Loading images...

Grand Gulch and The Grand Canyon: May 2006

Grand Gulch was a very different hike than I had ever been on before. We had done many hikes in the southern Utah high dessert but this hike was very different as it had a number of Anasazi cliff dwellings from the time of 1200BC to 1300AD to explore along the route.

The trailhead is in the southern most part of Utah near the towns of Blanding and Mexican Hat. There is a ranger station along RTE 261 where you can get a pass to stay in the back country. And if you want, you can even start your hike from there. But we dumped a car and started at the southern entrance instead.

We began hiking down a small sandy path which quickly gave way to some moderate canyon country. Not too long after, it started to rain! No kidding, rain in the high dessert! And not just a little rain, but a steady cold rain. Luckily we were just about at the first set of ruins and decided to climb up to explore in the nice sheltered area above.

The first ruin required a short climb up some rocks and then a narrow belly crawl through an opening which allowed us to visit the larger inside are of this cliff dwelling. It had a ton of artifacts like pottery bits and even corn cobs. Amazing how this stuff could survive so many years. We climbed down a wooden ladder into an underground part of the shelter which was pretty cool.

After a while the rain subsided and we were able to continue along our route to our first camp near the confluence with Bullet Canyon. We made camp and played a little Settlers. Before too long we were greeted by a group of younger kids camping nearby who were having issues with their stoves. I can’t remember exactly what their issue was, but they had two stoves and neither of them worked. We let them use one of ours for the night for which they were greatly appreciative.

The next day we hiked up Bullet Canyon to the next set of ruins which were way above on a cliff. We climbed up and observed another very nicely preserved site. I have been to many archeological sites from Williamsburg to ancient cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. But the really neat thing is that these dwellings are just sitting there…no tourists, no tours, just sitting there to explore, carefully. Really a neat experience.

Once we were down, we pumped some water at a very nice stream/spring. One thing to watch for in this canyon is that water is not always easy to find. Not that it is hard to find, but you do have to plan your day a bit or you may end up thirsty as we would find on the last day.

A bit further down the trail we came across the best of the dwellings in my opinion called Open Kiva. Clay and Wood buildings still in perfect shape. We weren’t supposed to go very close, but I did make a short trip up to one of them to take a few pictures. I was very careful not to touch anything and leave minimal footprints. The site was very well preserved. I am still a bit baffled at how these sites can be in such good shape considering the number of people who travel these canyons. There must be a group that helps police/maintain them.

We camped nearby and met a unique individual who told us about a ton of other nearby ruins that are much less known to the public and in even better shape. Brad copied down the guy’s email and later got detailed instructions on how to visit some of these more remote sites. Brad visited these other sites the next year and was very impressed.

On the last day we hiked out of Bullet Canyon. This was a fairly long hike especially because it was dry (no water) and we were all running low. I was fairly dehydrated by the time we got up to the cow fence. David Hansen offered me one of his famous apples that he had carried the entire trip and not yet eaten. It was delicious. Best apple I ever had!

Another 30 minutes up the hill and we were out and back at the ranger station. We got some water and headed down 261 to get the other car. Our next stop would be the Grand Canyon!

View Kane Gulch to Cedar Mesa in a larger map

Leave a Reply