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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.

Moonhouse, UT

339 9 2
Guide 9 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
4.6 of 5 by 5
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 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,806 feet
Elevation Gain -297 feet
Accumulated Gain 410 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.35
Interest Ruins & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Connecting Only
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
14  2018-11-06 Johnnie
35  2018-04-10
Nine Days - Cedar Mesa Comb Ridge (Part 1)
95  2016-05-23
Moon House Ruins - Cedar Mesa
11  2016-05-08 AZLOT69
63  2015-04-26 big_load
22  2012-06-20 MtnBart01
25  2012-06-20
Keet Seel etc
25  2008-05-17
Cedar Mesa
Page 1,  2
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, Sep, Oct, Apr → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:07am - 6:16pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Culture Nearby
I see a bad moon rising...
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
Overview: Moonhouse is one of the most spectacular of the cliff dwellings of the ancient Anasazi people located in the southwest. While not the largest, its interior paintings and stunning setting make it one of the favorite locations for outdoor mavens and Anasazi-lovers in the Cedar Mesa backcountry. Recently the BLM has changed the access regulations for Moonhouse and McCloyd Canyon, which allows me to write this with a clear conscience.

Warning: The drop into McCloyd Canyon from the rim is steep and treacherous. It requires slickrock traversing skills and the ability to get up and down pourovers. The same applies to the climb back up to the ruin on the north side of the canyon. As with any southwestern canyon, do not enter when there is a possibility of rain. Flash floods can turn a dry canyon bottom into a raging, cliff-to-cliff torrent.

History: Some 800 years ago or so, the residents of what is now called McCloyd Canyon came together to build a complex of what would be a habitation area, storage area, and ceremonial center. Buildings were constructed, tucked up underneath the sandstone cliff ledges. Studies of the area show that McCloyd Canyon has a higher concentration of ceremonial structures like kivas than the rest of the canyon system. It indicates that the ancient residents viewed Moonhouse as a religious center and not just any other residence.

Inside Moonhouse's walls reside some of the most interesting Pre-Columbian structural paintings in the New World. They appear to show the changing phases of the moon as it goes through one complete cycle.

Hike: The hike starts at the old drill pad on the south side of Snow Flat Road. Cross Snow Flat Road and follow the old mining/logging road to the north. This road meanders easily through the pinon-juniper forest for a bit over a mile before coming to the rim of McCloyd Canyon. This point provides you with the first view of Moonhouse across the canyon. There is an embayment on the south side of McCloyd Canyon, near where you first hit the rim. There are usually cairns there - this is your route down. The slope is steep so be sure of your footing and your footwear. Part of the way down the slope there is a pourover of about four feet. There is usually a pile of rocks at the base of the pourover so it is easy to get down, but be aware that it may not be present.

After climbing down the pourover, proceed to the bottom of the canyon and head upcanyon about 50 yard. On the north side of the canyon, a foot trail branches off and rises up the cliff to the ruins. The first glimpse of Moonhouse is amazing. Take your time to explore the center set of ruins before exploring up and down canyon for further remains. Please respect the BLM signs that have been erected asking you not to enter into any of the rooms - though at the last visit I made, you were still able to get behind the facade wall. Once you have finished exploring, return to your vehicle by the same route which you came in on.

Water Sources: Creek is occasionally flowing, but bring all you need.

Camping: Not allowed except at the Snow Flat Road trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2011-01-12 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
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    When I applied for the permit, I told the rangers I couldn't get my rental car close enough to do this as a dayhike and asked how I could do it within regulations as a backpack. They said I could camp on the Mesa (above the rim) at any established site, of which there weren't many.

    On Saturday afternoon, I tested how far I could get the car, which was only a couple miles in from the highway. After a late breakfast and some more recon the next day, I stashed the car before the first bad section of road and started started hoofing it under cloudy skies, light drizzle, plummeting temps and steady rain, sleet and snow, then blazing sun. There were only a few well-used camping spots on the way, and none very close, so I went all the way to the rim. Everything in the area was marked "no camping", so I slogged back 1.5 miles to well-used site a few hundred yards south of the drill pad (old parking area).

    I got up at dawn and rushed back to the canyon to beat the crowds. The ruin itself was everything I expected and more, with several more sites up-canyon and down, which I explored most thoroughly. I'm fairly certain I found at least one viable route in from the North Rim. That might have been quite convenient 700 years ago, but not so much today.

    I spent a little more time going back and forth to compare building techniques between the ruins. After a little too long soaking it all in, the hordes arrived just as I was ready to leave. The first handful were some (other) wiry old guys, but progress was stalled by two visitors (wearing sandals) who freaked out at the step-down on the slickrock and were too scared to move up or down. Their guide got them down after 20 minutes, and I was back in business. They were part of a large group, of which there were now 15 people at the ruin, so I was glad to have started so early. Although the traffic jam at the step-off tried my patience, it did allow one of wiry old guys to catch up to me earlier on the long road-walk back, and he graciously offered me a bumpy ride back to my car, which I shamelessly accepted.

    I'm really glad I finally visited Moonhouse, but I wish I had done so before it became viewed as just a quick jaunt from the parking area.

