"This 1,800-foot precipice marks the eastern terminus of the land Behind the Rocks, where Arches meets Canyonlands. In the words of local author Fran Barnes the area concentrates the geological and cultural features of Arches and Needles within a '50-square-mile labyrinth of slickrock, fins, domes, arches, giant caverns, sand dunes, deeply cut canyons and lofty rimlands.' Roughly 25,000 acres of Navajo sandstone fins rise just beyond the wall that marks the Moab Rim, sheltering narrow, secret gardens that can only be explored on foot.
"Past Pritchett Canyon this unearthly landscape gives way to a region of contorted domes, ledges and small canyons that shed away to the deep chasms of Hunters and Kane Springs canyons. These 400- to 1,000-foot deep, sheer-walled canyons expose perennial springs at the bottom of the Kayenta Formation, dripping seeps and hanging gardens that feed into year-round streams and riparian areas.
"Hidden within this labyrinth of strange and beautiful erosional forms is a concentration of arches similar to that of Arches National Park. Otto Arch, Balcony Arch and Picture Frame Arch are among the 20 major, named rock spans. An additional 20 remain unnamed, and more are discovered every few years. As in Arches, most of the spans have formed in the Navajo and Entrada sandstones. The area is so rugged that one of the largest known arches was not discovered until 1970. Pritchett Arch is perhaps the best known of the rock spans in Behind the Rocks. Resembling Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon, this 100-foot-wide, 700-foot-high span was pictured in the February 1910 issue of National Geographic.
"Behind the Rocks was inhabited extensively by the ancient Anasazi and Fremont peoples; evidence suggests that the two cultures overlapped here. Intrepid explorers will discover numerous petroglyph panels, habitation caves, chert-knapping middens (similar to those found in Canyonlands' Indian and Salt creeks) and stone ruins such as the "Indian Fortress," which covers five acres and includes fine rock art and historical inscriptions.
"Scattered amidst the fins and domes are pinyon-juniper forest and brush-dominated parks. The landscape harbors mule deer, coyote, bobcat, cottontail, chukar, cougar and desert bighorn sheep; the cliff faces provide nesting habitat for raptors: red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, prairie falcon, kestrel, and the occasional visiting golden eagle ride the high thermals. Peregrine falcons nest in Hunters Canyon.
"Behind the Rocks offers outstanding hiking, rock climbing and bouldering opportunities. The popularity of the area is increasing, especially among solitude-seeking Moabites."
Simple exploratory forays and day hikes are the best option here; backpacking is difficult because of a lack of reliable water sources. The quiet, private stone corridors between the fins are a delight to explore and offer a close look at unique erosional forms. Because there are no established trails within Behind the Rocks, there is a strong sense of exploration as you slip deeper and deeper into its tangled warren of knobs, domes and fins. A person with the time and the means could spend weeks in Behind the Rocks exploring new routes amid real solitude.
"But the very features that make Behind the Rocks so wild and beautiful make it a dangerous place for the unprepared. It's remarkably easy to get swallowed up and lost within the mazes of narrow corridors. Fin canyons often end in pour-offs that require ropework to proceed, and the topography of the land is rough and unforgiving."