Flying Carpet Panel

Round Trip Distance: 8.4 - 9.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4913 - 5057 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 6 hrs.
Trailhead: Salt Creek 4wd Road
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: Pictographs, granary

The Flying Carpet Panel is located less than 5 miles up Salt Creek in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park between Moab and Monticello, Utah. The panel gets its name from a rectangular shaped Barrier Canyon Style pictograph image that has a patterned body with fringes along its lower edge. Other, equally fine, images of the same BCS type accompany the panels namesake on the same cliff face.

To get to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park drive south out of Moab on Highway 191 for 40 miles, or north out of Monticello for 14 miles, turn west onto Utah 121 and follow the paved road for 35 miles. Your driving app will provide turn-by-turn directions to the Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center simply follow the signs to the Salt Creek trailhead which is near Cave Spring.

From the trailhead the hike follows the Salt Creek/Horse Canyon 4wd Road. In places the hiking trail leaves the road to get around stretches that are covered with water. The route is very sandy for the first couple of miles but gets better after passing the mouth of Horse Canyon near the 2.3 mile point from the trailhead. (If you are wearing boots or gators hiking in sand can be made a little easier by walking with more of a shuffling step than a trodding stride. Trekking poles can also be helpful.)

After passing the mouth of Horse Canyon keep watch on the left for some hoodoos with hamburger top caprocks and you might be able to spot a perfect, well camouflaged, granary that is tucked away on a ledge on the left most hoodoo that has a little arch on its north side.

From the mouth of Horse Canyon it is just over 1 mile to the Peekaboo Spring backcountry camp sites where you can take a nice shortcut right through Trail Arch and enjoy some nice BCS pictographs that can be found on both sides of the opening of the arch. The white pictographs show up quite well but if you look closely you will see a few faded red ones as well. (Note that in places the flash flood level in the wash is as much as 6 to 8 feet high. Half that much water would sweep you away so be aware when thunderstorms are anywhere in the area.)

Once you have passed through the arch there is a cairned route that you can follow. The cairned route is for the Salt Creek trail and continues on past the Flying Carpet Panel which is unmarked. An easy landmark for finding the panel is a long wall on the right hand side of the canyon where a single pinnacle stands in a gap. Just to the right of the gap is a large shield petroglyph. The Flying Carpet Panel is a little further down the same wall just before another gap where the wall joins with the next turn of the canyon.

The shield with its two toothed outer rings and solid inner circle is quite large making it visible from the wash to anyone looking for such a thing.

The Flying Carpet Panel is also visible from the wash but not really until you have hiked a little past it. In this photo it is obscured by a large juniper tree. When the panel was created it probably stood out like a large billboard to anyone passing through this part of Salt Creek. There is a very faint trail that branches off on the right that leads through the willows and tamarisks where a short scramble up a talus slope ends right below the panel.

There is actually one large main panel with a smaller 3 image panel to the right that has two orangish colored images with a red image in the middle as well as another large panel further up the wall to the left of the Flying Carpet that has a number of painted hands and other images. It makes for a nice concentration of rock art all within the same area. There are in fact a good assortment of images along the same side of the canyon all the way back to Peekaboo Spring. A few you can spot from the wash but many can only be seen by hiking right along the canyon wall.

The iconic Flying Carpet shows up surprisingly well for a painting that is exposed to the full sun and has no real protection from wind blown sand and rain.

The other images that accompany it are equally well preserved and any one of them by itself would be a treasure to discover all by themselves. Having them all grouped together here in one place makes them especially fine.

If you were to turn around here your round trip distance would come out to about 8.4 miles but if you are able to extend your hike there is another site that we call the High Corner Panel that is less than a half mile away on the opposite side of the canyon. And along the way you will pass a couple of primitive rock shelters that are hidden amongst the boulders.

Even though the images at the High Corner Panel are BCS they have enough differences from the ones across the canyon at the Flying Carpet site for them to appear to have been created at a different time and by a different person. Since hiking over to them doesn't add that much in the way of difficulty they are worth the little bit of extra effort. Besides that, it can be interesting to look at a rock shelter and image someone living under such crude conditions even if for only a small part of the year when their annual migrations brought them to the area.

In the distant past many people that visited the Flying Carpet Panel drove an old 4wd road all the way there and beyond. Later driving was only allowed as far as Peekaboo Spring. Today the 4wd road is closed due to quicksand conditions. Over the years the road has become entrenched deeper and deeper into the landscape and has now deteriorated to the point of making it unsuited for consistent use. Backpackers will have to obtain a permit that is required for camping overnight that currently costs $36 and they will be required to carry a bear keg or similar food storage container.

Another alternative to hiking up Salt Creek is the Peekaboo Trail. That route is more strenuous and will end up being about 12 miles round trip but it can be a fun hike and offers some incredible scenery. However you go about it, if you would like to see the Flying Carpet Panel for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.