Spring Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 7 - 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4442 - 4759 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Spring Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs, arch, scenic views

Spring Canyon is located in the San Rafael Swell, in Emery County, west of Green River, Utah and south of Price. Near the mouth of the canyon at Mexican Bend of the San Rafael River are a number of boulders with an assortment of interesting petroglyphs. Further to the north near its confluence with Nates Canyon is a spindly arch high above the canyon floor that on most older maps is named Delicate Arch. In the late 1800's the area was frequented by such outlaws as Joe Walker and Butch Cassidy.

For this post we are accessing the area from the south by turning off of Interstate 70 at Exit 131. After exiting the interstate the Temple Mountain Road goes to the left while the Buckhorn Wash road begins on the right where it parallels the interstate back toward the east for about 3 miles before heading north.

Follow the Buckhorn Wash road for 19.4 miles and turn right after crossing the San Rafael River onto the Mexican Mountain Road. The sign for the road comes up a little past the campground. Some maps will show the roads older San Rafael River Road name.

Continue on the Mexican Mountain Road for 14.3 miles where there is a large parking area a little before the road ends. Some maps will show the road continuing for another 3 miles but that is no longer the case. A careful driver in a 2wd vehicle should have little trouble getting to the trailhead during favorable conditions. The only bad spots in the road are a couple of short rocky stretches.

Since the trail follows the old closed off section of road until it reaches the mouth of Spring Canyon at Mexican Bend it is very easy to follow and only moderately difficult to hike.

A little past the 3 mile point the trail comes out onto an airstrip that it follows until it reaches the windsock. At that point walk over to the pole where there is a nice kiosk with some interesting information about the airstrip and Butch Cassidy. The trail continues toward the mouth of Spring Canyon right behind the kiosk.

Within another couple hundred yards the trail comes to a boulder field at the mouth of Spring Canyon where some nice petroglyphs can be found.

Be sure to walk around behind the long slab with the wavy hands to see the images on the other side.

The 3 main figures show up nicely when they are in the shadows but under direct sunlight they all but disappear.

If you look closely at the side of the boulder with the wavy hands you should be able to notice an older set of images that resemble 4 large shields. The newer images were made over top of the circles.

If all you came for are the petroglyphs keep working your way around the point for a few hundred more feet where there is another easy to spot boulder with a large panel of images.

The only other petroglyphs that we noticed were a little further up Spring Canyon on the east side of a massive boulder. They are very faded but interesting none the less. As we didn't inspect every side of every boulder we could have missed others.

Even further into the canyon to the left of the trail is the Sheriff Tuttle memorial. The plaque tells a story of his pursuit of the 'notorious Texan outlaw Joe Walker' and other members of the Robbers Roost Gang  that resulted in a gun battle at this very spot that left the Sheriff wounded.

For this post we kept working our way around the bends into Spring Canyon for another mile or so until we could get a distant view of Delicate Arch that is high up on the west side of the canyon near the confluence of Nates Canyon and Spring Canyon. As you hike up Spring Canyon it lives up to its name as various seeps and shallow pools of water are encountered. Backpackers will find multiple places that are suitable for camping but should always remember to never set up camp below the high water line created by flashfloods that are very common anywhere in canyon country. As a side note, we have read that the San Rafael River is so heavily mineralized that it isn't suitable to drink even if filtered.

The different shades of brown, red and orange paint an absolutely incredible canvas of beauty for awe struck hikers to gaze upon.

Out of all the vehicles here at the trailhead only one group ventured as far as the airstrip and they didn't know about the petroglyphs. Another group was looking for the Upper Black Box trail which they had actually passed 4 miles before. Two more groups were swimming with their kids in the San Rafael River at a spot that was only 2 or 3 feet deep. A lot of people might end up here but all for different reasons. Other than a few small hills the hiking is pleasant and easy. It gets scorching hot here during the summer and for those that aren't prepared for the heat the hike might not be as enjoyable. There are several places where dogs and horses can access the river to drink. While the water in Spring Canyon might dry up at times we have never seen the river go dry. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.