Round Trip Distance: 3 miles
Elevation: 5513 - 5645 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Moon House
Attractions: Cliff dwellings
The Moon House trail is located in the Cedar Mesa Area west of Blanding, Utah. The trail leads to the Moon House Ruin and several other nearby sites where there are other cliff dwellings and granaries. Due to the popularity of the ruin and its fragile nature it is limited to 20 visitors per day. A special permit must be obtained on the day of your visit at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Twelve of the daily permits can be reserved in advance by contacting the Ranger Station. The other 8 are held for visitors on a first come basis. To get one it is best to be at the Ranger Station when it opens at 8AM MT/MDT.
Visitors must stop at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station to get their permit before continuing to the Moon House trailhead. To get there drive south on US Highway 191 for about 4 miles and turn west onto UT-95 toward Natural Bridges National Monument. Follow UT-95 for 28.4 miles and turn left onto UT-261. After turning onto UT-261 the Kane Gulch Ranger Station is about 4 miles from the turnoff. There is a small Visitor Center and restrooms that are accessible 24 hours. The rangers will issue a permit if there are any available. A copy must be kept on your person and another on the dashboard of your vehicle.
After driving about 6 miles south of the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and turning onto the Snow Flat Road it is another 8 miles to the 2-wheel drive trailhead. The road requires a moderate to high clearance vehicle. A section of the Snow Flat Road was also part of the Mormon trail. It is very rough in places with numerous rock ledges. From the 2-wheel drive trailhead it is another 1.2 miles to the '4-wheel drive' trailhead. The last 1.2 miles doesn't necessarily require a 4-wheel drive but it does require a high clearance vehicle. The road is narrow with a high hump in the middle of it. Count on it taking an hour to drive from the Ranger Station to the trailhead.
The trail heads across the mesa toward the canyon from the parking area.
Within a quarter mile the trail drops over the rim and continues down a primitive trail of loose rock and dirt until it reaches the slickrock above a spillover.
As the trail proceeds into the canyon it comes to a spot where it passes over a slickrock ledge. Some people with a little fear of heights might be bothered with this spot initially. There is a big pile of rocks below the ledge that can't be seen very well at first. If you sit on your bum and scoot down a little closer the ledge doesn't look nearly as spooky. For those that are hiking with others they can let the brave one go first and then help the others. It isn't nearly as bad as it first appears.
Once below the ledge the trail makes an easy traverse on slickrock and then red dirt as it travels around the cliff. The trail stays comfortably wide as it passes above the scenic canyon with its healthy growth of cottonwood trees and rugged red rock cliffs.
As the trail goes around the cliff the first looks at the Moon House Ruin on the opposite side of the canyon come into view.
The trail works its way the short distance down the cliff to the floor of the canyon and then climbs up the other side. There are a few loose rocks and minor scree but mostly it is the usual stuff that you come to expect in the Cedar Mesa area.
Besides the ruins to look forward to there are 2 massive hoodoos jutting up from the point of the cliff. Looking at their weathered pedestals one can only wonder how many more years they can defy gravity before their perches collapse and they fall into the canyon. If you follow ancient lore then you probably have heard at least one form of the story of 'Spider Woman and the Twins'. That story may have given special meaning to the Moon House site with its 2 hoodoos.
On the climb up to the ruin there is one spot that requires some minor scrambling to get up to the upper level. Moon House is only about 120 feet above the canyon floor making for a short distance to climb overall.
Moon House is shielded by a battlement wall that has peep holes within it. Hikers are meant to climb through the wall to get to the inner rooms. To do so you should place your hands on the bottom sill and lift yourself up. Do not put your hands on the side walls to pull yourself in as it is damaging to them.
Once inside the battlement wall there is a hallway that provides access to all of the rooms. None of these rooms can be entered but you can still shine a light in them and have a look.
Inside one of the rooms the phases of the moon are painted on the walls. This feature is why Moon House is called what it is.
The moon theme is also depicted in other pictographs as well as with white chinking stones embedded in some of the masonry both here and in the ruin some distance to the east. Before crawling back through the battlement wall you might want to peer through a few of the peep holes. Some are lined up with nearby granaries while others provide line of sight to other features.
An easy stroll along the bench to the east leads to several well preserved granaries and what may have been a kiva. Toward the end of the line there is another multi room dwelling that is worth visiting. Past it there is a log leaning against the cliff that was used to climb out of the canyon where crops may have been grown on the mesa.
There are also other ruins to the west but they are much more difficult to get to. If you walk around the point of the cliff past the twin hoodoos you can get a distant glimpse of a few of them. To get a close up look you will have to descend into the canyon and hike from there.