Beef Basin Road Petroglyphs

Round Trip Distance: 11 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5234 - 5600 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Beef Basin Road
Fee: none
Attractions: Petroglyphs, rock shelters

This post covers a dozen or so petroglyph sites that are located on boulders along the first 5 miles of the Beef Basin Road in the Indian Creek Recreation Area just outside of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Many of the petroglyphs are in excellent condition but even a few that appear to be very old and well worn are still interesting enough to see. As the boulders that have petroglyphs vary in distance from the road you can probably count on several miles of hiking as you search out them all.

To get to the trailhead where the Beef Basin Road begins travel north on Highway 191 from Monticello, Utah for 14.3 miles and turn west at the signs for Newspaper Rock and Canyonlands National Park. If coming from the other direction the turnoff is about 40 miles south of Moab. Continue for another 20.2. miles to the sign in this photo. There is a restroom and staging area with lots of parking at the turnoff.

The first 5 miles of the Beef Basin Road that this post covers is suitable for most any type of vehicle with one caveat and that is where it crosses Cottonwood Creek a short distance from the trailhead. When we made the crossing in mid June the creek was flowing a lot of water due to a very wet winter. The water probably came up to the top of the tires on our Toyota Tundra. We did see one of the smaller vans that Mercedes makes that had crossed the creek okay but one would think that something like a compact car might want to wait until later in the year when the creek has subsided or not attempt the crossing at all so 'driver beware'.

The first petroglyph covered boulder comes up around the 1.3 mile point from the highway. It is only a hundred feet or so from the road and is very easy to spot. Among the many images on the boulder there is one of a buffalo that has an orange box painted around it and another image of a bighorn within an orange circle. Many of the boulder sites seem to have a hunting theme and some even have what might be maps to hunting areas.

Keen eyes and a pair of binoculars or spotting scope come in handy for the next site that sits quite a bit further from the road.

Here you will find a boulder that is very busy with all sorts of images.

Further up the hill there is a boulder with a large image of a bighorn which is actually what we saw through our binoculars from the road that got us to hike up this way.

Another large boulder with petroglyphs that is in a more secluded spot is also nearby.

At the 4.3 mile point from the highway there is a road that branches off and heads back in the northerly direction. After a few hundred yards the road comes to a primitive campsite. Park here and look for a boulder that is out in the open by itself a few hundred feet away that has some nice images.

Across the 4wd road from the campsite in the other direction there is a climbers trail that meanders up to the base of the cliffs. Right about where that trail leaves the wash, and only a hundred feet or so from the 4wd road, there is a boulder that has a hunting scene beneath an overhang.

This boulder can be found about a quarter mile from the road near the 4.6 mile point from the highway. There isn't a trail to follow but as you hike keep your eyes peeled for what might be the rubble pile of a small ruin. There are a handful of boulders in this area that have at least some petroglyphs including one that looks like a calendar site. There are also some boulders with petroglyphs that we hiked to about a quarter mile north of this location. We hiked over to them from where we parked at the 4.6 mile point and didn't bother moving the truck

The last site that we wanted to make mention of is down a side road near the 4.8 mile point right after crossing a cattleguard where there is a boulder where the images are very worn. We mention it because it has an image of a dragonfly that is next to what looks like a flute player.

There are a couple of side roads on our map where we didn't find any petroglyphs. We only put them on the map for reference. We also didn't hike around every boulder along the Beef Basin Road so we surely missed a few petroglyphs. If there were images on the back sides of boulders that we couldn't see from the road with our binoculars then we would have missed them. We did follow the Beef Basin Road for 35 miles or so where it becomes a more extreme 4wd road as it enters Beef Basin, stopping at the Salt Creek trailhead along the way, as we scouted the area while planning future excursions. We took advantage of the large parking area at the trailhead to leave our trailer. It doesn't say no camping there but for some reason we always thought it was no camping. There is a camping area just across the creek down a road that goes to the right that climbers use as well as several more campgrounds as you head toward Canyonlands. For those that like searching for petroglyphs the first 5 miles of the Beef Basin Road is a good place to look. If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.