Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Boxcar Bridge Trail in Canyon Rims

The Boxcar Bridge Trail is located in the Hatch Point District of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area in southeast Utah. The Canyon Rims area covers a large area to the east of Canyonlands National Park. The Boxcar Bridge route isn’t pointed out with signs but is mentioned on maps and guidebooks as a mountain bike route.
I started my hike 20.5 miles along County Road 133/132 from the junction with Highway 191, the access road for the Hatch Point area. This is past the turn off to the spectacular Needles Overlook Trail and the road changes from paved to gravel. There is a wide spot in the road at this point and a sign that says “View Point” with views both west toward the Canyonlands area and east toward the LaSal Mountains. The trail is a 4WD road that leads east through a wide field of sagebrush.

After about 30 minutes of hiking, the trail begins to descend into Trout Water Canyon and leads to an area with Cottonwood trees and some ranching artifacts. In the Sagebrush fields and in the canyon, I kept an eye out for Pronghorn Antelopes, which are supposed to live in the Hatch Point area, but I didn’t see any. Pronghorns are known for their keen eyesight and extreme speed. They are opportunistic, feeding on grasses, shrubs, and trees. It took me 1:10 hours to arrive at the canyon floor.

A few minutes of hiking further, there is a trail junction with the left fork leading further down Trout Water Canyon and the right fork climbing to the south rim. I followed the right fork and climbed to the mesa top area. In late February, there were small patches of snow in shady spots but the trail was mostly dry and walking easy.
The view further down Trout Water Canyon shows several alcoves in the sandstone walls. The interpretive information for the Canyon Rims area says that most of the sandstone outcrops visible here are Navajo sandstone. Ancestral Pueblo people are thought to have occupied the area for a short time, ending in the mid 1200s. It seems like this canyon area, with a spring and alcoves would be a place to search for ruins and rock art. I scanned the alcoves from a distance for ruins structures but didn’t see anything.
On the mesa top area there is another trail junction with a view of a large sandstone butte. On the nearest corner there is a formation that appears to be an arch or window, the Boxcar Bridge. I followed both trail forks for a few hundred yards and the best views are from the right fork. The main trail continues along the left fork. I couldn’t find Boxcar Bridge mentioned in the on line guides to arches so perhaps there is a gap and it isn't actually an arch. The view is from a long distance and it would take a lot of walking and climbing to get a close view.

I turned around here and retraced my steps. My total hike was 4:30 hours for about 8.5 miles. It was 36 F degrees at 10:30 AM when I started and 43 F at 3:00 PM at the finish. On a cool day I carried and drank 2 liters of water.

No comments: