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Deep Discoveries

Cedar Mesa

Download the free ViewRanger app and GPS coordinates and explore the canyons and cliff dwellings of Utah’s Cedar Mesa and Grand Gulch.

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Route code: ELEV0035

Wander the miles of canyons and ledges lining southern Utah’s Cedar Mesa and you will take a step back in time. Here you can explore countless ruins, rock art panels and granaries left behind by the ancestral Peublans who inhabited these cliffs and canyons 800 to 2,000 years ago.

You can make this trip in a long day hike, but we recommend spending at least one night along this magical 10-mile route that brings you from Bullet Canyon to Grand Gulch. Be sure to bring a good map, be comfortable navigating through canyons and be ready for a wide range of temperatures. You must obtain day use permits at the trailhead and overnight permits at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. One last note: This place is fragile, as are these ancient ruins. Remain on trails, respect ruins and leave artifacts where you find them.

Bullet Canyon Trailhead

From the parking lot, head west on a well-marked trail that quickly drops down a steep sandstone falls to reach the floor of Bullet Canyon. Shortly after dropping in, look up and notice a masonry tower ruin perched on the canyon rim. Once you’ve reached the bottom of Bullet, follow the gully downstream. Numerous ruins are scattered throughout the right side of the canyon.

Perfect Kiva

After 4.5 miles, Perfect Kiva sits nestled in a large alcove to the right, high above the canyon floor. Climb up to explore, and you’ll find an intact restored kiva, or special structure built for religious ceremonies, with a wood ladder leading down into the earth. Enter respectfully. The alcove houses panels of rock art and many other artifacts including old corn cobs, pottery shards and a grindstone.

Jailhouse Ruin

The incredible Jailhouse Ruin, easily identifiable due to the three large white circles painted on the walls above the ruins, rests perched on the cliffs .25 miles from Perfect Kiva. Walk along the ledge that holds Perfect Kiva, and you’ll find a trail that climbs up to Jail House, named for the ruin’s prominent window covered with bars. To fully access the upper level of the ruin, get on your belly and crawl through a small opening in a rock ledge. Campsites abound in a stand of cottonwoods across the wash from Jailhouse Ruin. Fill up at the nearby Jailhouse Spring.

Grand Gulch Trail Junction

Head down canyon for another two miles to reach Grand Gulch and Bullet Spring, a water source with a few established campsites nearby. From this junction, turn right to head up Grand Gulch. Keep an eye out for ruins along the left ledge, including Wall Ruin, which includes intact structures and a variety of petroglyphs.

Sheik’s Canyon

About a mile later, reach the intersection with Sheik’s Canyon. Head right and enjoy your journey through another narrow chasm enclosed by high, steep sandstone walls dappled with cliffs and ruins.

Green Mask Ruin

Shortly after turning up Shiek, look for an obvious alcove on the left which houses Green Mask Ruins, which consists of multiple structures, some of which are perched on an inaccessible bench. The pictographs in this area are unique and plentiful. Further up canyon—you’ll notice a few granaries and only about .25 miles from the Trailhead, be sure to explore the well-preserved Yellow House Ruins on the left.

Sheik’s Canyon Trailhead

From Yellow House Ruins, follow the dry wash up canyon for .25 miles. If you haven’t parked a car here, it’s an easy road walk back to the Bullet Canyon Trailhead.


Tour FX

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This handy waist pack fits your DSLR and extra lenses. Its clamshell opening ensures you have easy access to your camera—even when you are wearing a backpack.

GravityWorks 4L

©Earl Harper

Water’s hard to come by on this hike, so, when you find a good source, load up. With this system, all you have to do is fill it, hang it, wait a few minutes and, voila, you have four liters of water. $120;

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