November 8, 2012

On the Outlaw Trail

On a trip to southern Utah last week, we had some great riding in the San Rafael desert west of Canyonlands National Park. 
We parked off the Hans Flat Road and went north, dropping down into Trail Spring Canyon and eventually into the main part of Horseshoe Canyon. 
We followed one of the many "outlaw trails" used by rustlers and robbers in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  The remote, rugged terrain tended to discourage lawmen.
Some of the trail is hard to follow and/or downright gnarly. 
We found a couple of small springs, lifeblood to the dry canyons.
Daisy thought the water was fine for a dip. 
But any stagnant pool was equally fine.
Steve saw a giant sand dune and imagined himself as Lawrence "Stevie" of Arabia. 
Above shows the location of the outlaw Matt Warner's camp.  Matt did some cattle rustling in Utah in the late 1800's, and hung out with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch for awhile, participating in various robberies. All that remains of the camp are a pile of rusted tin cans on a sandstone shelf. The sight was well chosen with a view of the only approach via Horseshoe Canyon. 
  Matt never went to jail for theft, but he got in major trouble over a shootout with a couple of fellows. Matt was the better shot.  Two men died, and Matt was arrested for murder in Vernal, Utah.  Butch Cassidy (of the Wild Bunch) heard his old friend Matt was in trouble.  He and the gang robbed a bank to provide Matt with money for an attorney.  Matt got 5 years in the Utah State Penitentiary for manslaughter.  After serving his time, he moved to Price, Utah, where he was elected justice of the peace and became a deputy sheriff.  As an older man, he gave up his wild ways except for a little whiskey making and bootlegging.  He wrote a book about his exploits, even drawing a crude map to show where he'd hidden out in the San Rafael desert when things got too hot in the more law-abiding areas.  Matt died of natural causes at age 74.
We rode about 23 miles on the Outlaw Trail, over rough country and through some deep sand in the creek bottoms.  We abstained from robbing any banks and kept the cattle rustling to a minimum.
Back at the trailer, the horses made themselves at home on a high line.  As usual, Boss wanted what Mischief was having.  Hay cubes and oats were plentiful for both. 


  1. Wonderful. Enjoyed reading the story about Matt Warner. I did a post awhile back about the Dalton brothers of Coffeyville Kansas. Bob Dalton went the other way than Matt. He was a deputy marshall first then turned to bank robber. He never got paid for being marshall so what's a feller to do?

  2. Outlay trail has quite a unique history and does not look easy to navigate.
    Love the pics of you, Steve, Daisy and your trusty steads.
    Happy trail, Janie.

  3. The sand dune looks completely out of place. The second photo almost looks like a fake movie set. :) Enjoy your rides.

  4. I always love seeing the countryside that you see on horseback. You go to many places that I am unlikely to see except in photos. I must say this post does have areas that I can easily imagine outlaws hanging out in. :)

  5. I'm glad the Outlaw Trail wasn't too desolate or rugged for you to travel. I'm also glad no crimes were committed on your trek. The dune Steve found is fascinating, as was the history of the outlaw turned lawman.

  6. Certainly looks like cowboy country.

  7. That country does look rugged. I don't know how you find your way through those canyons and rifts. You covered some mileage while you were there! Send some snow my way if you get any in the next few days!

  8. Oh it's so good to see you again, Janie. I LOVE "Stevie" of Arabia on his large dune! And wow, what a man that Matt was. You have shown me real cowboy territory for the first time ever. And of course, I love Daisy in the water pools and the darling horses "sharing" their line and food. Blessings Jo

  9. The gorgeous scenery never ends there! I'm glad Daisy found a swimming hole. ;-) That's quite a sand dune. Must have some strong winds in that area at times. Enjoyed the history about Matt Warner.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my Thursday Challenge post.

    ~ Lindy

  10. glad to hear that no crimes were committed, although if there had been I doubt there was anybody around to notice. I live just down the street from the Matt Warner Home in Price. It houses a copy center currently.

  11. It must have been fascinating to explore the Outlaw Trail, considering its history and all. The ruggedly beautiful scenery does like a movie set.

  12. Wonderful scenery and great photos Janie. I really enjoyed the story of Matt Warner.

  13. The San Rafael Swell is a favorite riding spot of mine, as well. Have you ever seen the wild donkeys out there? So cute...

  14. I enjoyed the history lesson as well as the views!
    So glad there was no robbery going on with you guys, you're too cute for jail. I laughed at Stevie of Arabia; funny!

  15. my imagination always runs amok when I'm in wild places like these. I am so glad you take us on these lovely rides - don't stop!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  16. What an adventure. I guess those trail might qualify as "Rough Rides." Enjoyed the outlaw tale. I think lots of people went back and forth on the line between outlaw and good citizen way back when.

  17. Very interesting area, Janie... Someone should make a movie (maybe they have) about the life of Matt Warner... What a colorful character...


  18. Brothers -- they always want their own and what their brother has too.

    Beautiful country and so much history!

  19. Hi Janie & Steve,

    A neat site - hope my previous 2 messages were captured... best wishes



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