In late April we embarked on a backpacking trip in Cedar Mesa, BLM land in southeastern Utah. We planned to hike from the Kane Gulch ranger station to the Bullet Canyon trailhead in four days. The area is renowned for its concentration of Ancestral Pueblo (previously called Anasazi) ruins and rock art.

We picked up our backpacking permit and got information about current water availability at the Kane Gulch ranger station. Since we were doing a one-way hike, we then drove to the Bullet Canyon trailhead and left our car there, then hitched back to Kane Gulch.

With everything in order, we began our descent into Kane Gulch.

Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail
Dozens of lizards watched us walk past
A massive chunk of rock split off to form this narrow passage.

Slanting rocks and trees on the Kane Gulch Trail
At times the trail took us through Kane Gulch’s rocky creek bed. Cairns (stacks of rocks) showed the way when there was no dirt path.
Chambers twinpod
The ephemeral creek and rock formations in Kane Gulch reminded Anna of hiking in Australia’s Kimberley region.
The canyon grew as we descended deeper into Kane and Grand Gulch. Crow calls echoed off the towering walls.
The creek disappeared underground, then resurfaced, numerous times along our route. Here we walked in the dry creek bed.
Junction Ruin

Junction Ruin marked our destination for the day. The Ancestral Pueblo built homes into the cliff at the junction of Kane Gulch and Grand Gulch. We set up our tent under the cottonwoods just below Junction Ruin. We were living in the same space, walking with equipment on our backs as the Ancestral Pueblo must have done. We gathered water from the same creek and slept in the same canyon as they did between 700 and 2000 years ago.

Seeing ruins in this type of setting was very powerful. We would encounter many more in the days ahead!



  1. Love the cliff dwellers’ ruins! I remember seeing them as a child at Mesa Verde (and again in 2011). They left a profound impression on me.


  2. What a fabulous hike you had! Brings back memories of our time in Utah last summer. The rocks are just so spectacular.


  3. Thank you for posting your pics. I plan to do the same trip April 25, 2017. Any tips? I also have one car and am single.


    1. Our main advice would be to carry a GPS device, or a good GPS app on your phone, plus paper topo maps. And know how to use them! There are no trail markers. Navigation is pretty straightforward since you’re in a canyon, but you don’t want to miss a water source or accidentally go up a side canyon. Advice part 2 is to check with the ranger station (note: very limited hours) regarding the current water supply. Have fun! We really enjoyed our trip.


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