Museum in the Rocks
So you’ve probably heard about Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. We’ve written about it here before. It’s the park with all the Native American cliff dwellings, remember? You can walk among the city ruins of the these ancient peoples, soak in the history, and admire the view from the cliff sides. Mesa Verde is very cool and you should definitely check it out. What you might not know, however, is that there are cliff dwelling all across Southern Utah. And one of the very best sites is the Anasazi ruins in Grand Gulch.
Grand Gulch is located in the Cedar Mesa Special Recreation Management Area, which is managed by the BLM. It is a stunningly beautiful canyon with many passages in and out. The whole length of the canyon (52-miles) is dotted with amazing Native American archeological wonders – pottery, petroglyphs, pictographs, and of course, cliff dwellings. As you wander up the canyon, you will see this dwellings high above you. Some of them you will be able to access. And some will leave you scratching your head, wondering how the inhabitants ever managed to get up there.
Worth the Hike
Grand Gulch is super remote. And to us, this is part of the charm of the place. In Mesa Verde, you have to compete with crowds. And all the tours through the dwellings are guided, so you can’t set your own pace. Here in Grand Gulch, you can explore at your leisure, with no one bumping into you.
If you are planning on hiking into Grand Gulch, you need a permit. Register with the BLM in Monticello, the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, or at the Trailhead Visitor Box. That way if you get lost, somebody will come looking for you. (Also, don’t get lost!) Be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions before going on any long desert hike.
The trailhead location can be found here on Google Maps.
The official BLM website for Grand Gulch is here.
It should go without saying that you should be super respectful of the art and artifacts that you find in Grand Gulch. Descendants of the Anasazi people still occasionally visit for ritualistic reasons. So don’t break, collect, or mark anything!