Arch Canyon, Hotel Rock, Comb Wash and Valley of the Gods
March 22nd - 25th, 2007
(Photos & text by Kurt Williams unless otherwise indicated)

Day 1 - 3/22/07:

The trip couldn't have come soon enough. I had wanted to run these trails and do a bit of exploring in the area for several years after stumbling across an old trip report from the mid 90’s. I spent the weeks prior to the voyage reading up on the surrounding area; though in reality there is very little detailed information out there on the two trails, something I hope to fix. With everything loaded into the Tacoma the night before, I still had a bit of time to get some work completed for the day and still hit the road by 1:30pm. My passengers included my little brother in law Thomas, and my old pal Spunky. We made good time to Moab, with only a quick stop on Wellington for a drink and bathroom break. Once in Moab we gassed up, spent a minute shopping at the City Market and stopped by Spunky relatives house to say hello. I asked Jim (his uncle), where a good dinner stop would be south of Moab. Knowing we were ultimately headed to Blanding he quickly recommended the Patio Drive-In… it was on! The stretch from Moab to Blanding seemed to move awfully quick, knowing a rewarding dinner awaited us in town.

Low and behold the Patio was open, and I must say their Bacon Cheeseburger Basket was quite the meal. It would give any other burgers in the state a run for its money (yes, even Ray’s in my opinion). After grubbing down, we once again loaded into the Taco and headed for the campsite Royal had given us the GPS coordinates for. We arrived into camp somewhere around 7pm, just as the sun was starting to drop behind the red rock ridges to the west. At camp we were greeted by a couple of other attendees that had arrived earlier in the day, and one by one more showed up throughout the evening.

It didn't take long for a fire to roar to life. The BLM had been doing some liberal tree “trimming” in the area, leaving us with a vast supply of wood thus the fire was rarely starved of fuel, day or night. Cruiser chat dragged its way into the early morning, a time where boys can be boys, and the gals were there to keep us in line. Knowing we had an early start time the next morning, we finally retired to our tent.

Day 2 - 3/23/07:

By 8am the sun was already warming up the air, I stalled leaving the tent until I could smell bacon cooking… apparently I got out to early as I ended up manning the grill, I hoped everyone like my pancakes and bacon. There was no shortage of food, the club officers had planned appropriately for our large and hungry group. We quickly cleaned up the breakfast mess, and prepped the truck for the day. Royal gave the call to get rolling, and we officially hit the trail shortly after 10am. Royal and his wife Loretta were our trail leaders on the Arch Canyon trail for the day. Royal is an archaeologist and has spent significant amounts of time in the Southern Utah area exploring the lives of past inhabitants, his insight was extremely enlightening.

Our first stop for the day would be the Arch Canyon Ruin site. The ruin lies tucked up against the canyon wall, once the home of hundreds of American natives, living off the land farming corns and beans. Partial walls are all that remain of the once great site, though on careful eye can spot a piece of pottery on the ground. It is very important that all visitors respect the site, do not climb in or around the structures, do not touch the petroglyphs or pictographs, and do not take anything but photos. Further up the canyon a group of grain silos can be spotted high up above the canyon floor abutting the walls. On our trip back out of the canyon a few in our group stopped to check these additional sites out. A short hike landed us right in the middle of a handful of sites, a worthwhile time investment!

The trail itself was rather mild, a few tight spots, a couple rocks to maneuver around, but very relaxing and scenic. As we approached the end of the trail we came into view of Cathedral Arch. We were greeted by a light rain shower at the end of the trail, though it didn’t stop us from taking a short hike. The hike provided us with a view of Angel Arch
and gave us a chance to stretch our legs from the drive in.

The trek back to camp seemed to move much faster than our entrance earlier in the day, it seemed like an hour and we were back in camp. We had to make the 15 minute drive back into Blanding to fuel up and grab a soda. There was a chance my good friends Craig Epperson and his wife Daryn would be in town from SLC in their BJ70, so I wanted to get into cell range and make contact with them. By the time my phone bounced into service, Craig and Daryn had run into a fellow club member and were headed out towards our camp. We met up with them at the service station for a quick chat and retreated back to our campsite. It didn't take long for Craig and Daryn to get their camp setup and with daylight left to spare we figure we would show them around the place.

With little knowledge of the area, we went to the only place we knew, back into Arch Canyon. We didn't run much of the trail, just a short jaunt in to take another peek at the Arch Canyon Ruin site. After an hour or so enjoying the spring weather and talking about anything and everything, we returned to the camp to join the others.

Dinner that night consisted of the regular chat around the campfire, and generous helpings of grilled cheese sandwiches right out of the fire via my “Pie Iron”. This simple device has cooked more meals than I dare to admit, and its life has just begun!

Day 3 - 3/24/07:

Another amazing day greeted us as we woke up in the morning. I took care of some quick preparations to the truck, and before I knew it we were lining up again behind the Rose’s for our trip into the Hotel Rock Trail. The trail itself was a bit more challenging than the day prior, quickly evident when one of the 80 Series in our group parked on the side after a couple valiant attempts at a slick wall. As we reached the top of the plateau, things got mild in a hurry and the last portion of the trail was a high speed sandbox, weaving in and out of the junipers.

The Hotel Rock ruin site is a large quantity of ruins, tucked up against a hillside, giving the appearance of a modern day hotel, with some vivid imagination in the mix. The groups spend a modest lunch break peaking into ancient dwellings, posing for photos and enjoying the company of friends.

