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Guide for hiking Davis Canyon

The five faces pictograph in Davis Canyon Utah
 

The highlight of the four-mile hike in Davis Canyon is getting to see the fascinating pictograph panel called the Five Faces in person.

 
While the Five Faces are worth the effort alone there are also a number of arches, granaries, ruins of cliff dwellings, and lots of other rock art to see.
 
There are no official trails here, and this easy hike is actually within the backcountry of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Very few people ever actually visit this canyon so you will likely have it almost all to yourself.
 
Note
  • Dogs – are technically not allowed as you are within the park boundaries of Canyonlands National Park once you enter the canyon area from the parking area
  • Binoculars to see the ruins and rock art
 
Cost
Technically you are in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and need a pass, I have not seen any self-pay station to do so
 
Distance
3 3/4 miles total out and back
 
Getting there
From Moab drive 40 miles south on Highway 191, turn right going west on Highway 211, and drive for 26.5 miles to the left-hand turn off onto Davis Canyon Road ( 38.1524400N, 109.6276564W ). The 9-mile 4WD road follows the wash from Davis Canyon to the parking area which is at the boundary of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Turn off from the highway

Turn off from Highway 211 to Davis Canyon Road
 
 

Davis Canyon hiking map

 
Route
Open and close the gate just after the exit from the highway. The dirt road has some rough parts that are not easy or even passable for a car, but acceptable for a 4×4 or high clearance vehicle.

View of the dirt road at the start of the drive to Davis Canyon

 
The road smooths out considerably once it enters the main wash of Davis Canyon. 

View of the main wash

 
There are some nice views of buttes along the way reminiscent of Monument valley. They are the south and north Six Shooter peaks named for their resemblance to pistols.

North and South Six-shooter peaks

 
For the last third of the drive, the road begins closing in and becomes more constricted. In places, it becomes pretty much impossible to avoid brush hitting the sides of your vehicle. 
The road gets narrower and less traveled
The road gets narrower and less traveled
 
Just 0.4 miles ( 38.071474, -109.680033 ) before you reach the parking area is a short spur road to your right, (now closed to motorized vehicles.) There is room to pull over and park. 

Spur road entrance

 
Walk in, and within a few steps the area opens up to a scenic area, follow the dirt road a little bit to a camping area. ( 38.072732, -109.680301 )  Directly in front of you and above are two granaries on the ledges. You can spot the lesser one from below.

The two graneries in the hidden alcove

 
Head to the right (east) keeping near the base of the rock face from about 150 yards, you will find an area where you can easily walk up to gain access to the ledges and work your way back to the granaries. 

Close up of the right granaryClose up of the left granaryView from the alcove holding the left granary

 
When done exploring this area, head back out and continue the rest of the way to the parking area at ( 38.066649, -109.681849 )

Davis Canyon trailhead parking area

 
Large alcove with granary ( 38.067012, -109.684284 )
Look for the gate and sign-in kiosk at the left end of the fencing. Enter here and walk to the wash.
 
The first destination is the large alcove on the other side of the wash to your right. The best route is just to head straight for it and find your way across the scrubby area on the other side of the wash. Look closely you should see some structure within in, however, the granary is in the middle and will be easier to see as you get closer.

Large alcove with granary

 
As you are approaching the large alcove you are probably walking through an area that 700 years ago was filled with corn and other crops of the Anasazi Indians living here. The Eight Mile Spring is located in the bottom of the wash just east of the park boundary, and the number of ruins in the area indicates that the spring allowed for a sizable community.
 
As you get closer, look at the huge rock to the right of the alcove, just above it is some rock art that looks like targets. To the left of the targets above the large rock sitting almost at the same level as the targets on the 90° face, there are a lot more drawings but harder to see.

rock art that looks like targetsrock art that looks like targetsDavis Canyon alcove

 
 
Granary ( 38.065468, -109.686127 )
Make your way south away from the alcove, keeping the wash on your left and the canyon wall on your right, and head around the corner. You should discover some trails. Above the canyon floor in the dark rock band is a nice granary. 

Granary in the dark rock band

 
To the left of the granary about 50 feet or so are some very large petroglyphs of Elk or Deer.

large petroglyphs of Elk or Deer.

 
Five Faces Panel ( 38.065663, -109.686742 )
Continuing west along the Canyon wall for about 200 yards beyond the granary. The five faces is tucked back into a recessed area of the canyon and very sheltered in an alcove that is in shadow. The location has helped preserve the rock art. Climb the slick rock slope to start getting a better view of the panel. 
 
At the top you are looking directly across from the panel. To reach the panel you have to make your way to the left and follow the ledge. On the way, you will scramble over some fallen rock. This appears to be a granary that has been crushed by falling rocks.
 
Just before this crushed granary, there are some large rocks with metates for grinding corn on them. They are tumbled in a way that would not have been functional as they are sitting, so they must have been moved over the centuries.

Davis Canyon metates for grinding corn

 
Once you reach the panel you will see more metates under the art panel. What a strange place to grind corn.
 
The five faces are well sheltered in a shady place allowing them to be preserved remarkably well considering their age of 700-2000 years. Notice how each image is similar but unique.

Side view of the Five Faces panel in Davis Canyon Utah The famous Five Faces panel in Davis Canyon

 
Arches
After leaving the Five Faces Panel head back to the main wash and begin hiking up it. In about 1 mile the canyon widens out and the arches begin to appear on both sides of the canyon walls very high up.
 
They aren’t easy to see, but keep your eyes looking. The first on the left is Nook Arch followed by Pinyon Pine Arch.  Junction Arch is on the right side of the canyon. After that on the right is an unnamed arch that hugs the canyon wall and opposite it on the left side of the canyon is Flection Arch.

The view up canyonNook Arch, Pinyon Pine Arch, Junction Arch, Flection ArchNook Arch, Pinyon Pine Arch, Junction Arch, Flection ArchNook Arch, Pinyon Pine Arch, Junction Arch, Flection Arch

 
Log House Ruins
After the arch area continue up the canyon and go to the right at the next fork for about 0.4 miles to the junction of a side canyon at ( 38.052680, -109.699936 ). 
 
Turn into this canyon and as you proceed west, look high above you on the right, you can spot another collection of Anasazi ruins at ( 38.053765, -109.701502 ). There is no way to reach them so you have to spot them from the ground, using binoculars you should spot at least 7 structures.
 
The most prominent is the roundish stacked stone structure just to the right of center, then there is a log house above and to the left of it that the ruins take their name from. Further above and to the left of the log house is a large assortment of rock art, look for rows of hand prints, and circles.

Stacked stone ruins next to the log house ruinsHand prints next to the log house ruins log house ruins log house ruins

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2 Responses

  1. In 1987, three friends and I were 4-wheeling Davis when we accidentally came across what I would deem to be a significant MOUND, absolutely covered with pottery shards that were visible on the surface (and possibly other artifacts, but we didn’t disturb the terrain). UNDERSTANDINGLY, I have yet too see any mention or photographs of this site, BUT IT’S THERE, on the right side, going south, and I recall that there’s a relatively small loop, suitable for a vehicle, around it.

    Further, we drove down Davis, and came to the end of the road up a side canyon. From there, we hiked a relatively short distance, and what unfolded before us was a stunning rock formation EXACTLY like the WAVE by the Vermillion Cliffs in Southern Utah. Like the Mound, I’ve never seen a reference therein.

    Please let me know if/where I can find any information on the above spectacular sites.

    Merci

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