Ruin Arch

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5516 - 5645 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Morrison Knudsen Tunnels
Fee: none
Attractions: Arch, petroglyphs, historic tunnels




Ruin Arch is located in the Buckhorn Draw area of the San Rafael Swell south of Price, Utah. The arch sits above Buckhorn Draw near a small ruin. On the inside of the arches abutment is an interesting petroglyph that looks like a ladderman. Other petroglyphs can also be found on the opposing back wall of the alcove. From the wash below the arch appears quite mediocre but the view while perched within its opening transforms its appearance and it becomes very special.


The trailhead in Buckhorn draw can be approached from several directions. For this post we began in Huntington, Utah which is about 20 miles away. Turn east at the intersection of Center and Main. There is a sign that says Buckhorn Draw pointing the way. After about 17 miles of following the signs for Buckhorn Draw there is a staging area with a restroom. From there it is 3 more miles to the trailhead which is on the righthand side of the road. The hard packed and treated gravel road is maintained regularly and is suitable for most any type of vehicle.


From the parking area follow the trail across a small wash towards one of the Morrison Knudsen tunnels. Ruin Arch is near the top of the cliff in this photo near the middle of the section of cliff that the sun is shining on. It isn't at all obvious from this angle.


Leave the trail and head left just before reaching the tunnel.


There isn't an official trail or any signs or markers that point the way to the arch. That might be because it is also an archaeological site of the type that they normally don't advertise.


To really appreciate this special little arch you will need to climb all the way up to it.


There is a faint trail that switchbacks up the slope. A little scrambling is required in places but it is a very short distance and well worth the effort.


Just before reaching the arch there is a small alcove that at one time housed the ruin for which the arch was named.


Another short scramble up some slickrock is required to get all the way up to the arch.


It isn't until you get up to here that the arch can be fully appreciated.


On the abutment of the arch is a petroglyph that we affectionately called the 'ladderman'.


Other petroglyphs can be seen on the back wall of the arch.


On the way back to the trailhead you may as well check out the tunnel. The kiosk mentions that it was one of several dug in the area that were part of a top secret military project that appears to have had something to do with testing the effects of explosives detonated on the surface to the tunnel itself. Not even the workers were told of the purpose of the tunnels they were digging. These tests were conducted in several different geological formations in the west and if I were to venture a guess I would bet that Cheyenne Mountain was the ultimate winner.


Ruin Arch is one of many sites worth visiting along the Buckhorn Draw Road. The most famous site of course is the Buckhorn Draw Pictograph Panel. Most everything in the area that we have marked on our map is very close to the road and requires minimal effort. There are some excellent primitive campsites along Buckhorn Draw Road. If you want something with a restroom there is the San Rafael Bridge Campground at the southern end of the draw. As far as natural arches go Ruin Arch is one of our favorites. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.