Grand Gulch: Kane Gulch to Todie Canyon Loop

Explore off-trail to canyons brimming with ancient ruins.
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Explore off-trail to canyons brimming with ancient ruins.

Leave a stream-braided plateau for a hike through varnished canyon walls, then tour the ruins of ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings on this 13.3-miler on Cedar Mesa. Cross UT 261 from the trailhead 10 miles south of Natural Bridge National Monument’s visitor center (where you should get a day’s worth of water), and head southwest. Thread between two colossal black boulders at mile .8, then enter the rock fortress of Kane Gulch.

At the intersection of Kane and Grand Gulches, the trail drops 600 feet to a shrubby island. Cross it and take the use trail to Junction Ruin, a thousand-year-old Puebloan dwelling nestled in an alcove. See oblong windows chiseled into the canyon wall, and tour a kiva (a sunken, circular space). Continue .7 mile through scrub brush and high grass to Turkey Pen Ruin , which opens onto views of slickrock pourovers that gush waterfalls after a rain. Follow the trail beneath the embankment and down along the streambed to 20-foot-wide Stimper Arch. In 1.9 miles, reach Todie Canyon, an overgrown gully on the left. Pitch camp here on the canyon’s north side before entering Todie. 

Next day, it’s two miles of difficult scrambling and routefinding; you’ll weave along streambeds, over washes, and past house-size boulders. At 7.8 miles, cairns on trail-right mark a path along a sandstone cliff. Scramble up flat rocks to a steep pourover with a climbable overhang. Use your hands for balance against the steep incline (tip: remove packs and pass them for easier scrambling).

Follow cairns up a steep drainage (flows during rain) and continue scrambling south, gaining 300 feet to the 6,400-foot mesa rim at mile 7.9 and a view of square-top Navajo Mountain. Head east .6 mile over slickrock to the Todie Canyon trailhead. Grab your shuttle here, or hike 1.2 miles to the end of jeep road #236A, then turn left and road-walk 3.6 miles to Kane Gulch Ranger Station. 

Maps: Trails Illustrated Grand Gulch Plateau ($12, natgeomaps.com)

Permits: Overnight permits, $8. Reserve 90 days ahead. (435) 587-1500; blm.gov

Gear up: Camping and Cowboy Gear, 1420 North Main Street, Blanding, UT; (435) 678-2662; campingandcowboygear.com

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 21.4

Waypoints

Natural Bridges NM Visitor Center

Location: 37.60665, -109.976417

The only place you can get water, without a filter, for 30 miles. Batteries are for sale as well.

KGT001

Location: 37.524556, -109.896195

From the trailhead, cross UT 261 and head southwest.

KGT002

Location: 37.519695, -109.905569

At mile .8, pass between large black boulders before entering the rock fortress of Kane Gulch.

KGT003

Location: 37.511835, -109.9381

Intersection of Kane Gulch and Grand Gulch.

KGT004

Location: 37.512402, -109.937979

Arrive at Junction Ruin, a thousand-year-old dwelling nestled in an alcove, via a use trail.

KGT005

Location: 37.509821, -109.944589

After .7 mile, reach Turkey Pen Ruin, which opens onto views of slickrock pourovers (watch for waterfalls after a rain).

KGT006

Location: 37.507478, -109.94564

After following the trail along the streambed, you'll get to the 20-foot-wide Stimper Arch. Continue south.

KGT007

Location: 37.488974, -109.957857

Entrance to Todie Canyon. Pitch camp along Grand Gulch's northern wall before entering Todie.

KGT008

Location: 37.486832, -109.935977

Scan trail-right for a cairn that leads up a cliff to the canyon rim. Caution: the incline is steep - remove packs and use your hands for balance to help with scrambling.

KGT009

Location: 37.486255, -109.937026

Gain 300 feet to reach the mesa's 6,400-foot-elevation rim and a view of Navajo Mountain.

KGT010

Location: 37.48179, -109.928697

Todie Canyon trailhead. Pick up your shuttle here, or continue 1.2 miles to the end of Jeep Road #236A, then turn left and road-walk 3.6 miles back to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station.