Grotto, Hidden Valley, and Moab Mastadon

Stephanie B

Steph and Blake
Dec 7, 2017
March 18 - 20, 2019

Last week Blake and I went over to Moab to, primarily, try out our new (to us) camping trailer. We drove on scenic UT-128, along the Colorado River, planning to nab a campsite at one of the dozen or so developed campgrounds. Little did we know that we'd gone to southeastern Utah in the middle of Spring Break! With no available sites along the river we hustled over to Sand Flats in hopes of finding a decent site. We grabbed one of the last sites available, dropped the trailer, prepared a quick lunch and then realized we were right next to the very popular "Fins and Things" 4x4 trail. While it was fun to watch each rig's first climb up the steep hill, it got old and somewhat annoying to watch their second climb, third climb, fourth......We immediately postponed our planned hike in lieu of visiting the BLM office in town to inquire about alternate camping.

Once we got settled at the highly recommended Ken's Lake campground, we took off to find the Grotto. On the hike to the alcove containing pictographs (viewed best by lying on one's back) we couldn't believe the amount of lithic flake in the area.


Preferring not to lie down amidst the cow pies and other stuff that would surely lead to contracting hanta virus, I found a flat rock that I could use as a stool to take photos of the pictographs (not my best work):



We searched the boulders and slabs near the alcove for more rock art, but came up empty. So, on to the search for the Grotto. Along the way, I suggested to Blake to keep his eyes peeled for arrowheads since there was so much worked stone in the area. And, voila!


This was the first "for-sure" arrowhead that I've found. We've picked up several "maybe's" in the past, but never one that left no doubt. We dropped it under a bush and proceeded to locate the crack in the sandstone that contains the Grotto. After a short hike, we found the crack and the spot where it looked obvious to drop in. The drop-in spot seemed like a bit of a stretch for my height, so I went down-canyon a few yards where I could more easily get to the floor. I was immediately spooked by the body of a dead calf. It's one thing to see a dead animal along a road or in a field, but it's a totally different experience to see it in a dark, dank canyon. I'm not easily scared or superstitious, but I quickly scrambled back up and over to the original drop-in place!

The Grotto is a really cool place...literally. It was noticeably cooler inside and we could readily see why the ancient peoples hung out there. There was a pool of water, shade, yet enough light to see by to work or paint.


Some images were in better shape than others, some were up high on the ceiling.




The full hike to the Grotto was 1.6 miles long, with only about 130 feet of gain in elevation, and took us an hour and twenty minutes (including time spent examining the pictographs).

The next day we hiked the Hidden Valley Trail, in the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area. I'd researched the hike a few weeks prior and had forgotten about all the switchbacks at the southern end of the trail. The trail was in great condition, though, so I decided to view it as our day's workout. Once past the switchbacks, the trail leads you into a gorgeous valley full of not-yet green grasses. I can only imagine that it would also be home to many species of wildflowers at the right time of year.


We took the trail as far as the saddle near the cliff face where an abundance of petroglyphs are found. A view from the saddle, looking south to the La Sal's.


We worked our way along the cliff, attempting to find the meaning behind the rock writings.




The hike to the petroglyphs in Hidden Valley was 4.7 miles long (round-trip), with a 840-feet elevation gain, and took us 3 hours (including time spent viewing the petroglyphs).

We enjoyed another evening at Ken's Lake (cleanest pit toilets we've seen in a long time), and slept peacefully under the nearly full moon that night. The next day we leisurely packed up, full of ideas for re-organizing our gear in the trailer and modifications to improve our camping experience.

On the way home we checked out the Moab Mastodon and other nearby glyphs.



The hike to the Mastodon was 1.5-miles long (round-trip), with a 130-feet elevation gain, and took us 45 minutes. It wasn't the prettiest hike being under utility lines, but good nonetheless plus we didn't see another soul despite it being Spring Break.

All-in-all, we got in some good hiking and it was a good first run with the Hiker Trailer.


Because I am able.
Dec 31, 2017
Wow! That Mastodon is amazing! Great share!
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