Hanksville, Utah Area

The Hanksville, Utah area is very scenic and includes the badlands near Caineville and Factory Butte to the west, Goblin Valley, the San Rafael swell and Greater Canyonlands to the north, and Arsenic Arch and Little Egypt to the south.

 


Arsenic Arch

This small gem is rarely visited but can produce great photos when conditions are right. The dramatic skies of the summer work very well here. Arsenic is best shot at dusk. At dawn it can take almost 90 minutes for the arch to receive full light as there are cliffs to the east. The arch overlooks Poison Spring Canyon and the Henry Mountains can be seen to the west. Like most arches Arsenic is best photographed close up. In addition to the standard shot made straight on from the south Arsenic also photographs well from the north and from its corners with a wide angle lens. You can also shoot the arch at sunset from the rim of the canyon with a 200 - 300 mm lens, an excellent photo by Max Forster appears here.

Arsenic Arch is only a few miles from Little Egypt (directions below). Little Egypt is best shot at dawn so I suggest shooting Little Egypt at dawn followed by Arsenic Arch at dusk. Alternatively shoot Arsenic at dusk first. Then camp near the trailhead or at Little Egypt and visit Little Egypt at dawn. A good camping area with room for one or two cars is just up the hill from the Arsenic trailhead and is shown on the map below.

Arsenic Arch is about 26 miles from Hanksville by car. To get to the "trailhead" take US 95 south from Hanksville 20.4 miles. Turn left onto BLM 15210 (North Turkey Knob Road) and follow this good dirt road 5.1 miles to a one car pullout on the left and park. Arsenic Arch is a trailless .75 miles from the pullout. It lies about 100 feet below the cliffs of Poison Spring Canyon. The hike is easy provided you can find your way down the cliffs. Unless you are a rock climber the only way down? is at 38.102467°, -110.541270°. Once you have made the short descent proceed NE and follow the cliff around the small side canyon to the arch.

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

Arsenic arch is on the 24K topo map Turkey Knob. Click or Right-click below to download the map.

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Turkey Knob KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


Colonnade Arch

Colonnade Arch, also known as Five Hole Arch, is a spectacular but little known arch with five openings near the Green River. Unfortunately it is nearly 40 miles down a dirt road and is best shot at sunrise. The 4WD road to the arch is fair - good but is impassable when wet. After parking you need to hike off trail about one mile or so to the arch. A GPS will be very helpful with this. The arch is below the rim; the easiest way down to the arch is from its south side. There are some cairns but they are intermittent and I was unable to follow them. There is a small but unique rock formation known as the Dragon's Teeth on the hike to the arch, coordinates are on the map below.

Colonnade arch faces east so it has good light in early morning. In the Spring, Fall, and Winter you should be able to catch a sunburst at dawn. A very wide angle lens or panorama head is needed to capture the entire formation. Be sure to bracket, the light level inside the alcove is much lower than that outside. In view of the long drive to the arch you might want to combine a trip to this arch with a visit to Crystal Geyser or the Great Gallery, or, if you have the right vehicle and skills - the Doll's House.

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

Colonnade arch is on the 24K topo map Bowknot Bend. Click or Right-click below to download the map.

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Bowknot Bend KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


Factory Butte

Factory Butte is a great sunrise shoot. The butte is surrounded by a sea of Mancos shale which is interesting in itself, especially during wildflower season. The Mancos shale is occasionally marred by ATV tracks. ATVs are no longer allowed outside of the "Swing Arm City" area so the situation is improving for photographers. Hopefully whatever the final wilderness plan that is drawn up it will meet the needs of all interested parties (hunters, fishermen, hikers, photographers, and ATVers). Good luck with that! Factory Butte is best photographed at dawn from the east side. Access is via Factory Bench Road which is a good gravel road (2WD okay for much of it). The road is also known as Coal Mine Road or Muddy Creek Road. Factory Bench Road starts at highway 24 9.7 miles from Hanksville. A good location from which to photograph the butte is about 5.5 miles from the intersection of Highway 24 with Factory Bench Road. There is a small rock outcrop here and some small round boulders which provide good foreground (f/22 needed for DOF, or focus bracket). The Disney movie "John Carter" was partially filmed about ten miles down Factory Bench road near the "Factory Butte Mine" on the topo map. If you enjoy off road adventures Factory Butte road splits near the mine on the topo map with the East fork going to Muddy Creek ( usually not passable to factory 4WD vehicles) and the West fork going on to the Salt Wash area (and perhaps even to Caineville Road??).

The Factory Butte area is covered by six 24K USGS topo maps as shown below. These maps together with a merged map can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right clicking below:

Factory Butte Index Map

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Caine Springs KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Caineville KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Factory Butte KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Hunt Draw KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
The Frying Pan KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Town Point KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all six maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


Goblin Valley

is a small (4 acres or so) state park with many red hoodoos. Admission to the park is $7 per car. RV camping is $16 and includes showers and a dump station. Despite its remote location Goblin Valley can get a lot of visitation over weekends and when the kids are off. If you visit I suggest going mid week unless you want to use "Content Aware Delete" in Photoshop a lot. From the north, Goblin Valley can be reached by taking I 70 to exit 147, then go south on Utah 24. After 30 miles turn right on the clearly signed Temple Junction/Goblin Valley Road. Take Temple Mountain Road for five miles and turn left onto Goblin Valley Road to get to the Park entrance. From the South the turnoff to Goblin Valley is 11 miles North of Hanksville. There are three official trails in Goblin Valley but I suggest you simply wander among the hoodoos yourself. The parking area sits above the Valley and a good observation point is right at the lot. The observation point faces South and good pictures can be made from it at both Sunrise and Sunset. Mount Ellen can be seen off to the West and provides good background at both dusk and dawn.

Goblin Valley is on the 24K topo map Goblin Valley! Click or Right-click below to download the map.

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Goblin Valley KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


Little Egypt

is one of my favorite locations in the area. It is similar to Goblin Valley but much smaller and less crowded. I've been there four times at dawn and never seen anyone else. Little Egypt is magnificent at sunrise when the rocks take on a wonderful red glow. Little Egypt is much less impressive during the rest of the day and at sunset when cliffs to the west block the light. Goblin Valley has many more hoodoos than Little Egypt and they are more easily isolated. Conversely the background at Little Egypt is much more photogenic than Goblin Valley's and some of Little Egypt's hoodoos have white as well as red in them. On the whole I prefer Little Egypt to Goblin Valley for its excellent background and lack of crowds. It is also free. To get to Little Egypt from Hanksville take Highway 95 South 20.4 miles (milepost 20.2) from the intersection of Highway 24 and 95 in Hanksville. Turn right onto the good signed dirt road and go .25 miles and turn left. Continue 1.2 miles to the signed "Little Egypt Geologic Area". Parking is about 100 yards down this road. The Google map Arsenic Arch above contains the directions as well.

Little Egypt is on the 24K topo map Raggy Canyon. Click or Right-click below to download the map.

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Raggy Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

If you visit Little Egypt in mid-late October you should continue south along Highway 95 and shoot North Creek as well. North Creek runs southeast alongside Highway 95 and is lined with cottonwood trees. The creek is largely dry but usually contains reflecting pools. For the best color in the cottonwoods shoot towards the sun. Control flare or shoot a sunburst by blocking the sun with a tree limb.

 


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