Aztec Butte

Aztec Butte

Posted on: December 4, 2017 4:49 pm
by: Doug Smith

There are 4 Districts of Canyonlands National Park.   The most accessible is Island in the Sky, a 40 minute drive on good roads from Moab, Utah.   The drive climbs to the top of a large mesa which just out between Green River and the Colorado River.    There are a number of hikes along the Island in the Sky Parkway which can be divided into two types.   The more challenging trails descend from the rim of the mesa down to a benchland called the White Rim Trail and then back up.   All of these hikes are long and a hard climb back up.   Most of the other trails of Island in the Sky are on top of the mesa and are shorter and easier.   Near the end of the Island in the Sky road a right turn goes west to Upheaval Dome and along that road are a number of fine shorter hikes like the Aztec Butte Trail.

There is a signed parking area and the trail bears east, heading toward a rocky butte.

The trail crosses sandy (eroded sandstone particles) paths to the base of the butte, then the route proceeds up the slickrock to the top for a loop route with fine views in every direction.

looking north into Trail Canyon

sandstone hills surround the sand flats

the view northwest


Retracing our route we come back down Aztec Butte then climbed up the next butte, traversing across the top and down the north side into an alcove.   Inside is the remains of a 900 year old Puebloan granary.

Ancestral peoples farmed and gathered foods from the riverlands far below, then brought their corn, bean, and grains high onto the plateau and stored them in sealed chambers for later consumption.

Protected from rain, wind, and water erosion by the sandstone on 3 sides, we can still see the mostly-intact structures, a sight worth the hike all on its own.

The Aztec Butte hike is short (about 3 km), but some of the route is slow going with some light scrambling.   There are a number of shorter trails on Island in the Sky that can be combined for a wonderful day of hiking in Canyonlands National Park.

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About the Author

Doug Smith

Doug writes for Kamloops Trails, a not-for-profit (and ad free) website, offering information on trails, waterways, routes, featured spots, viewpoints, and explorations in the outdoors in the Kamloops area (and beyond).

Doug started exploring this area in 1976 and continues to follow tracks and routes wherever they lead, with the aid of map, compass, GPSr and camera. After many dead-ends, but also many discoveries, he chose to share this information.

The Kamloops Trails website has a massive number of interesting posts and would be of interest to anyone in Kamloops who enjoys the outdoors. Visit the Kamloops Trails website at:


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