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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Upper Road Canyon, UT

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Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
4.3 of 5 by 4
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,392 feet
Elevation Gain -250 feet
Accumulated Gain 600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9
Interest Ruins, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2019-05-08 AZLOT69
5  2017-10-05 AZWanderingBear
28  2015-04-28 big_load
23  2010-09-05 PaleoRob
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Oct, Apr, Sep → Early
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:00am - 6:31pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Culture Nearby
No road in this canyon
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
Overview: Road Canyon is one of several canyons that drain the eastern side of Cedar Mesa, in southeastern Utah. While neither as long nor as popular as nearby Grand Gulch, Road Canyon is a beautiful slice into Cedar Mesa, peppered with ruins and rock art.

Warning: Be aware of flash flood danger while in Road Canyon - there are plenty of benches to avoid a flow, but the main exit/entry route into the canyon itself is down a canyon bottom, so floods may make travel impossible.

Hike: The hike starts at the unremarkable Road Canyon trailhead, just past the Lime Canyon turnoff. There are plenty of parking spaces and a few campsites near the trail. The trail is signed at the parking area, and for the .14 miles the trail winds through the pinon-juniper woodland. While it is unseen, the trail is paralleling a drainage to the southeast. Soon the drainage appears to your and the rim of a Road Canyon tributary splits the forest. Follow the rim (and occasional cairn) to the switchbacks that lead down 120 feet to the floor of the side canyon. This side canyon is chock-full of boulders, so route finding can be somewhat irritating (though never difficult). The side canyon opens up after the boulders, and you'll be walking on slickrock until just above the junction with Road Canyon. Here you'll encounter another series of boulders.

After reaching the main stem of Road Canyon, bear right. This junction is approximately .8 miles from the trailhead. Keep your eyes peeled for rock art and ruins. The trail is indistinct in this stretch of Road Canyon, and often times walking on benches above the wash will be the best option. There is one minor pourover that can be easily skirted on either side, but canyon-left is the easiest. Interesting rock formations appear along the rims, including spires and hoodoos. Ruins are very prolific in this canyon - some can be easily reached, others require scrambling and serious route finding along narrow ledges. Others remains totally inaccessible. While longer hikes down Road Canyon are also popular, most people stop and turn around about 3 miles in from the trailhead - the full descent of Road Canyon will be written up as a separate hike.

Water Sources: Ephemeral pools. Potholes below pouroffs will usually have some water after floods. The canyon has a running stream in the spring. Treat all water.

Camping: Camping at and near the trailhead possible and popular. There are many good campsites within Road Canyon as well for backpackers.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-09-06 PaleoRob
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Upper Road Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Craig Child's House of Rain, a summer read, had awakened a desire to visit more remote Ancestral Puebloan sites. While not difficult to reach and hardly classified as a seldom seen site, I dropped into Road Canyon with a vague idea of where I wanted to hike. The canyon floor was lush, flowered, cottonwoods turning golden, mud around water filled potholes showing impressive collections of animal tracks.

    Rounding a bend I looked up and thought, yeah, there’s where I’d be. Visually scouted a route up and began the brief climb. Fallen Roof, so small but so adorably photogenic with its overhanging kaleidoscope of exposed fractured sandstone layers. I took a few photographs even though the light was poor and this site has seen world class lenses aplenty.

    But then as I am want to do in the presence of ancients, I sat out on the edge of the cliff thinking of life here. The variety of plants and animals available from the pinion cedar forested mesa above the canyon rim to the varied and verdant riparian growth in the canyon floor, water to grow the corn in small patches along the canyon, all made this an ideal place. Echoing voices of women grinding corn, cooking, weaving, making pottery, children at play, men working the fields or returning from a hunt, the greased smoke smell of a cook fire, these were not hard to imagine.
    Upper Road Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After my visit this Spring, I thought Mrs. big_load would enjoy this one. A few months made a lot of difference, though. There were a couple inches of snow on frozen Cigarette Springs road, which added some uncertainty to the ride out the TH. Would we get stuck on one of the hills? How much worse would it be after the sun worked on it for a few hours?

