Aztec Butte Trail in Canyonlands was on our list of places we wanted to hike when we were there September 29, 2020. This is a great trail, as a matter of fact, I would say this was the most fun hike of the day as there was a bit of scrambling and some Native American ruins to see as well.
You can find Aztec Butte in the Island of the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is located about 40 minutes from Moab, Utah where we were staying. We took US 191 North to UT 313 West. Once in the park, follow Island in the Sky Road and turn right on Upheav al Dome Road. In less than a mile, Aztec Butte Trail will be on your right.
Aztec Butte Trail
The Aztec Butte Trail is definitely my favorite in the Island of the Sky District of Canyonlands. The trail is short but steep. It is about 2 miles round trip if you include the Granary Loop. Even though the trail is rated as moderate, I would not hike this trail if you are unsteady on your feet, have bad knees or are afraid of heights as part of the trail ascends up the side of the Butte.
The trail starts out through a grassy area and then becomes a sandy trail. You can see Aztec Butte in the near distance. You will walk past a sign that points to the Granaries to the left or straight to the Butte. We decided to visit the Butte first. We continued through what seemed like endless sand. Furthermore, as for the amount of sand as we trekked through, I felt there should have been a beach!!!
Up the Butte
Once at the base of Aztec Butte you just follow the cairns up the slickrock slope. Although called slick rock, we did not think the rock was actually slick. In reality it was like walking on sandpaper and almost felt like it had a bit of a “grip” to it. Those of you who follow my blogs know I don’t do well hiking on slanted rock slopes. In spite of this, I did well this time!
Granaries at Aztec Butte
As you ascend the butte you will see granaries along the edge, right under the top ledge. These granaries were used by Native Americans to store grain and crops about 1200 years ago. We did not go into any of these as we did not know what the rules were with entering them or the safety. I never know which sites are considered sacred either and out of respect, we don’t want to tread where we should not go. As a matter of fact, I read latter that you should not enter these.
Top of Aztec Butte
It took a bit of a hand from Steve to get to the top, He was able to get to the top of the Butte without problem, but it took a bit of a pull from him to get me there, literally. At 5’1 some of these hikes have more stretch than I have!! The view from the top was fabulous!! You could see so far!
Back Down Aztec Butte
Climbing back down was quick and uneventful. I chose the crab walk to get down at one particular spot. It’s all good though and I am at a place in my life where any safe method is good even if I look a bit silly.
The Smaller Butte
We walked back the way we came and followed the turnoff for the granaries. These granaries are just below the top of a smaller butte. Once again we found ourselves ascending a slickrock trail up a smaller butte and following the cairns.
This time we were able to descend into the granaries as there was a specified area to do this.
The views from here were also great!
Back on Down
The way down was again unremarkable but easier than Aztec Butte. I remained upright the entire way down!! We again walked through seemingly endless sand and were back to where we started.
Aztec Butte Trail was by far my favorite hike in Canyonlands that morning. If you are not afraid of heights and have no ankle, knee or balancing problems I would recommend this trail. It is fun, unique and only takes about an hour. It is a great way to see Canyonlands from the top of the Buttes.
We again used a Falcon Guide book for this trip. You can click this link if interested in the book, Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Park. This book was good for us as it gave information not just on hiking but on 4 wheel drive roads in the area as well. We did some 4 wheel driving on this trip so it was good information. I will write about that in next Thursday’s post!
We also found a map to be valuable on this trip, although we didn’t necessarily need it for hiking it was good to have. As usual, we like the National Geographic Maps and you can find that at the following link. Canyonlands National Parks Trails Illustrated Map. Maps are also available for each district in Canyonlands, although we found for what we were doing this map was perfect.