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Monday, May 9, 2011

Camping and Pictographs on Stansbury Island

Large number of pictures alert!  The pictures are in the reverse order of what we actually experienced, so I'll break this down into 3 parts that more or less correlate with the pictures. 

We thought this picture was appropriate since it was Mothers Day on Sunday.

I had heard several times that there were petroglyphs on Stansbury Island.  Since I'm always looking for somewhat obscure and out-of-the-way places that are cool to visit, Stansbury Island really appealed to me.  We planned our visit, and since it's an hour drive from the Salt Lake City area, decided that camping would give us more flexibility while out there. 
I searched for any information I could find about camping on Stansbury Island, but all I could find was that it's allowed.  So, armed with the limited information, we set out. 
We didn't find any spectacular campsites on the island, but did find plenty of spots that would work for camping on the south end of the island.  The north end of the island is pretty much private, but there is a public right-of-way that goes to a view area at the north end. 
We drove to the North end first to see what it was like.  It's a beautiful, desolate drive.  The geology of the island is pretty cool.  Once at the north end, we parked to read the sign and to throw some rocks in the lake. 
Shortly after we got out of the car, we were swarmed with gnats and mosquitoes.  We threw a few rocks in the lake, then did our best to beat off the bugs as we ran for the car.   The one thing we didn't pack was bug spray.  I thought it was early enough to beat the bugs, but was wrong.  Painfully wrong.  The gnats were the worst.  They're little and have super itchy bites.  My head still itches 3 days later. 
If you go, be sure to bring bug spray!  We debated about driving back to Tooele to pick some up, but decided not to. 
Instead, we found a campsite away from the lake and set up camp.  The bugs weren't as bad further away from the water. 
After camp was set up, I took a hike up the hill to take some pictures.  After taking several, I wandered back down the hill and turned in for the night. 
The next morning, we got up, boiled water for oatmeal, then set out to find the petroglyphs on the south end of the island.  There's a maze of roads down there, many of them fully drivable with a 2wd/low clearance vehicle.  Some though are definitely better with higher clearance. 
 We drove as close as we felt comfortable, then set out on what would become a 5 mile or so hike. 
The petroglyphs are faint and unspectacular.  But just finding them out here was a treat. 
 We found two separate areas that had them.

The first area had several that looked like snakes, one that looked like a guy, and others that were unintelligible.  They were on a sandstone outcropping. 
 The second area was on a boulder next to a road and had a bighorn sheep, a person, and several lines.
After finding the boulder, we headed back to the car.  We had wanted to hike a peak on the island, but the little one was tired and the bugs were irritating, so we decided to wrap up the visit. 
Nearest City: Grantsville, UT
Locations: Campsite  N 40° 48.665 W 112° 31.280
Outcropping Petroglyphs N 40° 47.324 W 112° 28.819

Boulder Petroglyphs N 40° 48.256 W 112° 28.412

Time Needed: 3 hours to hike to the petroglyphs
Difficulty: Moderate
Kid Friendly: Probably not. Too many bugs, & pretty much no shade. 
Additional Info:  Take Exit 84 and turn North from I-80.  Then pretty much follow the signs to the island.  It's more of a peninsula right now because the lake generally isn't high enough to turn it back into an island.


  1. Were you able to find the red man pictograph? trying to get directions to that one. thank you!

  2. Noelle,
    I've never gone searching for the red man pictograph. It hit the radar just about the time I left Utah. I've been back a time or two, but never long enough to go out and look. I do know that it's not on Stansbury Island, but is somewhere south of it in the vicinity of Timpie Valley. That and it's not in a place you'd initially expect. I guess there are several alcoves and more likely looking spots when you go looking for it that will not be where it's at. Beyond that, good luck! Let me know if you do find it!

  3. Are the driving conditions ok heading to the north end of the island as well? I have a Toyota Corolla and I'm trying to do as much exploring as possible. Pictures look amazing by the way!

    1. Jackson,
      We had a Camry when we were there. The Corolla should be adequate for the main roads all the way to the north end. Its basically driving at lake level, so the occasional pothole is about it as far as driving obstacles go. Let me know how your visit goes and how the gnats are. They were pesky when we were there.