Robbers Roost

Round Trip Distance: 9.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4045 - 4874 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 7 hrs.
Trailhead: Angel Point
Fee: none
Attractions: rock art, scenic canyons

Robbers Roost Canyon is located in the Dirty Devil Wilderness Study Area east of Hanksville, Utah. The area was a famous hideout for Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. The outlaws were second comers to the canyon as long before they arrived the ancient inhabitants of the area had created a couple of very large rock art panels with some larger than life Barrier Canyon Style images.

From Hanksville drive 16 miles north on Highway 24 and turn right at the sign for Horseshoe Canyon just before reaching the Goblin Valley turnoff. Follow the Lower San Rafael Road for 24 miles and turn right at the kiosk as though heading to the Hans Flat Ranger Station. After 7 miles go slight right onto the Ekker Ranch Road. After another 6.6 miles turn right onto the Angel Point Road, BLM #0118, and continue the remaining 10.7 miles to the trailhead. There are a lot of intersecting roads along this route. You can save yourself a lot of consternation by simply entering 'Angel Point' into your driving app and following its turn-by-turn directions. The directions leave off a couple of miles before the trailhead but that is good enough to get you there. During dry conditions a 2wd with a little bit of clearance should be able to handle the occasional bump in the road.

The trail starts out by dropping off of Angel Point where at first it is a little steep and mostly loose rocks. It's a little tedious trying not to bust your butt but it only lasts for a few minutes and then you are on your way. Once the trail reaches the domes of swirling sandstone slickrock it has another short steep stretch. From there it picks up a ledge that various in width as it follows the contours of the domes. There are a lot of cairns that mark the trail while it is traveling on the slickrock. We had the added bonus of being able to see scratches in the sandstone that were left by a number of shod horses.

After a while the trail crosses a saddle in the ridge where it cuts back over to the north side of the slickrock and begins descending from there toward the river. As the trail reaches the edge of the slickrock and begins to transition to dirt the cairns begin showing at least 3 different routes. One route reaches the river to the left of Angels Cove and another to the right. We followed an unmarked route that headed off to the far right more toward Robbers Roost Canyon. The trail we followed had enough previous tracks to make up for the lack of cairns and it worked out perfectly.

Once you reach the Dirty Devil there are good trails for the rest of the way. There are 3 or 4 stub canyons before you actually reach Robbers Roost Canyon. The big wall in this photo is on the west side of the river right at the mouth of the Canyon. We scared up a black heron in a couple of places while hiking along the river. They wouldn't stick around for a photo.

In a section of the big wall below an arch of sandstone is a long panel of pictographs. Included are a half dozen or so large BCS kachina type images. The images are faint enough that from the mouth of the canyon you can look right at them and see nothing without binoculars. The photos we took were using a zoom lens while standing on the east side of the river. Being at the start of spring runoff the flow  of the river was too high to wade across.

We played around with the raw images and this was the best we could do to sharpen the details.

Some better detail can be seen in the image on the right with the wavy lines running down its body.

A lot of smaller images like painted hands and bighorn sheep are also present. We have seen some photos of intricately designed petroglyphs that we were unable to pick out from across the river. Other than waiting for a lower flow a person might be able hike down the Angel Point West trail. We haven't gone that way yet but it is supposed to be suitable for horses so it should be no problem at all for hiking.

From the panel across from the mouth of Robbers Roost Canyon it is 1.2 miles up the main branch of Robbers Roost to the next panel which, interesting enough, is across from the mouth of the South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon. This panel runs along a ledge that is higher than the cottonwood trees.

All of the petroglyphs and pictographs can be seen without going up on the ledge. To get up there simply hike into the side stub canyon and the route up to the ledge becomes obvious. Someone had stacked a large pile of rocks that can be used to climb up on the west side of the ledge but if you go that way you will run into a rock fall that looks precarious to cross. Most of the photos we took were with a zoom lens standing below the ledge. When we hiked up onto the ledge we were too close to the images for the camera and lens we were using.

Being in direct sunlight all year round these images are also getting pretty faint.

I wonder if anyone has come up with a term for a painted petroglyphs other than simple pictograph? They are kind of a hybrid. When the paint is fresher the pecks are less noticeable and you say 'hey, look at the pictograph'. But sometimes the paint fades to the point that all you can see are the pecks and you call it a petroglyph.

There are a good number of strictly petroglyphs that still look like Barrier Canyon Style as well as wavy lines that seem to represent the maze of canyons.

One nice thing about a firm damp sandy soil is being able to see what you are sharing the area with. We came across more than one rattlesnake track. Rattlesnakes move in a caterpillar like motion, other than sidewinders for one, whereas gopher snakes leave more of a smooth trail. We also saw a single set of turkey tracks and scared up a couple of deer.

We've hiked down the Angel Point East trail several very enjoyable times. On one trip we spoke with a couple that had parked at the head of the South Fork of Robbers Roost, hiked down that to the main fork, and then up to the Middle Fork, and back to where they started. We tend to hike around so much once we get down the trail that getting back up to the trailhead can be quite the workout. Just subtracting the high and low elevations comes out to less than 900 feet but with all the ups and downs the overall elevation gain is more like 1,673 feet. I remind my self of that so I won't feel like such a wuss. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.