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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Hiking Picture Canyon

The Comanche National Grasslands in southeast Colorado is worth the drive to hike and enjoy one of the four canyons in the area. Historical markers from the Santa Fe Trail are also nearby.
After our trip to Oklahoma, my friend and I made our way up to Colorado on some dirt roads to check out the Picture Canyon, of which we only knew from a name on on map we were given at Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico. But, the name piqued our interested enough to make the journey to Baca County, Colorado.
Located southwest of Springfield, Colorado, the canyon is not easy to find since it is not well sign posted. After a bit of wandering on dirt roads though we found the entrance off County Road 18 and made our way up to the trailhead, which we found deserted save for one other car.
We hiked most of the day and never once saw the owners of the Saab. And really, we felt like we had the whole canyon, which seemed rarely used, to ourselves. Never once did we see footprints in the dirt; only the occasional cow hoof or patty from a nearby ranch. It was practically deserted, which made it all the better on a nice, sunny day.
The trail, which is generally wheel ruts, is easily followed in most places. There are also smaller side trails that lead off to the namesake pictures on the canyon walls. The pictures, which are believed to be done by Plains Indians in the 17th or 18th century, are well preserved save for the stupidity of grafiti surrounding them and in a nearby cave that holds other interesting etchings (below).

The main trail, which is a four mile loop to the Arch Rock, opens a mile or so along into a small meadow where an old settler home may’ve once stood near Crack Cave. The cave, which is now gated, plays host to celebrations for the Spring and Fall equinox because of some markings inside that align with the sunrise. Sadly enough, they’re not open except on those days or with prior group reservations.
The trail continues on through the canyon and is sometimes difficult to follow over the rocks. After a short rest though, and a bit of looking, we were able to pick it up thanks to some well placed rock markers. We followed them and scampered up to the rim for a nice view of the canyon and the surrounding area.
After another mile or so we came to a sign pointing off to the Homestead Trail, an eight mile loop that would’ve been conquered on any other day but this one. The current lack of water and energy, from our hikes on the previous day, made it glaringly obvious that we should just keep following the trail through the canyon and along it’s rim on the way to the Arch Rock, which we found just a short distance away.
The arch is nothing overly special, but the hike as a whole was nice and worthwhile. Well, I should say it was worthwhile until we got lost at the end and added a couple of miles on to the loop. The trail was generally easy to follow until it passed the arch and opened up into the grasslands. Here the signs, markers and wheel ruts went off in several different directions. This made it difficult to distinguish which trail we were actually supposed to take to follow the loop back to the carpark, but we made it none the worse for wear.

The Picture Canyon and the surrounding Comanche National Grasslands really are beautiful areas in southeast Colorado. It’s interesting to think back to the Dust Bowl days though when this was not so and the area was hit by massive dust storms. That’s all a story for another stop on our roadtrip though.
As we left the Picture Canyon area we made our way into western Kansas and on to Garden City where we planned to spend the night to see some nearby sites. This was all, once again, based on some stuff we saw on the map that caught our interest.

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