Grand Gulch, Cedar Mesa, Utah

February.  Time to plan some desert hikes, because right now the trails from my back door are looking a little dicey.  (Dicey: a combination of dumb and icy?)

Grand Gulch Primitive Area, in southeastern Utah, is an ideal spring destination.  Sunny, warm days, water in the springs, and not too many people.   And, Grand Gulch is chock full of Anasazi rock art art and cliff dwellings, so you get the added bonus of the thrill of discovery.

The Collins Canyon trailhead is a pretty easy way to enter the Gulch, although the drive to the trailhead can be rough in places.  It’s a two mile hike down Collins Canyon to the Gulch, and at that point you can go either up or down canyon.  Both routes are spectacular, and in the spring you can usually count on some pretty good water availability.   One April we headed up canyon, and camped near a particularly wonderful ruin called Bannister Ruin:

View of the ruin from our campsite

But, I prefer the route down canyon: even fewer people, and lots of possibilities for exploring.   This route took us first through a cleft in the rock called The Narrows:

Once through the Narrows, we spent a day seeking out the intriguing rock art that is scattered across a fairly large “island” that was left after an old meander in the streambed was cut off.    We found some great art:

a family holding hands?

many hands

And an absolutely idyllic campsite on a ledge, with a pool and a waterfall just 100 yards away:

Still one of my all time favorite spots

The campsite was a perfect base for exploring down the canyon, and up into a few side canyons, as well.  There aren’t too many ruins in this part of Grand Gulch, but the rock art is spectacular.  A few examples:

You can see these guys from quite a distance as you hike down canyon. You can just imagine them waving to Anasazi travellers, or to hunters coming home.

wonder what bozo thought he needed to take a shot at this guy?

To cap off these perfect days in Grand Gulch, we had a glorious view of an approaching thunderstorm as we drove off of Cedar Mesa and toward the little town of Mexican Hat:

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
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12 Responses to Grand Gulch, Cedar Mesa, Utah

  1. Mind Margins says:

    I’ve been in the area of Mexican Hat many times and still have yet to visit Grand Gulch. The rock art is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. ldsiebs says:

    Beautiful! These pictures have inspired me to plan a trip soon, thank you!

  3. Deano says:

    I have barely scratched the surface in Utah, hope to see this place and the wonderful rock art some day. Thanks

  4. Sues says:

    We have done a bit of exploring ourselves in the Bluff area and can’t wait to go back. Dogs are okay here which is important to us and to our 2 year old lab. There were surprising potholes of water up Comb’s Ridge (our lab could get drinks/cool off) and lots of treasures (pictographs) up every canyon. When one lives in MT, it’s so nice to take a winter break in Utah anywhere from Mar-May.

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