Moab Grotto

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4459 - 4601 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Moab Grotto
Fee: none
Attractions: Pictographs, scenic grotto




The Moab Grotto is located just off of the 10 Mile Road northwest of Moab, Utah. The short trail leads to a couple of unique pictograph sites. The first is beneath an overhang in a rocky outcrop where you have to lay on your back to take pictures. The second site is hidden within a grotto that is another hundred yards away in a narrow wash.


To get there drive 16 miles north from Moab on Highway 191 and turn west onto the Blue Hills Road just before reaching the airport. Coming from the other direction the turnoff is 14 miles from Interstate 70.


Follow the Blue Hills Road for 7.4 miles and turn left onto the unmarked 10 Mile Road. Those in 2wd vehicles can venture as far as they feel comfortable before parking. There is one spot that requires a little bit of ground clearance where the road goes over an old earthen dam and maybe one or two loose sandy spots but it is a good road when it is dry.


Follow the 10 Mile Road for 1.8 miles and turn left at a marker for the Orange Trail.


After turning off of the 10 Mile Road it is only a couple hundred feet to the trailhead. A careful driver in a short wheel base 2wd with moderate ground clearance probably could have made it to the trailhead on the day that we were there but if not just park by the earthen dam and hike or bike the last 1.5 miles to the trailhead.


At one time there was an old jeep road that went all the way to the grotto. Faint remnants of it are still visible and provide about the only guidance without an GPS. The trail starts out by climbing a short rocky hill. After one hundred yards the trail turns sharply to the left. At present there is a small cairn 40 or 50 feet after making the turn. The trail splits just past the cairn but both routes rejoin a short distance later. The shortest route is to the right.


If you managed to stay the course you will come to a pole fence that is about a half mile from the trailhead. The fence was added to keep livestock away from the first site. The area is posted 'No Camping'.


Quite a few pictographs can be found beneath an overhang. I was using a Canon 7D that doesn't have an articulating screen so to take pictures required getting down in the dirt on my back since all the images are on the roof and there is only 18-24 inches of space.


This photo is of a petrified log that is embedded in the rock above the overhang.


The grotto is another hundred yards or so past the log fence. After a couple hundred feet look for a narrow shallow wash on the left and follow it to the grotto. If you hike down in the wash be warned that there is a lot of poison ivy to watch out for. Eventually the narrow wash reaches some choke stones where you can either navigate round a juniper tree and work your way over the boulders or you can go around and slide down from above. I was doing this with a broken leg that wasn't fully healed so I opted to work my way around the tree and over the boulders. It was no big deal for either of us.


Once you enter the grotto your efforts are immediately rewarded. The grotto opens up into a nice sized cavern with pictographs on both sides and on the ceiling. Some of them are easy to miss so it takes awhile to complete a survey.


To us the pictographs appeared to be Early Archaic with some resemblance to other sites. We haven't read an authoritative classification of the site so all we can do is guess.


On the way back we hiked around the backside of the fenced off site and found another handful of pictographs. Most of them were very faded but it was still interesting to get a feel for the place. The ground around the site is carpeted with chert and we did notice multiple arrowhead fragments in the mix. Remember that this is an archeological site that is protected by multiple laws that prohibit digging or removing anything. Even unintentional damage can be prosecuted.

The Moab Grotto has an official trailhead even though it lacks a sign with its name. When we made our visit we didn't find any tracks whatsoever to indicate that anyone had been there for many months. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.