Grand Gulch, Utah - Backpacking

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Summary

Backpacking Grand Gulch via Bullet Canyon is a one-of-a-kind backcountry experience featuring red rock canyons, ancient Puebloan ruins, silence and solitude, and unfathomably starry skies.

Written by

Mike Little

Distance

25.0 miles

Frankly, it's very hard to give a distance figure here. You can hike far farther or much less in these canyons. It's entirely up to you and the water supply.

Destination Distance From Downtown

251.6 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

The primary reason for 4-stars is that finding water can be tricky and critical. There are occasionally some challenging bits of hiking, primarily descending or traversing areas where a hard fall could occur or, at times, route finding.

Time To Complete

6 days

The six day number accounts for slow hiking, lots of side trips, day hiking from base camps, and so on.

Seasonality

Spring and Fall

Early spring (April, especially) can be good because water should be easier to find. Fall (October into early November) can be good also. Summer is scorching hot. Winter can be snowy and slick, but it can bring with it its own sense of adventurous fun.

Dog Friendly

No

Taking a dog to Grand Gulch isn't the best idea, as there's little water, hot weather, lots of prickly things, slick rocks, and snakes.

Fees Permits

Yes

A permit with a low fee is required. Kane Gulch Ranger Station handles permits most all of the time. Try (435)587-1500 to contact this station.

Review

Intro

Backpack into a beautiful, winding red rock canyon amid ancient Puebloan ruins. Camp under some of the darkest skies in the United States. Day hike to ruins, and legally enter a handsome kiva perched on a ledge. Observe artifacts such as pottery, corn cobs, arrowheads, and more. (Do not disturb in any way!) Descend into the gigantic Grand Gulch, and if desired, exit via a different canyon. Be aware that finding water can be an issue and that flash flooding can occur; know what you're getting into. And most importantly, get swept away in this truly awe-inspiring and incredibly unique desert landscape in Southern Utah. 

What Makes It Great

If you like red rock canyons, ancient ruins, the darkest of skies, silence and beauty, and you don't mind drinking tepid mineral water, chewing dust, enduring some heat, and scrambling through slot canyons and along ledges, then the Grand Gulch area is perfect for you.  

For more solitude, the shoulder seasons of fall and spring can be incredibly serene. Even a few people in a canyon, due to it's confining nature, can seem like too many. It's scorching hot in the summer and can be icy in the winter, but spring and fall can be nearly perfect. Flash flooding can and does occur, particularly in the main body of Grand Gulch, so be aware and take all necessary precautions.

The first stretch of Bullet Canyon requires descending a couple of slickrock waterfalls, though you can work your way around the first one on your right as you descend. There is at least one winding scramble through rock and boulder. The canyon then opens up to an easy walk along a sandy floor. On the right, you should see Perfect Kiva and then there's Jailhouse Ruin with its distinctive pictograph. The spring is in the thicket across the canyon. Note: no campfires are allowed in these canyons.  

Who is Going to Love It

Many do this canyon down to Jailhouse Ruin as a day hike, but a backpack trip will let you do a lot more exploring, and you can continue to the main body of Grand Gulch if you wish. Bullet Canyon is a side canyon, and it also has plenty of side canyons well worth the added exploration.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Kane Gulch Ranger Station is along highway 261 not far from Natural Bridges National Monument, which is a wonderful place to visit as well. Permits and advice are found at this station. The Bullet Canyon Trailhead is a few miles south, and then off on a short dirt side-road to a small parking lot. The descent begins fairly nearby. There's a small square tower ruin on the right. A small fee permit is required. No campfires are allowed. And please be conscious of not disturbing the ruins that you'll find along the way.

Location

Bullet Canyon

Kane Gulch Ranger Station, Highway 261
Monticello, UT, 84535
37.445, -110.041

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