Grand Gulch

From the northern Puebloan ruins to the San Juan River in the south end, the Grand Gulch hides the highest concentration of Native American relics and ruins.

Just a short drive from Bluff is the Grand Gulch: the largest canyon in the Cedar Mesa. The Grand Gulch is nestled between a national monument, the Valley of the Gods, and three state parks. Also known as an outdoor museum, the Grand Gulch features a variety of ruins and rock art is sure to bring any hiker back to the ancient Puebloan times.

A Geological Carving

The canyon is cut from the Colorado Plateau that originated millions of years ago. Streams slowly eroded the sandstone and shale during high water times and slowly created the serpentine canyon that stands today. Now the Grad Gulch drains the most water from the west side of the Cedar Mesa.

Grand Gulch highlights the natural light-colored sandstone that stands up to 1,200 feet high. The area sat below sea level, but drought and a hot climate slowly rid the area of its previously watery surface.

Diminishing Ruins and Art

Somewhere between 800 to 2,000 years ago the Ancestral Puebloan Native Americans lived in this desert area. They made their homes in the cliff faces and created a successful inhabited culture within the canyon. The Puebloan ruins are still standing in the canyon, and rock art images can be seen adorning the cliffs as well. However, the markings and ruins along the cliff walls are slowly being damaged by nature and human traffic throughout the sites.

The Anasazi people who lived in the Grand Gulch area were known as Basketmakers. These descendants of early nomads learned how to cultivate the land, made tools, pottery, and baskets, and used the cliff overhangs surrounding them to create small granaries to store food. Some of the artifacts found within these ruins date back between 200 and 700 A.D.

Petroglyphs and pictographs panels are visible from multiple trails throughout the northern end of the canyon. It is still unknown what the meanings are behind these artifacts. Because of its delicate condition, it is not permitted to take chalk impressions or tracings of the rock art.

Unique Activities

There are a variety of activities individuals can participate in to spend their day. Hiking trails are available throughout the Grand Gulch. The Bureau of Land Management requires hikers and visitors to obtain a permit. Day permits are available at self-pay stations at each trailhead, and the cost is $2 per person per day.  Many of the trailheads are available off the UT 261.

Visitors can also hiking with llamas through local businesses. These private hikes allow hikers to have llamas carry their gear as they get a one-on-one experience with experienced naturalists.

In order to preserve the historic structures, it is prohibited to disturb any of the ruins or remains in the area while hiking. The disturbance of these remains is considered disrespectful by Native Americans because it upsets the birth, life and death stages of the burial cycle.