North Salt Wash

Round Trip Distance: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5762 - 5884 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Sid and Charlie
Fee: none
Attractions: Petroglyphs

North Salt Wash has many branches that together drain a large area of the San Rafael Swell from the desert around the Sid and Charlie rock formation to the San Rafael River. This post covers one of those branches where a number of petroglyphs can be found along a ridge that separates North Salt Wash from Dry Wash.

We've hiked into this area from several directions but the easiest to describe is probably beginning at the Sid and Charlie trailhead. To get there turn north off of the Molen Cutoff Road about 6.4 miles from Interstate 70 and just east of mile marker 13. There is a cattleguard at the turnoff and as the road cuts across the flats it will pass a BLM sign.

Follow the dirt road for 3.7 miles to the Sid and Charlie rock formation and park there or continue for another couple hundred yards to where the road ends. The Sid and Charlie Road is considered 4wd but we have seen a minivan drive it without any problems. Conditions vary so use your own judgement. If the road is saturated then come back some other time so you don't tear it up.

Follow the trail from the end of the road to where it drops down into the wash. From here you can either follow the wash to the left or climb up on top of the opposite bank where there is a trail that is a little easier to hike. The trail to the right leads over to some pictographs and a granary that are visible from this spot on a nearby cliff.

The trail travels around the base of the hill and drops back into the wash. Once the trail hits the wash you can climb back out on the opposite bank and follow another easy trail across the top for one last wash crossing or you still have the option to simply follow the wash until you come to a fork at the junction of Dry Wash and North Salt Wash where you go to the left. The easiest and more direct route is to cut across the top.

As the trail crosses the bench above the wash the ridge that separates Dry Wash and North Salt Wash comes into view. The petroglyphs start where the white, or lighter, colored sandstone begins transitioning to the red, or darker, colored cliffs.

Once you climb out of the wash for the last time find a faint trail that leads over to the base of the cliffs. If you have binoculars or good eyesight you can see some of the more prominent petroglyphs from this distance.

There are also some nice images that don't show up well in direct sunlight right at the point where the trail meets the cliffs. They are on lighter colored rock and are easy to walk right past if you are focusing on the petroglyphs further ahead. Especially try to find the small figure on the left that is holding a long staff with what might be feathers attached every few inches from one end to the other. Also, the bighorn sheep in the foreground appears to be lying down. That is a common sight when you come upon bighorn while hiking but it's not commonly depicted in petroglyphs.

One of the larger panels further down the cliff has a large assortment of geometric lines and figures.

Here is another interesting panel where it's easy to miss this long serpentine image on the left with circles at each end. We outlined it in white on the computer so it would stand out from the other images. The two shamanistic looking figures that have objects that somewhat resemble dream catchers in each hand are also interesting.

If you keep moving along the ridge you will come to a saddle where you can see over to the Dry Wash side. Off in the distance on a red patch of cliff you can spot the Broken Hearted Man which is visible to the naked eye. The side of the hill dropping down into Dry Wash is pretty steep but there are several other routes to get over there.

Just past the saddle in the ridge where the cliffs start again there are a lot more petroglyphs that are worth checking out.

From this hunting scene it's not too hard to imagine hunters hiding and waiting while the kids spook some bighorn down the canyon that had come to drink from one of the pools of water.

You can keep hiking on around the base of the cliffs and into a side canyon where you can cross over into Dry Wash down a fun slickrock bowl. In the past we have hiked into this area from Sid and Charlie as well as beginning from the fence at the 1.4 mile point of the Sand Bench Road and hiking all the way down that fork of North Salt Wash. We have also hiked into the middle of the wash from that road as well as down the north branch. While the whole area is fun to explore the most interesting stuff is all right around the confluence of North Salt Wash and Dry Wash. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.