UT – Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Gulch in Cedar Mesa

Where to go? Narrowing down the endless possibilities is always a chore. Introducing Nancy aka WhyNot?! to Utah canyon country presented another challenge. Do I take her someplace I’ve previously visited with known WOW factors or do we explore new territory? After a bit of discussion and research, we narrowed our decision to Bears Ears National Monument since it’s at risk of reduction or elimination. We’d just spent a few days with Joan aka Hemlock exploring trails in the Monument near Dark Canyon Wilderness (link to related post). We were both ready for more.

In 2015, I hiked a bit of the Kane Gulch trail and was WOW’d by geology and ruins (link to related post). With this tiny taste I was looking forward to further exploration. The best place to gather current trail, road, and water conditions report is the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Beware it’s open limited hours; however after finding the dreaded closed sign, we were lucky to be welcomed by volunteers. This free trip planner they provided was very informative. 

Collins Canyon Trail

With a long day hike planned, we got an early start. 

The “trail” is a combination of slickrock, sand, and wash hiking with cairns as guides in many places. Decent route finding skills are required. 

Water is challenging to find or access in these canyons. This one was a winner in our book! 

Wet sand tells secrets of who shares the canyon. 

As the sand dries it turns into something akin to chocolate shavings. 

If you step on the drying mud too soon, it’s extremely slippery as I learned when I found myself slimed brown from a fall. This photo also shows how challenging water access can be, as well as water quality in comparison to the pot hole in earlier photo.Nancy showed me the secret of the cochineal (mealybug) which you find under cover of the white mounds on cactus. Yep red dye! Snopes confirms this is used in food products, “natural coloring.”

I was exciting to find flowers, I believe these are Evening Primose

If you want to find ruins or rock art in the canyons you need to keep your head on swivel, makes me feel like a bobble head doll. 

When you spy an artifact and want to explore, you need to find your mountain goat and cat-like skills. Please respect these areas and keep them intact for future generations by not touching any surface, minimizing tread on nearby ground, leaving objects at the site, and not posting locations publicly. Many sites are being targeted by vandals when published on social media. If you feel the need to share photos, please remove GPS coding and be vague about actual location. 

Ask at the ranger station about dispersed camping options. The night skies are magical. 

Bullet Canyon Trail

Another day of route finding; cairns mark the way. Slickrock, sand, washes . . . all mean canyon hiking. 

We visited two well known sites on this date, this one called Perfect Kiva for obvious reasons. 

Jail House Ruin is the other.

This window is said to be the namesake of Jailhouse Ruins

McLoyd Canyon Trail

After two long days of hiking, Nancy and I needed a shorter day. We’d heard about this permitted trail and figured if luck was on our side, we’d win a trip to this WOW destination. The Kane Gulch Ranger Station opens at 8am; we arrived early to be first in line. SUCCESS! So down into another canyon we go. 

We are rewarded with a visit to Moonhouse Ruin

The ruins were named after this room which is supposedly showing the phases of the moon, with the big circle representing the full moon. 

We disturbed this snake, which I believe is a Striped Whipsnake

This was another fun trip exploring Southern Utah. Grand Gulch did not disappoint and needs to be protected.

Hike Details:

  • Collins Canyon – hiked on 10/11/17, about 16 miles round trip
  • Bullet Canyon – hiked on 10/12/17, about 12 miles round trip
  • McLoyd Canyon – hiked on 10/13/17, about 5 miles round trip

Tips:

  • Check weather reports and be aware of flash flooding potential.
  • If you are depending on water, ask ranger for specific details.
  • The Kane Gulch Ranger Station is much more knowledgeable than the one in Monticello
  • Permits are required for day and overnight use, with special permits required in other areas like Moonhouse.

Links:

Resources:

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