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Caprock Ruin

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1 - 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 6040 - 6148 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Caprock 2wd/4wd
Fee: $5/person/day or $10/week
Attractions: granary, pictographs




The Caprock Ruin is located near Point Lookout at the end of a sandstone ridge that juts out into the upper 6th Fork of Slickhorn Canyon in the Cedar Mesa area west of Blanding, Utah. Caprock is only one of the many ruins in and around Slickhorn Canyon but unlike most of the others it can be reached relatively easily without having to commit yourself to the Slichorn complexes more difficult to hike inner canyons.


To get there from Blanding 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, passing the Kane Gulch Ranger Station where there is a small Visitor Center and restrooms that are accessible 24 hours, for 13.6 miles and turn right across from the Cigarette Springs Road onto County Road 245. There is a fee station after a short distance where you can purchase the requisite permit if you don't already have one.


At the 2.5 mile point from UT-261 continue straight onto CR-203.


The distance from there will depend on your type of vehicle. During favorable conditions a careful driver can make it to the 2wd trailhead after about 6.8 miles. Up to this point the road travels pretty fast and relatively smooth. Only moderate to high clearance vehicles will be able to make it past that point over the uneven slickrock. We drove about half way between the 2wd and 4wd trailheads and spent the night. Rather than driving the rest of the way to the 4wd trailhead the next morning we opted to begin hiking from our camp. We should mention that we never actually needed to shift into 4wd to make it over the uneven slickrock. Also keep in mind that none of these trailheads are marked in any way but only inferred by a map and the driving distance.


From the 4wd trailhead you can see the general location of Caprock Ruin although you won't be able to see the actual ruin until you get within a few yards. The shortest route is to hike directly across the mesa toward the ruin which is on a bench that is 2 levels below the top of the mesa. There is a joint that you can pass through to get from the mesa top down to the first bench and another easy scramble that will get you to the second bench. The pictographs are tucked away beneath overhangs on the first bench.


On the left side of the side canyon there are several places where you can scramble over the rim to the first bench and then work your way around to the pictographs. Another option is to continue past the 4wd trailhead to where the road crosses the main drainage of the side canyon. From there you should be able to get past the spillover on the left side and head down that branch of the canyon and then up the short side canyon.


Other than a large painted hand and these squiggly lines most of the pictographs are hard to make out. Much of them are easy enough to see but hard to tell what they might represent.


If you continue past the pictographs on the first bench you will still need to scramble down to the second bench to get to the Caprock Ruin. Alternatively you can go back a few hundred feet toward the spring at the head of the side canyon and get down to the second level from there.


The Caprock Ruin doesn't reveal itself until you hike around the point of the cliff and then voil√°, there it is.


The granary is very well preserved. Several sets of the stones create natural wedges to hold it in place. Be sure not to touch it or try to enter it so that it can last a few hundred more years.


There is another small ruin beneath a ledge on the sunny side of the side canyon that runs up toward the 2wd trailhead. A small remnant of a wall is all that remains of that one. Our map showed another ruin that was even closer to the 2wd trailhead but we were unable to spot it with our binoculars. There are at least 3 more ruins further down the 6th fork of the Slickhorn canyon that we haven't visited yet.


The Caprock Ruin is an excellent example of a site that you can have the exact GPS coordinates for and still have trouble finding it. The trailheads aren't marked and neither are any of the routes to the ruin. Be prepared to do some back tracking until you find a route that you find acceptable. There is a good chance that you will find something interesting that we missed entirely. Almost all the forks of Slickhorn Canyon have ruins within a short distance of their trailheads. We have them on our seemingly endless list of things to do that we haven't gotten around to yet. As far as the Caprock Ruin goes, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.