Negro Bill Canyon is the kind of hike you could do everytime you go to Moab and not be bored. The trail follows a small active streambed for the first 2 miles until the trail branches, follow the sign directing you to the right uphill towards Morning Glory Arch half a mile from the streambed. Do not turn right until you see the sign, there is a side canyon to your right about a mile into the hike.
What Makes It Great
There is an oasis feel in the canyon with Cottonwood and Willow Trees growing in the canyon of Navajo Rock. On a hot day, wetting your shoes in one of the many stream crossings feels fantastic. As a run or a hike, this trail never gets old. The active stream allows more plants to grow than on dryer hikes, a treat in the desert.
The canyon was cut out of Navajo Rock over time. It is part of the Colorado River Watershed. Negro Bill Canyon was named after William Granstaff, a mixed-race cowboy who prospected and ran cattle in this area until he fled in 1881 after he was charged with bootlegging whiskey. There is much controversy over the name of this canyon and petitions over the years to change the name to Grandstaff (this is spelled differently - that is accurate) Canyon, others argue that this would remove a piece of history.
If you want to expand your hike or run, after you visit Morning Glory Arch, go back to the streambed and continue upstream until you feel like turning around. Until the turn off for Morning Glory Arch, this is mostly a flat trail until the last half a mile up to the arch.
According to the BLM, Morning Glory Arch is the sixth largest natural rock span in the United States spanning 243 feet. Be on the look out for poison ivy that grows under the arch near the pool of water that forms from water seeping out of the rock. In the summer, this is a nice place for a picnic on a hot day.
In the summer months, it stays relatively cooler as the steep walls of the canyon provide shade. Plan to bring sufficient water for your hike as there is no water at the trailhead and water gathered in the stream should be treated.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a doable trail for anyone who can hike 5 miles. It is flat, has water to play in, more plants and trees than most of the water barren hikes of the desert. It is a great trail for families with children. For runners, it is the perfect 5 mile run after climbing or doing other activities. In the hotter months, it is still possible to do this hike in the mornings and evenings as the canyon walls provide shade.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Moab, head north a mile and take a right on River Road, route 128. Go three miles, the trailhead will be on your left and is well signed. There is parking at the trailhead or just past it on the left. If you want a little extra workout or just want there to be one less car on the road, you can bike the four mile on a paved path from town. This is BLM land and there is no fee for use.
It is BLM land, thus, dogs are allowed. With the active stream there is poison ivy what you may want to keep your dog out of so it doesn’t spread to you. Also, be careful to keep your dog out of the plentiful supply of cactus along the trail.