oil paintings and photography by Amber Honour

Negro Bill Canyon

Negro Bill Canyon


The hike up Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Arch in Moab is a really beautiful 4 mile round trip hike. The trailhead recently got a name change to Grandstaff Trailhead, but the canyon itself is still named Negro Bill Canyon. I read somewhere that a name change for the canyon is currently being petitioned.



There was an uproar in the community about the name change. Many argued that changing the name would erase history. To make up for it, a shiny new plaque at the trailhead contains the story of Mr. Grandstaff and his short stint in Moab. After the name change, someone took it upon themselves to actually steal the new sign. Which has since been replaced with another new sign. Possibly with the bolts glued on for good measure since it hasn’t gone missing a second time. There was a reward for the return of the sign, but my bet is it went directly into the river after removal.



I think the whole debacle was dumb. The real issue is the crowds of people now constantly in the canyon. It used to be that you could hike the trail and maybe only see a handful of people. Now, you run into people the entire length of the trail. You hear them, see them, and see the garbage they leave behind. Like with so many things, it was better before everyone knew about it. I feel really bad for people coming to vacation in Moab these days. Everywhere is so crowded now that the experience has been compromised.



National Parks across the country are struggling with overcrowding. Several parks, Arches included, have discussed limiting the number of people allowed in the park each day. I actually really like this idea until I think about the unintended consequences. If fewer people are allowed into the parks, then they’re going to spill out into the surrounding areas. I feel like Moab has gotten a taste of this impact. This year Arches National Park closed nightly at 7pm for road construction and actively redirected tourists to other trails and destinations around the Moab area. That has resulted in nearby trails overflowing with people, including the Grandstaff Trailhead.


2 thoughts on “Negro Bill Canyon”

  • Astonishing photos – you live in a beautiful part of the world Amber. Wilderness areas and conservation of National Parks and wildlife is a part of life here in Tasmania. Our most popular hikes are limited to a certain number on the track at any one time and you need to book and pay for them. The resulting ‘spread’ has been managed by ensuring good quality facilities and trails, with hefty fines for littering – so visitors have more incentive to keep things clean. I guess our advantage is many trails are quite hard to reach, so tourists don’t just stumble upon them. Being an island, our visitor numbers are reduced too I’m guessing. There’s never an easy answer to these things though, is there??

    • Thank you, it is a beautiful area. It sounds like Tasmania has a good method for dealing with tourism. There isn’t much rhyme or reason here except more, more, more. It’s a bit overwhelming. Most trails here are very accessible, which doesn’t help. I really liked living in Alaska because everything was so hard to get to and people were afraid of the wildlife so you mostly had trails to yourself. I think it made it harder coming back to a more popular area. I’m not sure what the answer will be, but something has to change.

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