Lime Canyon

Round Trip Distance: 5+ miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5854 - 6435 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Lime Canyon
Fee: $2/person or $5-$8/camping
Attractions: cliff dwellings

Lime Canyon is located in the Cedar Mesa Area west of Blanding, Utah. Just like pretty much every other canyon in Cedar Mesa there are cliff dwellings to be seen. Another characteristic that most of the canyons share is the rugged and primitive nature of the trails and the required elevation change between the plateau and the inner canyons. Lime Canyon runs parallel with Road Canyon for the most part. They diverge at their mouths and while Road Canyon spills into Comb Wash, Lime Canyon opens up into the Valley of the Gods. For this post we followed the first 2.5 miles of the canyon which was far enough to see 3 or 4 small ruins.

The Lime Canyon trailhead is about 51 miles from the town of Blanding, Utah. 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. Continue south for 13.6 miles and turn left onto Cigarette Springs Road. After turning onto UT-261 you will pass the Kane Gulch Ranger Station where there is a small Visitor Center and restrooms that are accessible 24 hours. After turning onto the Cigarette Springs Road you will pass through a gate at the 0.9 mile point where there is a fee station. From the gate it is another 2.4 miles to where a road branches off on the right. This is about 100 feet or so from the unsigned Road Canyon trailhead which will be on the left side of the dirt road. Travel beyond this point for the remaining 1.8 miles requires a high clearance vehicle and possibly a 4-wheel drive at times. The option is to park at the Road Canyon trailhead and add about 3.6 miles to the round trip distance.

After turning off of the Cigarette Springs Road the route turns hard to the right and then to the left. After that it goes straight and near the 1 mile point turns right. The last 8 tenths of a mile is rocky in places. Right before the road crosses the upper wash of Lime Canyon it makes a hard left. There isn't an official trailhead or anything else to let you know that you have arrived so be sure to keep track of the distance and park wherever you can find a spot.

Follow the wash to the left as it comes to Lime Canyon and begins its descent. The first part of the scenic wash is mostly uneven slickrock.

Lime Canyon has lots of spillovers and a few of them hold large pools of water. Each one can either be taken head on by going down the gut or bypassed fairly easily on one side or the other. While we were here we noticed quite a few bighorn tracks and fresh scat where they had come for a drink but unfortunately we never spotted any animals. We were following their tracks as we went down the canyon and didn't go far enough to catch up to them.

After the first big spillover the drop into the canyon gets clogged with a lot of big boulders. They slow things down but are easy enough to get around. Don't lose heart because the rest of the canyon isn't this bad to negotiate.

In fact there are even some nice smooth stretches of slickrock. I'm not a geologist but this layer of rock looks like it has a high lime content and might be where the canyon gets its name from.

Some of the spillovers have a gradual slope that is easy to get a friction grip on while others have rippled layers that can be used as steps. This spillover has a perfectly sloping cottonwood bridge that you can walk down. There is also the option to hike around it on the right side.

The first set of ruins that we noticed were high up in the seam of a cliff. We could have hiked up to higher ground and taken better pictures but opted to continue hiking instead.

Just past the first set of ruins are a couple of cool looking hoodoos that provide a good point of reference in this part of the canyon.

A little past the hoodoos the canyon gets choked a bit with trees and brush that is most easily bypassed on the left. As the canyon makes another bend there is a larger cliff dwelling high up on the left side of the canyon. This is the point at which we turned around and headed back to the trailhead.

After turning around we noticed a granary that was on the south facing cliff of the point that juts out into the canyon where the hoodoos are. Unlike modern day granaries where augers are used to fill them with grain these granaries would have had ceramic pots placed in them with the grain being held inside the pot. A flat rock is then used to seal the opening to keep the squirrels out.

Sandstone is typically very porous and absorbs a lot of water. The water soaks down through the sandstone until it reaches a layer of limestone. Since the water can't penetrate the limestone it flows back out of the sandstone forming seeps.

One of our guide books for Lime Canyon suggested following a bench route into Lime Canyon that it claimed was easier than the canyon route. We followed it for quite a ways and in our opinion it is much more difficult. Rather than one long ledge that you can follow you have to continually climb up and down to pick up portions of a series of different ledges. There were cairns that you could follow but some of them led all the way out of the canyon and made them hard to rely on. We were eventually seduced by the stretches of smooth slickrock that we could see below us and opted to resume the canyon route. Lime Canyon is a lot harder to get to but once you make it the hiking isn't all that bad and chances are that you won't encounter very many other hikers. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.