The East Fork is yet another interesting Fork of Bluejohn and also the longest fork as well. It has some long interesting narrows and some technical challenges. It requires a 100 foot or longer rope. After completing the East Fork from the top you can exit either the West Fork Bluejohn, the West E/E (entry/exit) Route, or continue all the way down through Lower Bluejohn Canyon to Horseshoe Canyon. Competent rock climbers can exit via the Main Fork and this has become a popular loop.
Stemming in East Fork Bluejohn Canyon. Fuse photo.
Click for full size.
Make sure to stock up with plenty of fuel and supplies when headed to the area. The nearest gas stations are in Green River and Hanksville and make sure to have a completely full tank of gas before leaving either town.
Getting There from the North, East, or West and via Hans Flat Road
From I-70 11 miles west of Green River or from I-70 west of Highway 24, take exit 149 on Highway 24 southbound. Follow the highway south to the Hans Flat Road on the east side of the Highway, which is between mile markers 135 and 136. This is just south of the Goblin Valley State Park turnoff (west side of the highway).
Pull out the map and have it handy from here on. Follow the main gravel road (several forks are passed; stay on the main one) for 24 miles or so to a major junction (which will be referred to as “Horseshoe Junction” for clarity). Let’s stop here.
All the below trailheads are applicable for the East Fork.
West Fork Trailhead/West E/E Trailhead
This Trailhead access the West Fork of Bluejohn Canyon as well as Little Bluejohn Canyon. Turn right at Horseshoe Junction. Drive the road for about 6.9 miles to a small sandy 4wd track on the left (east). [This is just before a major junction in the main road, so if you hit the major junction, turn around and backtrack for about 0.2 miles]. Either park here or follow the sandy 4wd track for a short distance.
Granary Springs Trailhead
This trailhead accesses the Main Fork of Bluejohn Canyon, the Squeeze Fork Bluejohn Canyon, and the East Fork Bluejohn Canyon. Turn right at Horseshoe Junction as mentioned above. Follow the road south for 7.1 miles to another signed fork in the road. Turn left towards the Hans Flat Ranger Station. Follow the road south for 2.6 miles to a small road on the left (east). This short road leads to some old ranch buildings. The dilapidated ranch building is spray painted “Motel 6”. Park here.
Horseshoe Canyon Trailhead
This trailhead is for the exit route if you do the entire Bluejohn Canyon to Horseshoe Canyon. From Horseshoe Junction as mentioned above turn left (versus right for all the other trailheads). Follow the road for 5.1 miles to another junction. Turn right here on the road posted for “Horseshoe Canyon Foot Trail”. Follow this road for 1.7 miles to a parking lot. Park here.
OTHER DRIVING ROUTES:
Getting There from South via Hans Flat Road
From the junction of Highway 95 and Highway 124 in Hanksville, drive north on Highway 124 for approximately 18 miles to the Hans Flat Road on the east side of the Highway, which is between mile markers 135 and 136. If you reach the Goblin Valley State Park turnoff, you have gone too far and need to backtrack a short distance. From the Hans Flat Road between mile markers 135 and 136, follow the roads to any of the trailheads as described above.
From the South, you can also get to the trailheads via Hite and the Maze, but the route is complicated, slow, and rough (4wd always required), though very scenic. Don’t even ask me to describe that route in detail. Buy a map.
Getting There From the North, East, or West and via Green River Road
This route is shorter than the one via the Hans Flat Road, but takes a bit longer because the road is gravel for a much longer distance. From Green River at Center and Main, turn south and follow the road signed for the airport. Stay on the roads signed for the airport until you get to a gravel road on the left with a sign for San Rafael Desert and Horseshoe Canyon.
Turn onto this road. This is known as the Green River Road. Follow the Green River Road south (crossing the San Rafael River at just over 19 miles) for about 39-40 miles to the turnoff for Horseshoe Canyon Trailhead (see above). You can either take the road to this trailhead, or continue along the main road for 5.1 miles to Horseshoe junction where all the other trailheads are reached via the routes described above.
There are several routes to access the East Fork Bluejohn, but this one is probably the best. From Granary Spring Trailhead, follow the Main Fork Bluejohn (a wash at this point) down canyon to a minor drainage on the right (east). Leave the main drainage and climb up to the ridge to the Northeast.
Pay attention to your topo maps closely. It is easy to drop into the wrong fork. Notice the big clearing an open area to the east. Head for the clearing. Once again, make sure to not drop down into the Squeeze Fork by mistake. East Fork Bluejohn is just east of the clearing. Hike down into the drainage and into the first slot section.
There are several obstacles and downclimbs in the slot, some of which can bypassed if you look for a route. From here on down, there are often some pools to wade.
The major obstacle on this route is a 20 foot rappel into a pothole which almost always holds water. There are some (unneeded) bolts here, but they don’t appear to be placed that well. Check the anchor and use another one if necessary. Just after the pothole, you will reach a junction with the Squeeze Fork
. Continue downcanyon through the long, fantastic narrows.
Enjoy the narrows until the canyon turns into a sandy wash. Follow the sandy wash down to the junction with the Main Fork. This is right by where the West Fork enters as well.
There are several exit options for the East Fork. The easiest option will be to hike up canyon past the West Fork and exit via the West E/E Route
. This route is rated class 2 and is an easy scramble.
If you still want some more action, the second option is to exit via the West Fork
. The route has one little pitch at around 5.5 or 5.6, but there is a bypass around this section that is supposed to be only 3rd class.
You can also exit down canyon, through Lower Bluejohn Canyon
A final option is to go all the way down the East Fork and exit the Main Fork
. This is a nice route and requires climbing 5.7 to 5.8 pitches with little exposure.
The first two options will make a pleasant day or 6-10 hours, but shorter if you have a car shuttle (or bike). The last two options will be a very long day, so get a very early start.
Bring a climbing helmet, a rappelling harness, climbing rope (50-100 feet will do), several slings and several rings/ Rapid Links. In wet times you may want to throw a trash bag in your pack just in case, but it’s not worth bringing a dry bag for the one pothole deep enough to get your pack wet.
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