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Cedar Mesa and Grand Gulch- Canyon Hiking and Backpacking, Ruins and Rock Art

Below are links to summaries of just a few of the hundreds of hiking and backpacking options available in Grand Gulch and on Cedar Mesa. If you are interested in exploring the area, I highly recommend purchasing the Trails Illustrated Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa Map. It covers all of grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa and is an excellent planning map. Michael Kelsey's Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau, 6th Edition, is a great guide to the entire Colorado Plateau and has a good overview of some of the more popular hikes on Grand Gulch. For more recommendations on guidebooks and maps visit out Guidebooks page.

Step Canyon Dayhike
Slickhorn Canyon One to Slickhorn Canyon Two Dayhike
Slickhorn Canyon Three to Slickhorn Canyon Four Dayhike
Upper Grand Gulch- Highway 95 to Kane Gulch
Dripping Canyon to the San Juan River
Lookout Canyon Dayhike Loop
John's Canyon offroad drive
Lookout Canyon to Slickhorn Canyon Backpack Loop
Road Canyon Backpack Loop
Fish and Owl Backpack Loop
Lime Creek Canyon Backpack Loop
Toadie Canyon to Bullet Canyon Backpack Loop
Kane Gulch Ranger Station to Junction Ruin, Turkey Pen Ruin and Back
Kane Gulch Ranger Station to Toadie Canyon Loop
Green House Canyon, Grand Gulch, Pine Canyon, Step Canyon Backpack Loop
Coyote Canyon to Shiek's Canyon Dayhike Loop
Polly's Canyon Dayhikes
McLoyds Canyon and Moonhouse Ruin

Hiking in Grand Gulch and on Cedar Mesa

Cedar Mesa, which includes Grand Gulch Primitive Area, is one of my favorite locations in all of Utah. The backpacking possibilities in Grand Gulch alone demand weeks and weeks, even months, of exploration. I have now hiked from Highway 95 to the San Juan river, and up every side canyon- of course it took me 10 years of visiting to do it. The ruins to be visited are virtually endless- each time I revisit a canyon I find new dwellings, new granaries and new rock art panels I had walked right by on previous trips. Cedar Mesa offers some of the best preserved ruins as well, with an occupation span from Basketmaker, perhaps even late archaic, through Pueblo III.

The truely pen at trukey pen ruin, grand gulch, utah
  The "turkey pen" at Turkey Pen Ruin, Grand Gulch.

When planning a trip to Cedar Mesa, try to arrive when the Kane Gulch Ranger Station is open, usually between 0800 and 1200, Monday through Saturday. They are open later during the summer months, and sometimes on Sundays, depending on the availability of volunteers.

You can get questions answered, buy maps, and obtain a backcountry permit from them. You can purchase day use permits outside the ranger station or at various trailheads around Cedar Mesa- it helps to carry small bills, or a checkbook with you in case they are closed. But I think they do take credit cards at the visitor's center now. The cost for day use was recently still two dollars per day, or five dollars for a 7 day permit. You can purchase backcountry permits from these locations only during the off-season- 16 June through 31 August, and 01 November through 28 February. Otherwise you must obtain your permit from the ranger station.

Be aware that there during peak season times- spring break for example- the area can be absolutely full of hikers. If you are looking for solitude and quiet, plan on visiting during July for example, when it is 100 degrees- you may not see another person.

bear tracks in road canyon This area is covered by the Trails Illustrated map number 706, "Grand Gulch Plateau " (see link at top pf page). This waterproof, tearproof map is good for planning purposes. In the canyons I carry the appropriate 1:24,000, or 7.5 minute series mapsheets of the area. The ranger station usually has all of the 1:24,000 mapsheets of the area available for sale.

There are many guidebooks available specifically for Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa. If you are planning to hike here and also in other areas of the Four Corners and the Colorado Plateau, start with Michael Kelsey's Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau, 6th Edition

Bear tracks in the canyon bottom, Road Canyon.

For more detailed, and possibly up-to-date information take a look at the BLM's Cedar Mesa webpage.

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