Saturday, November 19, 2016

Moon House Ruins, Cedar Mesa, Utah - October 23, 2016

In a slight departure from the format typically used for my blog, this October 2016 trip to southern Utah has been broken into parts not perfectly in chronological order. I have separated the hike to the Moon House Ruins into its own post. The trip begins in this post, where this hike would have taken place near the end, and continues in this post.

Remember to click any photo to see a larger version - highly recommended.

A Hike to Moon House Ruins

There would be five of us from the Wander The West forum meet-up (see previous post) hiking to the ruins today. A permit from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station is required year-round for visiting Moon House ruin in the McLoyd Canyon-Moon House Recreation Management Zone (RMZ). Cayuse and allanb reserved permits in advance and volunteered to drive us to first the Cedar Mesa visitor center to pick up the permits, then to the trailhead. Besides the permit holders, hoyden, allanb's wife, and I would take the hike. The official BLM webpage says the hike is "a strenuous three mile hike and is not for those who fear heights." A couple of blog posts I read in advance opined that the hike was only moderate. I would say now that it is likely moderate for young, active adults and strenuous for an old guy like me with poor knees - but I'm so happy I went. This is the BLM webpage for Moon House.

cayuse paused at the junction to allow allanb to catch up.
The spur to the left is a parking area; to the right, heading north, is the road to the trailhead.

One drives south on the highway from the visitor center, then east on Snow Flat Road. This road gets quite bumpy especially when it crosses areas of slickrock. There is a parking area at the junction, after which you need a high-clearance vehicle. Get detailed directions when you pick up your permit.

Starting off from the trailhead

Starting our descent into McLoyd Canyon

Upper section of the canyon trail

The hike traverses down the south side of McLoyd Canyon and climbs up the other side to the cliff dwellings. The trail gets very steep in a number of sections and in one spot you have to step off a ledge down onto a stack of rocks. This is tricky going down and helps to have someone along to help position your feet (or go for help!) The views of the canyon are delightful at every step.

This is the tricky spot where you have to step off a ledge onto a stack of rocks.

Almost to the bottom of the canyon. The ruins can be seen in the cliffs across the way under the overhang.

When the trail wound around a curve in the canyon we would see the cliff dwellings on the far side. We paused for snacks halfway down, looking across the canyon and wondering just where the path up would be - it wasn't obvious from where we sat. The canyon bottom was slickrock where it met the trail. There were giant boulders and up above an enormous fist of stone sat on a pedestal. It was quite a sight.

hoyden volunteered to provide scale to the canyon and point to the balanced rock above.

The canyon bottom here is slickrock. The group begins the ascent of the other side.

Then began the scramble up the far side. Much of it was slickrock and there were clefts to ascend.

Climbing up toward the cliff dwellings.

A view back along the way we hiked.

The central complex of Moon House Ruins.
The cliff dwellings are very well preserved. They comprise several rooms in the central complex accessed from a hallway behind a unique facade. Some rooms still wear their mud-based plaster and painted decoration.

Some of the room entrances inside the "hallway."

At the far end of the hallway this pictograph can be seen well above head level.

The hallway; note the mud plaster with painted design is very well preserved. The motif was repeated inside the room, but all the rooms were much too dark for photos.

There are additional exterior rooms along the ledge under the cliff overhang - round and square rooms, and a perhaps kiva-like structure, too.

Exterior rooms in the central complex. The logs appear to be what's left of a roof structure (see next photo).

Another view of the exterior rooms in the central complex.

Looking back at the facade and the entrance to the hallway.

Ruins of an exterior room suspended above the ledge near the balanced rock.

There are several smaller, outlying rooms, perhaps granaries, located in both directions along the ledge on which the central complex is found.

If you walk past the balanced rock and look up canyon, there is another ruin (see next photo.)

A closer view of the ruin shown above. I didn't bring a telephoto lens on this hike.

Walking along the ledge down canyon there are several other room/buildings.

Looking back toward the central complex from along the ledge.

Another room/building along the ledge. There were more farther along, but this is where I turned around.

After exploring the site and enjoying the view it was time to head back down into the canyon and up the other side. I didn't take more photos on the way out as the side of the canyon was now in shadow. It was more difficult to climb up the aforementioned ledge on the way out. I managed, but stressed my right knee which has been complaining to me now for weeks about the abuse. Fortunately, it didn't start complaining until the end of the trip, so I was still able to enjoy more hiking on this trip.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. If you are encouraged to visit Moon House, remember you need to pick up a permit at the ranger station (except in winter, I believe.) Only 20 people are allowed per day to hike to the ruins, so during the high season call the Kane Gultch ranger station at (435) 587-1510 to reserve your permit. They may be reserved up to 90 days in advance.


  1. Fabulous pictures, more place for me to explore one day, thanks Bill.

    1. Thanks, G Dan, for taking the time to comment. It is a great area to explore.

  2. What a threat to visit a place like this, thanks Bill!

    1. Ski, I sure hope autocorrect is responsible for your comment... I didn't mean to threaten anyone ;-) Thanks!

    2. You've got that right! treat, treat, treat!

  3. Great post, Bill! I envy your stamina. About that knee might try 7 Dragons herbal analgesic. I get it from the Herb store on Carlisle just south of Central in Albuq. It's expensive but works. Spray it on and let it dry and spray again. Use it three times a day for a week and if yer knee ain't feelin' better I'll buy the rest of the bottle for full price. If it is, you'll discover it works for all kinds of other injuries including burns and bug bites.

    1. Thanks. I'll keep your recommendation in mind. Fortunately my knee is much improved.

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