    We reached the trailhead and headed down under a clear blue sky and quickly got into the main canyon. That's when it got interesting. The trail was now punctuated with more than a dozen large, frozen waterfalls. The going was very slow as we found our away around each slippery spot, sometimes by squeezing through the brush. It was a great relief to get down to the bottom and over to the slick rock again.

    As we scrambled up to the shelf, I unfortunately discovered that Mrs. big_load was too uncomfortable with the exposure to continue. I found a better way for her to get up, but she balked at the last 20 feet up to the ruin, and while she could view it well from below, she was unable to continue on to the other ruins farther along the shelf. I didn't feel too bad, since she still enjoyed the hike. Besides, it was really warming up and I was worried about the road. We scampered up about as fast as we could and quickly reached the car. Conditions on the last few hundred yards of trail were not encouraging.

    I had expected the fluffy snow and nice, hard road to become a couple inches of slush and an inch of liquid mud lubricating a thicker layer of frozen mud below. That is about what happened. Fortunately, the mud wasn't too liquid. There was enough grip to get up the hills and the really mushy spots were in places we could coast through.
    We cheered upon finally reaching the register box and the big road.

    On our way out, we came upon a truck broken down in the middle of the highway. It had been towing a trailer laden with newly-gathered wood when the transmission failed. Some of the family stayed with it while we gave the driver a ride down to Halchita to get a Jeep. We had a nice talk on along the way, and discovered that we had been within a hundred feet of each other when a truck overturned by the bridge earlier in the year. They planned to disconnect the trailer, tow the truck to the top of the Dugway, coast it down to the bottom, and tow it back to town. I'm sure it was a long and trying day for them.

    We finished the day with beef stew and frybread at the Olde Bridge Grill.
    Upper Road Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Returning from Moonhouse, I was ready for more. I had scouted Cigarette Springs Road earlier for rental car access, so I made a beeline for my pre-selected parking spot and campsite near the Upper Road Canyon TH. It didn't seem much like backpacking, but it sure is convenient to camp right out of the car.

    I loafed all afternoon, watching the sun march traverse the sky from the canyon rim. That night, I couldn't stay awake long enough to read any of my book, but I was ready to go at sunrise.

    I didn't know what to expect apart from the Fallen Roof ruin, so I enjoyed the other surprises in the upper canyon. Returning by 11:00 am, I had plenty of time for the next leg, a brief jaunt further down ...

    (Photos now in. By the way, there were plenty of Claret Cups I didn't photograph.

    Permit $$
    The phone number for the permit desk is 435 587 1510. Day hiking permits are $2.00 per person per day. A seven day use permit is available for $5.00 per person. An annual day hiking permit is available for $20.00.

    When paying for your permit at the Kane Gulch contact station, please pay by check or credit card (not cash).

    Groups of 8 to 12 must reserve a permit in advance through the Monticello Field Office. DO NOT show up at the trailhead, the contact station or the Monticello Field Office with a group of 8 or more and expect to get a permit.

    Cost - There is an $8.00 per person (per trip, not per night) fee for overnight use of all of the Cedar Mesa canyons from March 1 - June15 and from Sept 1 - Oct 31.

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Blanding, drive west on UT95. At the junction of 95/261, turn left onto UT261. From UT 261, take the signed Cigarette Springs road for 3.5 miles to the unsigned junction on the north side of the road, just past the unsigned Lime Creek Road. Between the Lime Creek road and the turnoff for Road Canyon, there is a BLM sign stating that you are entering the Road Canyon WSA, and vehicle travel is restricted to established roads. When you see this sign, be prepared to turn.
    page created by PaleoRob on Sep 06 2010 7:53 pm
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