Lower Iron Wash and Ernie Canyon |

Eastern Reef

Hiking Lower Iron Wash and Ernie Canyon - Eastern Reef Hiking Lower Iron Wash and Ernie Canyon
Eastern Reef

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments


RATING: Easy Hiking
MAPS: Old Woman Wash, UT;


37 | 14


44 | 18


49 | 27


44 | 23


47 | 26

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: A few seeps, bring all you need to drink.
NOTES: Any vehicle can reach the trailhead. High clearance is needed if just visiting the panels from the lower Ernie Canyon trailhead.


37 | 14


44 | 18


49 | 27


44 | 23


47 | 26

View Full Weather Details
The hard to photograph panel in Ernie

The hard to photograph panel in Ernie

I've camped on the rim of Iron Wash many times over the years, and always wondered what the section of the canyon below Lost Spring was like. At Lost Spring, it begins cutting into the sandstone and looks potentially very interesting. It turns out to be charming, but not exceptional.

What does make an exceptional day in lower Iron Wash? Making a loop hike out of it and return up lower Ernie Canyon. Though also not exceptional as far as canyons go, lower Ernie Canyon does have a pretty good petroglyph panel that is well worth visiting.

Note: Not interested in the loop? It is easy to follow the directions in reverse and visit the panel alone in a much shorter 2-3 hour outing.
Lower Iron Wash

Lower Iron Wash

Getting There

At mile marker 141.6 on highway 24, take the side road on the west side of the highway through the gate. This is about 26 miles north of Hanksville, or 18 miles south of I-70 if coming from Green River.

  • Reset as you turn off UT-24. ( 12S 542367mE 4283583mN / N38° 41' 59" W110° 30' 46" )
  • 0.6 miles, the road descends into and crosses a wash (the lower end of Iron Wash). This section is generally the worst section of road and usually requires high clearance or a 4x4. The trailhead is just before the road crosses Iron Wash. The road directions below are for reaching lower Ernie Canyon. ( 12S 541854mE 4284066mN / N38° 42' 15" W110° 31' 07" )
  • After crossing Iron Wash, the road ascends out of the wash, reaching a junction at 0.9 miles. Go right. ( 12S 541359mE 4284116mN / N38° 42' 17" W110° 31' 28" )
  • The road crosses the open desert, coming to a minor junction at 2.8. This junction is where the return hike merges with the road. If just visiting the panels park here. The road can be driven a short distance, but is generally easier walked. ( 12S 541005mE 4286750mN / N38° 43' 42" W110° 31' 42" )
Dryfall in lower Ernie Canyon

Dryfall in lower Ernie Canyon

Short narrows section in Ernie

Short narrows section in Ernie


Rock Art and Historic Site Etiquette
Rock art and historic sites are fragile, non-renewable cultural resources that, once damaged, can never be replaced. To ensure they are protected, please:
  • Avoid Touching the Petroglyphs: Look and observe, BUT DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Stay on the Trails: Stay on the most used trails when visiting sites, and don't create new trails or trample vegetation.
  • Photography and Sketching is Allowed: Do not introduce any foreign substance to enhance the carved and pecked images for photographic or drawing purposes. Altering, defacing, or damaging the petroglyphs is against the law -- even if the damage is unintentional.
  • Pets: Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.
  • Artifacts: If you happen to come across sherds (broken pottery) or lithics (flakes of stone tools), leave them where you see them. Once they are moved or removed, a piece of the past is forever lost.

Down Iron Wash (4.5 miles / 1.5 hours)
From the trailhead make your way to the bottom of Iron Wash and head down the canyon. A dryfall appears almost immediately. Follow the right rim 1-2 minutes to an easy, slab scramble to the canyon floor. There is also a scramble route in on the left rim.

From the bottom of the dryfall, Iron Wash is easy walking as the canyon never gets particularly deep or impressive, but is still a fun amble. I had expected to find pictographs or petroglyphs in this section but my eye didn't uncover any. Keep an eye out.

When the canyon bottom turns from sandy and open to being tree filled and spring fed, you are nearing the end of Iron Wash to where it opens broadly onto the desert. When it opens, follow the fence line west 10 or so minutes to the next canyon, Ernie Canyon.

Up Ernie (3.25 miles / 1.5 hours)
Heading up Ernie is easy going. Keep an eye out on the right for the first red vertical cliff on the right. This stunning cliff is home to several large petroglyph panels.

Above the panels, easy hiking leads to a dryfall in about 20-30 minutes. From the dryfall, backtrack a minute to an obvious bypass on the right (looking down canyon). This slabby exit is possibly class 4-, and fairly straightforward. If it looks too difficult, continue down canyon a few more minute to an even easier exit on the left.

Once above the dryfall, the canyon passes through a short narrows section before becoming open and less interesting. Continuing along, the wash eventually is crossed by a road. Follow this road as it crosses the wash and continues to a major junction. Right goes to the Ernie Canyon trailhead where it cuts through the reef. Go left.

Back Along The Road ( 2.1 miles / 1 hour )
45 minutes or so of road walking reaches a junction at Lost Spring. Cross Iron Wash here and your back at the trailhead.


Route / 9.66 miles / Elevation Range 4,510 - 4,871 ft.
Printable Maps:

12S 541913mE 4284060mN

N38° 42' 15" W110° 31' 05"


12S 542136mE 4284194mN

N38° 42' 19" W110° 30' 55"


12S 543418mE 4287943mN

N38° 44' 21" W110° 30' 01"

Lower Iron Wash

12S 544012mE 4288297mN

N38° 44' 32" W110° 29' 37"

Lower Ernie

12S 543742mE 4288817mN

N38° 44' 49" W110° 29' 48"


12S 543245mE 4288698mN

N38° 44' 45" W110° 30' 08"


12S 543206mE 4288684mN

N38° 44' 45" W110° 30' 10"

Biggest Panel

12S 543192mE 4288682mN

N38° 44' 45" W110° 30' 11"

Bypass Botom

12S 542710mE 4288221mN

N38° 44' 30" W110° 30' 31"

Bypass Top

12S 542757mE 4288232mN

N38° 44' 30" W110° 30' 29"


12S 542815mE 4288167mN

N38° 44' 28" W110° 30' 26"

Other Bypass Top

12S 542567mE 4288358mN

N38° 44' 34" W110° 30' 37"

Road Junction

12S 541006mE 4286752mN

N38° 43' 43" W110° 31' 42"


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