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Big Crane Petroglyph

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4447 - 4699 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Mile marker 2.1
Fee: none
Attractions: Interesting petroglyph




The Big Crane Petroglyph is located on the east side of Comb Ridge just west of Bluff, Utah. When looking at the image some people see a cartoonish figure that they have come to call 'Big Bob'. The petroglyph is easy enough to get to from the Butler Wash Road if you know the best route. Otherwise it can be a real bushwack.


The Butler Wash turnoff is 4 miles west of Bluff on UT-163. Follow UT-191 out of Bluff and continue straight around the 3.2 mile point where UT-163 begins. After another 3/4 of a mile or so the Butler Wash Road will be on the right. The Butler Wash Road is a little rough in places where the sandstone has been milled and at times there are spots that can be sandy. Much of the time it is okay for 2wd passenger vehicles but there are times when a 4wd might be preferred. If the road is muddy even a 4wd should stay off of it.


As you follow the Butler Wash Road you will pass a BLM Kiosk at the 1 mile point where at times you will find a porta-potty. Continue to the 2.1 mile point from the highway where there is a turnoff that heads toward the wash and several primitive campsites. This is by far the best spot from which to start.


Since the trial isn't well marked it helps to have an idea of where you are headed. This photo was taken from around the 1.6 mile point of the Butler Wash Road looking across the wash toward Comb Ridge. At the top of Comb Ridge on the left is a long stretch of red dirt that contrasts well with the white sandstone. Just to the right of center is a sandstone knob that looks flatter on top than the knob further to the left. On the right, before the flattop knob, there is a slanted ledge above the wash and that is where the Big Crane petroglyph is located. The best route is to continue to the trailhead at the 2.1 mile point.


Sorry to belabor the point but from the 1.6 mile trailhead it looks shorter and more direct but it ends up being over a quarter mile further and takes a lot longer. To get across Butler Wash from this spot you have to find a route down into the wash and then backtrack through a horrific tangle of willows and salt cedars. After that you have to scramble up a side canyon, which admittedly was kinda the fun part, and then cut across the top to the next drainage.


From the second trailhead at the 2.1 mile point there is a much easier and more direct route that crosses the wash right above a spillover.


After crossing the wash there is a faint trail that cuts overland passing through another shallow wash until the main branch of Butler Wash comes into view again. At this point it is critical to follow a right fork in the trail that climbs up onto the slickrock and travels above the wash for awhile.


Eventually you will need to turn away from the wash and head toward the flattop knob taking whatever route looks best.


As you head toward the flattop knob you will drop into a shallow wash and as you continue up that the slanted ledge where the Big Crane is located will appear on the right. There is fork in the wash that heads in that direction.


There were fresh boot tracks where other hikers were missing the turnoff so we spent some time stacking cairns to make it hard to miss. If you have a GPS these coordinates should make it even more obvious (37.29152, -109.6462). Better than that just download our GPX file and you can follow our route.


The ledge is nice and wide and easy enough to hike along. Right before reaching the petroglyph there are the remains of a small rock shelter tucked beneath the overhang.


There are a couple of smaller images but the Big Crane grabs most of the attention. The crane image is actually pretty common in the area. Both the Butler Wash Panel and others along the San Juan River and over at Cedar Point are a couple of places that come to mind where you can find it. Some of those images have a heavy layer of patina indicating that they were probably made a few thousand years ago.


We had a set of GPS coordinates when we went looking for the Big Crane but they were off by a half mile. We walked by it at first but thanks to a pair of binoculars we were able to spot it and double back. We also began at the first trailhead and fought our way through the willows in Butler Wash along what we are showing as the alternate route. The other route which turned out to be much better is the one we took on the return trip. The Big Crane Petroglyph came to us as a request so we agreed to hunt it out and post how to reach it. Exploring along the Comb Ridge is always fun and the Big Crane Petroglyph is a nice addition to what the area has to offer. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.