    ETA: The photoset is a little disjointed. I was going back and forth like a crazy man, thinking maybe I missed something, or wanting to get a preview to think about before I took a closer look. I tried to resequence it a bit, but left in some of the manic switching.
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Cedar Mesa
    Day 1 - Comb Ridge, see

    Day 2 - Saturday May 17th - Paul and I got up before sunrise (and 40 degree temperatures - brrr!) to get an early start to launch the paraglider from CR262 near the Fishmouth Cave Ruins trail head. The 4WD road was flat and relatively obstacle free here and the land to the immediate east could serve as an alternate take-off and landing area. It was too early in the morning to stir Mike and Steve (besides, they were on breakfast duty charged with having it ready when we returned from our aerial assault). Take-off one from the roadway was aborted, so we moved onto the bench lands to the immediate east. Take-off two was smooth and the paraglider soared towards Fishmouth Cave. Paul made several circuits towards the west and the precipice of Comb Ridge, but reported that the thermal turbulence was too hazardous to get any closer. The plan was for Paul to complete an initial assessment of crosswinds, turbulence, etc. and then touchdown to pick me up for a tandem ride and to hopefully snap off a few aerial pics. Let's just say it didn't happen because the landing resulted in a cracked carbon fiber propeller. I can report that no human was harmed during the making of these pictures...

    Hike #5 - Butler Wash Ruins (0.83 miles) - After a hearty breakfast courtesy of Mr. Mattes, we broke camp and continued north along CR262 until the junction with Hwy 95. We had planned this as a rest stop and took advantage of the facilities. We also decided to make the short trek to see the ruins and the natural bridge. Maybe next time will continue further north up the wash to explore the 3 sets of "Ballroom" ruins...

    Hike #6 - Comb Wash Rock Art (0.25 miles) - We passed through the dynamited rock cut allowing Hwy 95 to pierce through Comb Ridge and descend the 500-750 feet into Comb Wash. It was decision time - continue west along Hwy 95 to seek out "House-on-Fire" Ruins within Mule Canyon and the "Cave Towers" Ruins within Cave Towers Canyon? Or push on south along Comb Wash and up onto Cedar Mesa? We chose the latter, sticking to the loose plan of taking advantage of having two 4WD vehicles to explore the more remote ruins. We turned south off of Hwy 95 onto Comb Wash Road (CR235 on topo maps) on the west side of Comb Ridge. Check out p.203 of the 4WD bible "UTAH Backcountry Adventures" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson (I'm sure most of us have their ARIZONA book). The side canyons of Comb Wash are also reported to be riddled with numerous cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and other ancient artifacts. As we continued south along the Sandstone Spine, we could se numerous boulders with flat surfaces covered with desert varnish - essentially an Anasazi canvas for rock art. We stopped to investigate, and yes many of these surfaces contained petroglyphs and pictographs...

    Hike #7 - Moon House Ruins (3.25 miles) - After traveling about 15 miles south on Comb Wash Road (CR235), we came to the unsigned junction with Snow Flat Road (CR237). This is the old Mormon Emigrant Trail (aka "Hole-in-Rock" Trail) connecting Escalante to Bluff. After traveling about ¼ mile along Snow Flat Road, we encountered a BLM Fee Kiosk. Cedar Mesa is a fee area - $2 per person per day. This is also your overnight, trail head camping fee (overnight canyon backpacking requires a special permit). We ascended "The Twist", a series of short switchbacks blasted into the slickrock allowing us to climb onto Cedar Mesa. Much to our surprise, the Jeep thermometer crossed the 100 degree mark - how could this be with the forecast of mid-80's temperatures... We found our 4WD spur leading to the Moon House Ruins trail head. Although we were the only ones there, we decided to scope out the primo camp site and deposited some equipment to declare our intentions. We readied our packs and prepared to locate the ruins. I had a reference photo showing 2 large balanced rocks acting like sentries guarding Moon House Ruins located on a mid-band ledge on the north side of the canyon. As we approached the canyon rim, we could easily pick out the guarding sentries and distinctive ruins lying in the shadows next to them! The Bear's Ears could be seen on the horizon. Cairns guided our route towards a slickrock pour-off with some exposure. This was the toughest section of the hike. Having negotiated the pour-off, the trail follows the canyon ledge at the same level as Moon House Ruins located on the opposite side of the canyon. Once we scrambled down into canyon bottom and back up to the ledge containing the ruins - WOW! Truly an amazing set of ruins... After exploring the outer sets of ruins and granaries to the east along the same ledge, we could see the sun was starting to get low in the sky. Time to head back to our trail head camp and some superb steaks grilled up by Chef Paul!

    Day 2 total mileage = 4.33 miles

    Day 2 campsite at Moon House Ruins trail head...

    Day 3 - see Valley of the Gods

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Mexican Hat, drive north to the junction with UT261. Take 261 to Kane Gulch Ranger Station, 7 miles past the Snow Flat Road turnoff. Obtain a permit for the Moonhouse Recreation Management Zone, and drive south to Snow Flat Road. Turn onto Snow Flat Road (impassable when wet) and drive for just over 8 miles, crossing slickrock and dirt until coming to the drill pad on the right (south) side of the road. You are driving through a bunch of sage, so the drill pad is very obvious - a clearing in the sage with a tree nearby. There is a trail register on the north side of the road, and the old logging road next to it - the location is easy to find.
    page created by PaleoRob on Jan 12 2011 7:44 pm
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