Back on the trail we had little fear of the trail we had already conquered, that is until Jack C. literally endo’ed his gorgeous FJ40 right in front of a handful of us. We were nearing the last obstacles of the trail, when we came to a somewhat off camber decent, down a fairly steep slope. I had driven my Tacoma down the obstacle, and another had been right behind me. As we walked back to watch the others come back, Jack got a little sideways at the top of the obstacle and the rig violently tumbled to the bottom. First things first, make sure Jack was OK; thankfully he was nothing more than shaken up… his rig on the other hand was a bit worse off. It had mangled his front fender, grill, bumper and hood… pretzeled his windshield frame and doors, ripped his soft-top in a spot or two and blew a bead off the tire. All things considered it was in great shape of the action it just saw. It didn't take long for the club to respond, we had Jack checked out, the rig inspected, and the tire fixed in a half hour. Spunky volunteered to pilot Jacks rig out the remainder of the trail, giving Jack some time to gather his thoughts, though I must say Jack was calm and collected throughout the entire incident.

The incident made a normally moderate obstacle, a hair rising experience for those still yet to descend. I personally think that had there not been an issue, everyone would have driven down the obstacle as if it were just part of the trail… but with a rollover like Jacks, everyone humbles down for a bit and realizes that a rollover could happen to them, unexpected, just as it did with Jack.

Back at camp we help Jack make some “modifications” to get the 40 road worthy once again. With some liberal use of duct tape and hammers, the doors shut, the windshield was in place and the soft-top wasn't falling off. Jack planned to drive it home that evening, and thankfully others were headed back to SLC to caravan along with him in case of any issues. We bid farewell to the group heading out and gathered around the campfire to make plans for the remainder of the trip.

With plenty of daylight to spare, the Epperson’s and my truckload decided to head into Blanding for a fuel fill, and explore the Butler Wash Ruin site en route. With plans to head further from Blanding in the morning, the prudent choice was to gas up in the evening, so we could make an early exit the next morning en route to Bluff. The Butler Wash Ruin site consists of a small parking lot just off Highway 95, and a short hike lands you at an overlook of the ancient Indian sites in the canyon below. A careful eye can still pick out crude ladders carved into the sandstone, climbing to the different sites tucked against the alcove walls. After a few minutes of pondering and gazing, we were back on our way to the vehicle, and on our way to camp thereafter. Another night passed by with the groups (albeit smaller than the previous nights), sitting around the campfire chatting, and again the Pie Iron was worth its weight in gold. Grilled cheese sandwiches with a slice of pastrami to liven things up. We said good-bye to the remaining group as it would just be the Epperson’s and my truckload after our start tomorrow.

Day 4 - 3/25/07:

The weather couldn't have been better as we packed up camp and reloaded it into the truck. We hadn't finalized our remaining route yet, so we sat around a map spread out on the hood of my truck and decided which route best suited us. I had wanted to see the town of Mexican Hat, Craig concurred so we decided to travel south on the Comb Wash Road. From the end of Comb Wash to Mexican Hat was nothing more than a high speed jaunt down the pavement, unless of course we could find something else to do. With no set agenda, we decided to head east and visit the town of Bluff. I was particularly interested Bluff due to my recent visit to the Hole in the Rock trail, there we found an park dedicated to the pioneers, a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in the history of HITR. We left Bluff with plans to check out the Valley of the Gods area, just north of Mexican Hat. Once again a great place to explore if you are already in the area, the giant monoliths and towers stand guard over the 16 mile trail. Though the end of the trail took us closer to the Moki Dugway, we still wanted to check out Mexican Hat, so we back-tracked a little and headed south into the small town. We spent a couple minutes (being liberal there) driving from one end of Mexican Hat to the other, and decided to grab lunch at a small café off the side of the road. After lunch we were traveled back north towards the infamous Moki Dugway.

The Mokee Dugway is located on Utah Route 261 just north of Mexican Hat, UT. It was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the "Happy Jack" mine in Fry Canyon, UT. to the processing mill in Mexican Hat.”

The dirt road dugway climbs right up the face of a cliff, landing on the plateau above where the pavement takes you to an intersection with Highway 95, approximately 15 miles west of the Hotel Rock and Arch Canyon trails we enjoyed days earlier. Stops along the dugway offer some amazing views over Valley of the Gods, as well as distant views of Monument Valley to the southwest. Despite the steep grade, tight switch backs and lack of pavement, the road continues to serve as a major thoroughfare to Mexican Hat and the four corners area.

At the junction with Highway 95, we said good-bye to the Epperson’s, they planned to stop in Moab for some mountain biking on the way home, we traveled west with plans to see Natural Bridges National Monument. The paved loop through the monument takes an hour or so to travel, that includes a couple of short walks to the overlooks offering views of the major bridges. There are several extended hikes that we didn't have the time to explore, next time!

We continued along Highway 95 through the sleepy town of Hite. The Lake Powell tourist season was still a month out, so there was little activity in the small town. From an overlook just past Hite Crossing we could really see the alarmingly low level of the lake, especially for the spring season when I would expect the lake to be nearing its highest seasonal levels. Docks and boat ramps at Hite were hundreds of feet out of the water, and the lake was just a mere river pouring though the canyon rather than a wide lake body as usual.

It was getting late in the evening, and we had little left on our agenda to explore. Our remaining stop would be to fill the gas tank and grab a soda in Hanksville, we then b-lined it home to SLC. Another voyage safely completed!


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah  (courtesy of Ray & Linda Connors)


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Arch Canyon Trail, Utah


Comb Wash , Utah  (courtesy of Gary Tsujimoto)


Hotel Rock Trail, Utah


Hotel Rock Trail, Utah

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah  (courtesy of Matt Farr)

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah  

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah  (courtesy of Troy Demill)

Hotel Rock Trail, Utah  (courtesy of Brian Passey)

Butler Wash Ruins, Utah


Butler Wash Ruins, Utah


Bluff, Utah


Valley of the Gods, Utah


Valley of the Gods, Utah


Valley of the Gods, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah


Moki Dugway, Utah



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