Wilson Ranch Ruins

Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5738 - 5858 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Wilson Ranch Road
Fee: none
Attractions: cliff dwellings, pictographs

The Wilson Ranch, which is the focus of this particular post, is located along North Cottonwood Creek in the long valley that connects the Indian Creek and Beef Basin/Salt Creek Canyon areas northwest of Monticello, Utah and just south of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Multiple cliff dwellings and granaries can be found in the cliffs below CR 107, aka the Bridger Jack Mesa/Beef Basin Road.

To get there travel north on Highway 191 from Monticello, Utah for 14.3 miles and turn west at the signs for Newspaper Rock and Canyonlands National Park. If coming from the other direction the turnoff is about 40 miles south of Moab. Continue for another 20.2. miles to the sign in this photo. There is a restroom and staging area with lots of parking at the turnoff.

Follow County Road 107 for 9.2 miles and turn left onto CR #108. During good conditions a highway passenger vehicle can usually make it to this point. From here the road travels down a steep dugway that might require 4WD to drive back up. Using a driving app for directions doesn't always work without some tinkering. Google Maps tries to make use of several unusable routes. We go ahead and use it but we stay on CR 107 when it wants us to use some other road which causes Google Maps to course correct.

Those that don't feel comfortable driving down the dugway to the North Cottonwood Wash Road can park above it and begin hiking the short distance to the ruins. At the bottom of the dugway follow the road to the left. After a few hundred feet take the next trail to the left that heads toward the area in this photo. We circled some of the ruins in the photo with read. A keen eye can see the ruins before heading down the dugway. Once you scramble up the hill you will discover even more ruins that stretch along the cliff between the circles.

The best route up the boulder strewn hillside seems to be to the left of the boulders but going to the far right might work as well or better. We went to the left of the boulders and first came to this ruin that is perched on a ledge.

Continuing down the cliff to the next big ruin where most of the pictographs are leads past several stub wall ruins that were built at the base of the cliff.

We've read somewhere that images like these with dangling arms represent ancestors and not living persons.

Several more ruins are strung out along the cliff that are both up on ledges and down on the ground.

A number of painted hands are located on the roof of an overhang above one of the last ruins along the cliff. Handprints and other images aren't uncommon on the bottom sides of overhangs so it is always good to look before moving on.

The ruins have a commanding view of the valley below. Across the flats cottonwood trees line the banks of the perennial North Cottonwood Creek. Part of the dugway can be seen on the right in this photo. It doesn't look all that steep from here. Our truck is parked down below but the tree is blocking the view.

There are other ruins and granaries that can be found further up North Cottonwood Creek. This photo is of a ruin that is just under a half mile past the Wilson Ranch. It is in a short side canyon perched high up on top of a slabby outcrop that sticks out from the cliff and also includes some pictographs.

While in the area it only takes a few extra minutes to check out the Wilson Ranch. Before the Ancestral Puebloans began building cliff dwellings some of them built surface dwellings or puebloes out in the open like this house. Others would excavate pithouses that they usually built on benches that overlook places like this. Cliff dwellings were obviously built with defence in mind. It's interesting to consider the various contrasting building styles. High up on the ridge across the road from the ranch a keen eye can spot another pair of small granaries. According to Michael Kelsey's book 'Hiking, Biking and Exploring Canyonlands National Park and Vicinity' there are several more ruins further up the North Cottonwood Wash Road although no information is given about them. As far as the ruins near the Wilson Ranch go, if you would like to see them for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.