Path of the Month: Hidden Valley in Moab offers hidden treasure, easy hike with steep start
March 2, 2017
WHAT IS IT? Hidden Valley Trail in Moab
HOW LONG IS IT? A few miles. There’s no true end landmark like a lake. The petroglyphs are a bit less than two miles away.
IS THERE A FEE? No
HIKING TIP OF THE MONTH: When you hear of a rumor of something special about a hike, Google is a great help, but you should check it out for yourself.
The Hidden Valley Trail in Moab, Utah, offers everything you would expect from a popular hike in a place known for them.
But it also offers you something you may not get in many other places, and that's a secret.
The trail offers great scenery, a challenging but fun trail and a chance to train for larger races or hikes. We will get to the secret in a bit.
I swear this trail is a pretty hike and within the range of most hikers, but you won't believe me at first; it starts with a steep climb. Just pretend it's the start of a rollercoaster as you begin by hiking up, up and up. It'll make it more fun, I promise.
You'll also want to pay close attention to the trail, as I got sidetracked by some eroded paths that looked like a trail and had to bushwhack my way back.
Anyway, once you're thoroughly out of breath and probably a little sweaty, you'll top out and lose your breath again, this time to a gasp at the wonderful valley before you.
This is a fun place to run, as the trail is flat, clean and easy to find. That would be enough to make this worth it, but you'll also get to discover a secret.
It's one of the worst-kept secrets in Moab, for sure, but it's still not as well-known — or as advertised — as you might think.
When I used Google to find good places to go trail-running in Moab before this summer's family vacation, Hidden Valley popped up, and one of the stories mentioned some petroglyphs on a wall somewhere along the trail.
I knew these existed in Moab, but the thought of getting to find history along a beautiful trail sounded too much like a good treasure hunt to me.
I call them a secret because I found no mention of them at the trailhead, and when you Google the Hidden Valley Trail, you may not find much mention of them. You have to add the word "petroglyphs" before sites with lots of information on then in Hidden Valley will pop up.
When I topped out, I ran for a while on the flat trail that winds through the valley, enjoying the rocks and scenery, until I began to worry I'd passed by the cliff bands that contained the petroglyphs. I just needed to keep going.
I didn't realize the cliff bands contained such a steep, high wall, making their markings pretty obvious. If you were looking for a wall to do some art, you'd pick this one, too.
Find it to the west, right before you join up with the 4WD Moab Rim trail just to the right of the small saddle. Hike along the western edge of the trail until you see the towering wall. I believe the wall appears a little more than 1.5 miles from the start of the hike.
The petroglyphs are fascinating, but I took care in the warning from a posted notice from the feds about enjoying them from afar. The oils from our hands can break down delicate features such as this one. Please take note if you decide to visit.
I stayed a little longer than I should have, and as a result, my run back was a little warm. There's no cover on this hike. I wouldn't do it in the afternoon if it's in the summer. The steep start also means you'll face a difficult descent to close out your hike, but if you take your time, you should be alright. Keep an eye out for thunderstorms that surely come often in the afternoon, as you're out in the open and a wet descent on such a steep trail wouldn't be fun.
Still, the extra time was worth it. It was fascinating to think someone etched a drawing of a dog or fox thousands of years ago on a wall. I'd never seen anything like that before.
Hidden Valley, however, was familiar. I hike and run trails like this one as a reminder of the beauty of nature. The drawings reminded me beauty was around for thousands of years before we got here.
I hope it's still here when we leave.
— Dan England has climbed more than 150 peaks, including all of the state's 54 14ers, and logged thousands of miles on Colorado's great trails. He is the Features editor for The Tribune. He also occasionally guides hikes and snowshoes, mostly 14ers. He can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4418. Follow him on Twitter @DanEngland.