Henry Mountains | Utah Backcountry Adventure

Henry Mountains


The remote Henry Mountains comprise two million acres of backcountry beauty, with an elevation range from 3,700 feet at the north shore of Lake Powell to over 11,600 feet at Mt. Ellen. This rugged landscape offers an abundance of recreational opportunities such as hiking, off-roading, camping, wildlife viewing, nature studies, photography, and hunting. In fact, the Henry Mountains are home to the only huntable herd of free-roaming bison in America, which can usually be seen on the South Summit Ridge of Mt. Ellen during the summer months.


One thing you’ll rarely see in the Henry Mountains is other people. These extremely isolated public lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) but they do not regularly patrol the area. Be prepared with extra water and a vehicle in good working condition when traveling in this remote region. Aside from Utah state highways, most of the roads in the Henry Mountains are dirt or gravel and may be washed out by heavy summer rains, rockslides or snow. These roads lead to stunning scenic vistas, such as the Blue Hills south of Caineville, Burr Point and Angel’s Point which are excellent viewing spots for the Dirty Devil River canyons. Some of the most popular sightseeing routes are Bull Creek Pass, Stanton Pass and Pennellen Pass. Check with the BLM’s Hanksville office for current road conditions and backcountry permits before heading out. Hanksville, near the junction of SR-24 and 95, is the closest town to the north of the Henry Mountains and makes a great home base for exploring the area.


Any of the three BLM-managed campgrounds in the Henry Mountains are a good place to begin your explorations, such as the popular four-mile trek from the Lonesome Beaver Campground to a ridge on Mt. Ellen. Another popular day hike is the four-mile route from Bull Creek Pass to the summit of Mt. Ellen for stunning vistas of the surrounding mountain peaks and desert valleys. Shorter hikes and nature trails can be found near the Starr Springs Campground. Backcountry hikes include the Little Rockies, the Dirty Devil River canyons, Horseshoe Canyon and South Caineville Mesa. Other notable geologic sights include the Pink Cliffs of the Grand Staircase, the Waterpocket Fold which cuts through the west side of the Henry Mountains for more than 900 miles, and the sphinx-shaped rocks which make up Little Egypt just south of Hanksville.


The Henry Mountains are the closest mountain range east of Capitol Reef National Park. This range consist of (from north to south) Mounts Ellen, Pennell, Hillers, Holmes and Ellsworth. It is the last named and explored mountain range in the continental United States. It is largely unexplored except for miners and a few ranchers who still run cattle on the slopes. A large herd of free range buffalo call the Henry Mountains home. The buffalo were introduced from Yellowstone National Park in 1941. To catch a glimpse of these massive animals take a back country trip on the Bull Creek Pass Scenic Backway.  Information on this route may be obtained from the Wayne County Visitors’ Center in Torrey or the BLM office in Hanksville.  Vegetation zones in the Henrys range from Alpine, along the summit ridges of Mount Ellen, to Warm Desert Shrub at the base of the mountains. Predominant plants are Ponderosa pines, found on the slopes, and pinyon pine, juniper, and gambel oak, rabbitbrush, and greasewood. On the lower elevations sage, dogweed, ephedra, yuccas, and cactus predominate.   Gold mining is open to the public in some areas of the Henry Mountains and deserted uranium shafts and adits dot the landscape. Please show caution in these areas and leave all mining equipment as it is found for others to experience.

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