Thursday, January 5, 2012

Horsehead Rock in Canyon Rims

The Hatch Point area of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area is a large mesa top area that lies to the east of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. Horsehead Rock is one of the large rock outcrops rising above the sagebrush and Pinon Juniper forest area.

The Highway 191 turnoff for Canyon Rims is about 32 miles south of Moab, UT and a few miles north of the turnoff for the Needles District of Canyonlands. About 16 miles along the paved road there is a junction with the paved road staying left leading to the developed Needles Overlook.

I started my hike toward Horsehead rock about 2.6 miles past the junction at San Juan County Road 169, a well maintained dirt road. The terrain along Road 169 is mostly level through sagebrush fields with good views east toward the LaSal Mountains.

 After 1.7 miles there is short side trail to the east that leads to an overlook of Horsehead Rock. I didn’t see a trail that leads all the way but it looks like hiking through the forest would be feasible. I saw a ranching artifact along this side trail. I kept an eye out for Pronghorn Antelope while hiking but didn’t see any. There are a few cows grazing in the Hatch Point area.

The main road descends into a wide valley with some views of the LaSal Mountains and Horsehead Rock in alignment. The elevation of Horsehead Rock is 6191 feet. The Pinon and Juniper Forest gets thicker as the trail proceeds north. At 3 miles there is a junction with County Road 170. Continuing north on 169 it is another 0.8 miles to the mesa top rim. Road 170 turns west and also leads to the rim after 2.2 miles. Road 170 leads closer to the formation that is called Hatch Point.

Road 169 ends at the rim and there are wide views north over Lockhart Basin. This is the terrain that is visible from the Needles Overlook and some of the other viewpoints in the Hatch Point area. The Colorado River winds through the area below but I couldn’t see it from this angle.

It took me 1:30 hours to arrive at the overlook. Without the side trail the main road distance is 3.8 miles. The return hike took 1:15 hours. My total hike took 3:00 hours for about 8 miles on a 44 F degree mild early January day. I didn’t see anyone else on this route while I was hiking. There were a few other vehicles in the area, including a few heavy trucks at a drilling site.

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