Press "Enter" to skip to content

Sand Canyon to Cedar Mesa

Monday, October 3, 2016

Saddlehorn Hamlet
The Saddlehorn Hamlet within the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Even though the weather forecast had predicted a 100% chance of rain for my current location overnight, there were only a few sprinkles that didn’t even manage to get anything wet. I didn’t have any plans for photographing the sunrise this morning, so I woke up when it started to get light out and headed into Cortez for a quick breakfast on my way to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. I have long wanted to hike up Sand Canyon to checkout the ruins there and figured it was finally time to do so before I continued my journey into Utah.

On the way to the trailhead in McElmo Canyon there were some interesting clouds above Sleeping Ute Mountain, so I pulled over to take a quick picture.

Sleeping Ute Clouds

I arrived at the slickrock parking area near Battle Rock and was the first vehicle there for the day. It looked like I would have the trail to myself for a while. I hiked up the canyon and took all the different spurs to overlooks and ruins and then turned around at the switchbacks where the trail climbs up to the Sand Canyon Pueblo. I wouldn’t run into anyone else until I was almost back to the trailhead at the end of my hike. It was a pretty easy hike and the temperature out was nice but just a little windy. There were also plenty of fast-moving clouds moving across the sky today as a cold front moved through the area.

At the Sand Canyon Trailhead with nice clouds in the sky this morning.

Sand Canyon Trailhead

Typically, I don’t like to photograph ruins that are in direct sunlight and shade, but this one seemed to work with the shadows.

Light & Shadow Ruin

As I was hiking up the trail I encountered my very first tarantula walking down the trail.


Besides the ruins, the scenery was pretty nice, too.

Sand Canyon

Corncob Ruin is located high up on the ledge in this large alcove.

Alcove Ruin

Here’s a closer look…


Unfortunately, I was pretty limited on where I could go and these signs were all over the place. It kind of reminded me of visiting Mesa Verde. I understand the need to protect these sites, but it kind of ruins the experience for me, which is why I prefer to visit lesser-known sites.

Area Closed

Apparently, this ruin is known as Tucked Away Two Story House. Long enough name?

Square Ruin

A long wall ruin located further down the canyon.


Hiking back along the trail in Sand Canyon.

Sand Canyon Trail

One of the spur trails led to these remains of a tower perched at the edge of the canyon.

Tower Remains

I had visited Saddlehorn Ruin on my hike up the canyon, but it was in the shadows at that time. The light was much nicer on the return trip.

Saddlehorn Ruin

Sandstone and darker clouds moving into the area.

Sand Canyon Sandstone

After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead I continued driving down McElmo Canyon into Utah on my way to Cedar Mesa for the night.

Along the way I stopped at the Music Panel. There were some very strong wind gusts while I was here.

Music Panel

Then I continued on to Montezuma Canyon where I was able to locate a very nice petroglyph panel that I hadn’t been to before. After climbing up to the panel I had to wait for a little bit for the direct sunlight to move off of the petroglyphs.

Snake Panel

Left Snake Panel

Side Petroglyphs

On my way to Blanding I stopped at this little ruin near the road that I had seen before but never stopped at.

Roadside Ruin

I stopped in Blanding for an early dinner and to fuel up the Jeep. Then I headed up onto Cedar Mesa for a little exploration before sunset and to find a campsite. I didn’t have much luck finding and visiting the ruins I was looking for, but it was nice to watch the sunset from the edge of the canyon.

I spotted these ruins from above and tried to get down to them, but I ran out of daylight and had to turn around. I’m not even sure if I would have been able to get to them?

Ruins Below

I did find this large boulder with some very faint and hard-to-see petroglyphs on it.

Hard to See

The canyon below…

Cedar Mesa Canyon

A nice sunset from the edge of Cedar Mesa over Comb Ridge to Sleeping Ute Mountain.

Cedar Mesa Sunset

Warm evening light on the sandstone.

Crypto Pothole

Hiking back across the mesa to my Jeep.

Across the Mesa

When the sun was down I drove back over near Salvation Knoll and found a place to camp in the dark. It was another long day so I had no troubles falling right asleep.

>> Sand Canyon to Cedar Mesa Photo Gallery

Leave a Reply