Collins Spring

Round Trip Distance: 10.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4725 - 5038 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Collins Spring
Fee: $2/person, $5-$8/if camping
Attractions: Ruins, rock art

The Collins Spring trail is located in the Grand Gulch area of Cedar Mesa near Blanding, Utah. The trail begins at the Collins Spring trailhead where it follows what is probably the easiest route into the Grand Gulch through Collins Canyon. Along the way it passes the remains of an old cowboy camp and a natural arch. After 2 miles of moderate hiking the trail reaches the Grand Gulch. For this post we headed up the Grand Gulch for another 3 miles to the site of Banister House Ruin. Enroute there were several granaries and rock art panels consisting of both petroglyphs and pictographs.

To get to the trailhead from Blanding travel south on Highway 191 for 4 miles and turn west onto Highway 95 towards Natural Bridges National Monument. Follow Highway 95 for about 38 miles and turn left onto Highway 276. Continue on Highway 276 for almost 7 miles and turn left again at the sign for the Collins Spring Trailhead onto the Gulch Creek Road, San Juan County 260. Follow the Gulch Creek Road for 6.5 miles to the trailhead bearing right at the fork at 2.4 miles. The first few miles of the Gulch Creek Road are smooth but the last half of the road has a lot of ground off slickrock where a medium to high clearance vehicle would be preferred. Plan on 30-45 minutes to get to the trailhead once you turn off of Highway 276.

Follow the trail from the parking area as it drops into the head of the canyon. Several short switchbacks easily transition the trail down the slickrock.

The trail becomes pleasant to hike as it covers the first half mile. Just before the 0.4 mile point it passes through a wooden gate that most people probably just walk around.

Look for an old cowboy camp that is tucked away under an overhang behind some brush right before the trail comes to a big spillover near the half mile point.

A series of cairns mark the route that travels round the spillover on the right.

Once the trail gets around the spillover and back into the base of the canyon it is usually easier to follow the trail rather than the wash bottom in most places.

There is a little arch that is hard to miss that comes up on the left side of the canyon.

Continue down Collins Canyon past a side canyon on the left until the trail spills into the Grand Gulch near the 2 mile point from the trailhead. For this post we are heading up Grand Gulch to the Bannister House Ruin.

Fresh bear tracks in the wash were reason enough to take the safety off the bear spray just in case. This one had a cub in tow and you know how protective mothers can get. The tracks were headed toward the Narrows so probably nothing to be concerned about.

Shortly after entering the gulch and heading upstream there is a side canyon on the left that is called 'False Trail Canyon'. As its name implies, don't go that way.

Around the 3.3 mile point there is a well preserved granary tucked away on the righthand side of the canyon.

The high canyon walls and cottonwood trees provide a surprising amount of shade. Even though it had rained within the last 48 hours there were very few pools of water.

A little before reaching Bannister House there is a bench area that sits above a spillover where there are several good panels of rock art. Most of the images are pictographs. The face of the cliff is gradually peeling away taking the rock art with it.

Bannister House Ruin is pretty easy to spot when it finally comes up. This picture is just the section of the ruin that gives it it's name. The entire ruin is stretched out along the canyon wall with a well intact above ground kiva below it and a little bit of rock art along the cliff. Be sure to stay out of the midden and away from the fragile walls of the kiva.

Just as advertised we would have to agree that Collins Canyon is by far the easiest route into the Grand Gulch. Unless you are backpacking the entire length of the canyon you will probably still have to make use of the other routes though. Besides the one granary that we pointed out we did see another one as well as a little more rock art and a few minor ruins. We even spotted another cute little arch. Other than heading up the Grand Gulch from the Collins Spring trail there is the option to head down stream through the narrows. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.