Skip to main content
North AmericaTravel with kidsUSA

Utah with Kids: Hiking to the Great Gallery at Horseshoe Canyon

On the trail

On the trail

I had read about the Rock Art in the Great Gallery at Horseshoe Canyon. This very remote spot is home to perhaps the greatest and strangest rock art in North America and possibly in the world. My Rough Guide to Southwest USA raves about it. So, we decided to go.

We left Moab for Green River, a tiny town famous for its melons. Green River is a very forgettable town. We saw melons for sale, of course, and a museum, which we decided to pop into. Well, not only did the person on duty almost fall off her chair with shock when she saw visitors come in, but she was unable to answer any of our questions. We stayed about 2 minutes. At the gas station, we were offered to taste melons free of charge from the girl minding the melon store, which was actually a pick up truck filled with melons.She cut about four melons open for us, refused any payment and let eat as much as we liked. We ended up buying a couple as well – they were exceptional. Our hotel was a throwback to the 1970’s – a Best Western, with comfortable velvet furniture from another age completely. The grounds were very pretty – the hotel overlooked the Green River, and the kids had a great time playing in the pool. There was a Hummingbird feeder which attracted the most incredible hummingbirds. We had a lot of fun there that afternoon.

Our plan was to get up really early – I wanted to be on the road at about 5am. Our target – the trailhead to the Great Gallery, somewhere in the middle of the desert.

Heading out, we were soon on a gravel and sand track, which ran for about 40 miles. The car slid here and there and I wasn’t certain that we’d be able to get there, but we made it eventually and by about 7am were ready to start the hike. We all had heavy backpacks filled with bottled water, even the kids. I was relieved to see another car parked there, meaning that we would not be alone. The hike starts from the car park and descends into a canyon.  The path is marked but you must pay attention as you don’t want to get lost. At the bottom, you begin a slog through ankle-high sand. At that time of the morning the air was wonderfully fresh – and we even saw pronghorn antelope bouncing along. There are various rock art sites along the way to the Great Gallery, and after about 4 hours we eventually reached our target – the Great Gallery! By then it was really hot – the sun was beating down on us and there was no place to hide from it. The kids were tired out, and we were only half way.

The gallery itself is the rock face of the canyon, and painted on it are the most fantastic and unbelievable figures and pictures imaginable. Nobody knows what the figures depict or how old they are – they could be shamanistic, they could represent dreams – who knows, they could even depict alien encounters? The parks board provides binoculars, to see the paintings up close.

Just some of the very ghostl-like paintings

Just some of the very ghostl-like paintings

There were three other people over there, but they soon left and so we were completely alone. We then began to slog back, in the blazing sun. We had plenty of water, but very soon I was carrying Eitan on my back, and the next two hours or so were hellish, as we wondered if we would ever make it back, knowing that we still had to climb out of the canyon.

We made it! But it was tough going, and the weather was brutal. My advice – go, if you want to see something extraordinary, but don’t go in summer, and if you must, don’t take young kids!

We were totally exhausted and completely drained. Back on the highway, we stopped briefly at Goblin Valley Sate Park, an incredible place for kids, with the funniest looking rock formations I have ever seen – but the kids refused to leave the car, they were so worn out! We stopped at a gas station and when we told the owner where we had been , his reply was “Yup, I head the rescue team and we get called out there every so often!!

By the end of the day, the Great Gallery experience was far behind us and we were firmly back on the tourist trail, as we approached Capital Reef National Park.

PS: These days I am planning great trips for families to destinations worldwide. Click here for more details.