Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The "Slickhorn #6" access to Slickhorn Canyon (Slickhorn empties into the San Juan River) is known as Trail Canyon. The hike from the parking area to the river and back is about 20 miles round-trip, if you are interested. We only did the Trail Canyon hike to some awesome cliff-dwelling ruins, about 2 1/2 miles each way. It's plenty demanding, so five miles was good. At the very beginning of the descent into Trail Canyon, about a half mile from the parking area, there is a nice cliff-dwelling.
Surprisingly, the most difficult time of all was getting back to the car after coming back out of the canyon. As the parking area is on a relatively flat mesa, that was puzzling. The many arroyos are disorienting, I guess. Leave cairns maybe when you head for the fairly obvious canyon access.
Another puzzling point in the hike occurs at about 1 1/2 miles into the trip. As you skirt a huge pour-off (go left), you look at what appears to be a dead-end, unless rappelling is your flavor. The trail actually proceeds over a sandstone knob left, which just doesn't look correct. As you get over this knob, the onward rim walk is now obvious. The rest is elementary, as a good track eventually descends back down into Trail Canyon and to some most excellent ruins on the right about a mile from the pour-off rim. On the way back, time allowing (if memory serves), there is another set of ruins at the huge pour-off. You should be able to spot them across from the sandstone knob, on a shelf at the northwest arm of the pour-off across from you. I believe I have seen these referred to as "Big Shelf Ruins". They are accessible from the top if you want to walk around to there and do the work.
This is the usual potentially dangerous desert environment. Be safe, not sorry, as the area gets few visitors. You are unlikely to be saved from misfortune here.The claim is that there are springs, but I wouldn't trust in that.
To access Trail Canyon: Turn west across from Cigarette Springs Rd. (which goes east) off of Hwy 261, just north of mile-post 19 (paved 261 is the main Grand Gulch access). Traveling west on dirt now, encounter a gate at 1/2 mile, leaving it closed or open, as it was. At 2.6 miles, bear left (south) at a junction. This is where Government Trail goes the other way (right). Now you will be staying on the most prominent road available southbound. High-clearance is recommended. At about 7 miles from the pavement, the road veers generally southwest for about a mile to a visible corral (a right turn to parking there). The navigable pour-off of Trail Canyon, a half mile west, should be visible to the west from the corral parking area.
The closest towns will be Mexican Hat and Bluff, Utah.

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