Just being out in nature is usually motivation enough to get me out on a hike, so I know I’d be willing to traipse around the canyons of southeastern Utah even if there weren’t cool ruins and rock art to be discovered around every bend.
But the possibility of discovering signs of the folks who lived here a thousand years ago pushes the hiking on Cedar Mesa to new heights.
Grand Gulch Primitive Area is chock-full of incredible ruins and art, and is stunningly beautiful as well. I’ve written earlier about my adventure of not falling into the canyon , and I’ll write a bit more about Grand Gulch in my next post.
Moon House Ruins is in one of the many other canyons that cut across Cedar Mesa: McLoyd Canyon. Moon House is one of the most interesting ruins on Cedar Mesa: the ruin is remarkably intact, with beautiful artistic details, and is one of the only ones I’ve seen that includes a sort of enclosed hallway in front of the living quarters.
It’s a fairly rough drive down Snowflat Road to the trailhead, and the hike into the canyon is fairly steep, although it’s not long - just about three miles. There is one difficult-ish spot where you need to climb down a little – not much, but I think I might have had a hard time getting back up over that little downclimb without a helping hand. But then again, I’m old. (Important note: the BLM has started requiring a permit to hike to Moon House, and they limit the number of people to 20 a day.)
The ruin complex is situated near a large hoodoo-like rock formation. These rocks feel spiritual to me, so it wouldn’t surprise me for the Anasazi to have the same reaction.
Since you can see the ruins once you reach the canyon, there’s not much chance of getting lost on the way in, although people do seem to have a proclivity for setting up misleading cairns that seem to lead nowhere. We did, however, have some difficulty finding the trail back across the mesa-top on the way out…I think we were just not paying attention, and wandered too far along the canyon rim, but it took us some backtracking to find the trail. Not life-threatening by any means, but it was kind of a pain!
You can see the whole complex from across the canyon.
It’s impressive from afar, but once you get closer, you can see the details of the craftsmanship and the artwork. Sit there quietly and you can hear the mothers calling to each other, the children playing, men planning a hunting trip…it’s a ghostly and moving spot.
There is a lot to explore in McLoyd Canyon. Just a few hundred yards up canyon there are more ruins, including some with interesting “horsecollar” doorways.
Continue a bit further up canyon, and you reach a lovely oasis-like spring that is a perfect spot for a break if you visit on a hot day: