Short Canyon

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 6086 - 6251 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Short Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: rock art




Short Canyon is located in the Molen Reef area of the San Rafael Swell a few miles east of Moore, Utah. Earlier visitors to the canyon, that were probably attracted by a natural spring, created a half dozen or so panels of rock art on the walls of the canyon. Most of the panels consist of pictographs that were painted onto surfaces of the rock that are well protected from direct sunlight and have held up over the years very well.


To get to the trailhead from Interstate 70 west of Green River, Utah take Exit 116 and follow the Moore Cutoff Road, Emery County Road 803, for about 11 miles and turn right just before reaching mile marker 8. To show how close the turnoff is to mile marker 8 we took this photo standing in front of the mile marker looking east back toward the Interstate. The blue arrow is pointing at the turnoff where the side road begins by crossing a cattleguard.


After turning off of the highway it is about 2.3 miles to where the road crosses a wash and the route to Short Canyon turns west toward the book cliffs. During suitably dry conditions a careful driver in a 2wd vehicle should be able to make it this far with little trouble. There are a few dips that you have to slow down for and there might be places where there are ruts if anyone has been driving on the road recently when it was wet.


After turning west toward the cliffs the road conditions begin degrading. Most vehicles with moderate clearance should be able to continue for around 1.5 miles before parking.


Off highway vehicles can continue following the road past the 1.5 mile point. According to our maps when the road reaches the mouth of a side canyon named John McDonald Hole, that has a fence across its mouth, it travels through the side canyon all the way up to the top of the mesa.


The first panel of pictographs can be spotted from the wash beneath an overhang high up on the cliff on the right hand side right before reaching the John McDonald Hole side canyon. We hiked about half way up to them and then used a 100mm-400mm telephoto lens to do the rest of the work.


From the first panel of pictographs continue following the road past the mouth of the side canyon to where it ends at a large boulder. There is a faint trail that travels around the left side of the boulder and enters, or crosses, the wash. This is where Short Canyon Spring is located and the willows and other brush are growing quite well. You only have to contend with them for about 20 feet or so before you can find a trail that climbs up the right side of the canyon to the base of the cliff where all of the rock art begins.


Even before leaving the wash you should be able to look up and spot the Wavy Hands Panel and find the trail that leads up to it.


There is an interesting target with what look like horns painted on the cliff above Wavy Hands.


From the Wavy Hands Panel there are trails running along the base of the cliff in both directions. We began by hiking along the trail that headed back toward the mouth of the canyon.


That trail passes a pictograph that we have seen at other sites before coming to a set of petroglyphs.


From there you can retrace your steps and follow the trail along the base of the cliff in the other direction toward the head of the canyon where there are several more panels of rock art.


This big panel has a base layer of pictographs that have been overlaid by a layer of petroglyphs indicating 2 distinct periods of creation.


A little scrambling is required to get all the way along the cliff to the last panel of pictographs but they are worth the effort to view up close.



It is very possible that there is other rock art in Short Canyon that we missed during our short visit but we probably found the lion's share of what is there. This is one of those places where it would be nice to explore all the nooks and crannies and discover what secrets the area holds. Most people should be able to drive enough of the access road to make a relatively short hike in and out of Short Canyon. The round trip distance from the pavement should come out to just under 10 miles so no matter how you go about it your distance shouldn't end up being more than that. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.