Beef Basin Wash

Round Trip Distance: 6.4 miles (driving?)
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 6284 - 6609 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Beef Basin Wash
Fee: none
Attractions: cliff dwelling

Well into the depths of Beef Basin Wash, northwest of Monticello, Utah, there is an almost pristine cliff dwelling that looks out several hundred feet above the valley floor. This post is of a visit to the ruin that was made late in the day with only enough time and daylight for the ruin to be viewed from below.

After finding your way to the junction of the Beef Basin and Ruin Park Roads, in the lower end of House Park, follow the road to the left toward Stanley Spring.

From the junction kiosk the road crosses a ridge and drops down into the east end of Beef Basin. Near the 1.5 mile point from the kiosk junction the road comes to the beginning of the Beef Basin Loop. Continuing straight at that point for another half mile, in the neighborhood of Stanley Spring, the Beef Basin Wash Road branches off on the left.

The Beef Basin Wash is actually one and the same as San Juan County Road 199. It takes a medium to high clearance 4wd vehicle to drive the road. Even with its official county road designation it is doubtful that it has ever seen anything in the way of road maintenance.

In places the road travels up the wash and in others it simply crosses the wash and travels along in parallel on higher ground. In a few places where the canyon is wider the road is, for short distances, quite good.

There is a very sandy wash near the 1.9 mile point where we were worried our Tundra might be too long and that the bumpers could get hung up on the sandy banks. We had already briefly experienced this at an earlier crossing and it seemed that we were over abusing our only means of getting back to civilization. Since we had heard of even jeeps getting stuck at this crossing we opted on this trip to park and begin hiking.

Judging from all the vehicle tracks on the other side of the wash we were probably the only ones that gave it any thought. It is around 3.2 miles from the turnoff into the Beef Basin Wash to the trailhead below the cliff dwelling where there is this nice little turn around.

The cliff dwelling can be spotted high up in an alcove beneath a sandstone knob. At present the trail, if there is one, isn't at all obvious but when heading in that direction it's not too hard to work out a suitable route.

With the sun already setting we didn't venture any further than this spot. It appeared easy enough to scramble up the slickrock on the left to get up to the alcove but it was already getting too dark for photos and we still needed to get out of the canyon and find a place to camp.

The builders of the cliff dwelling seemed to have had a fortress in mind where arrows could be shot through small holes and from the tower on the left. The same defensive features aren't uncommon with cliff dwellings which themselves were an evolution from puebloes that first sat exposed out in the open and then began migrating up to more defensible positions on ridges and hilltops.

We had considered not posting the Beef Basin Wash Cliff Dwelling until we could come back and climb all the way up to the alcove and get better photos. It seems like doing the site an injustice but we opted to go ahead and share what we had so far. The hardest point of any outing always seems to be in accurately finding your destination and then discovering what is involved to make the journey and we can at least provide that much information with what we have. There are literally thousands of other trails to hike and places such as this that we have on our lists to visit so there is no reason to hold others up because of our own slowness. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.