the cluster of arches and going to the right at the next fork that comes up will lead to Log Ruin which is a typical turn around point.


Several granaries are viewable both in the alcove and below it. There are also a number of pictographs on the back wall that are best seen with a pair of binoculars.


There are a few other granaries that we didn't mention and we have probably only touched on a portion of what can be found in Davis Canyon. There are several side canyons that we didn't have the time to explore that might yield other points of interest as well as the areas around the top of the canyon where the two granaries are that we did mention. For those wanting to camp and spend more time exploring remember that a backcountry camping permit is required for overnighting within the parks boundaries. A permit wouldn't be necessary though in the area outside the park around the trailhead. Unfortunately a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle or OHV is required just to get to Davis Canyon. Those that can get there should find the trip worthwhile. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.