I see a bad moon rising...
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.
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.
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