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Sheiks Canyon / Bullet Canyon Loop - Cedar Mesa, Utah

Summary: A pleasant loop hike to a series of well preserved ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs. A permit is required to hike in the area. These are available at self-pay kiosks located at most major roads and trailheads. Cost is $2 per person per day or $5 per person per week. As always: ruins are fragile and irreplaceable, please leave the area as you found it. A little history of the area from one of the trail signs:
"The first inhabitants of southeast Utah were the basket maker people who lived on the mesas and in the canyons between 200-700 AD. While here they built pit houses, storage cysts, small masonry dwellings and grew crops including corn and beans. Today the Pueblo people who live in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico and the Hopi mesas in Arizona are recognized as some of the descendents of the basket makers. Please respect their ancestral homeland."
Directions: A car shuttle or 4 mile road walk is required to complete this hike. Grand Gulch / Cedar Mesa is located on Highway 261 north of Mexican hat in southern Utah. To get there drive from AZ to Utah on Highway 163 through Monument Valley.  After passing the town of Mexican Hat, turn left on Highway 261and drive up onto the mesa via the Moki Dugway. Car Spot: Drive north to between mileposts 21-22, turn left on Forest Road #251 and drive 1 mile to the signed Bullet Canyon Trailhead. A passenger car should have no trouble making to this trailhead if roads are dry.
Trailhead: From the Bullet  Canyon Trailhead, continue on FR #251 (which becomes somewhat rougher) for 1.5 miles and turn left onto an unsigned dirt road. High clearance vehicles can follow this road 2.4 miles to it's end at the trailhead for Sheiks Canyon. There is a nice campsite under the trees at the head of the canyon.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle, a passenger car will get you close
Navigation: Easy
Length: 13 miles
Date Hiked: November 2007
Weather Conditions: Cool and sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the Sheiks Canyon Trailhead, simply hop in the dry wash and begin following it down canyon. After a short hike you will come to the well preserved Yellow House Ruins, which are on the right. Continue down canyon, keeping an eye out for granaries on the right as you go (almost all ruins in the area on are on the south sides of the canyons where they receive the most winter light). There are two sets of drop offs in Sheiks Canyon. The first can be descended largely by remaining in the creek bed. The second is bypassed by following a steep hiker trail which descends the hillside on the right. Once in the bottom of the canyon again, and just before entering Grand Gulch, look for a prominent alcove on the right which houses the Green Mask ruins and a large number of pictographs. Shortly afterwards you'll come to the junction with Grand Gulch (3.5 miles) and a well established hiker trail. Turn left and head down Grand Gulch scanning the right hand wall for ruins. The most prominent is the Wall Ruin, which has a hiker trail which leads up to the bench where it is located. Just beyond the Wall Ruin the prominent drainage of Bullet Canyon enters from the left (6 miles). Turn left and head up Bullet Canyon. There are several sets of ruins in the canyon, all of which are located on the left (south wall of the canyon). The most prominent of which are the Jail Ruins and the Perfect Kiva Ruins. The trail spends more time in the dry wash above the Perfect Kiva Ruins. Look for trails which climb up on the left to a bench to avoid a number of large boulders in the canyon bottom. Then further up canyon, you'll climb up on the left again into a side drainage. Skirt the dryfall at the head of this canyon and drop into the main drainage of Bullet Canyon once again. As you continue up canyon, the drainage becomes quite shallow and you may see the boxy structure of the Rim Ruin up on the rim to the left. About 15 minutes later, the trail climbs up to the left to the Bullet Canyon Trailhead (13 miles). If you've spotted a car here, your hike is over. Otherwise you'll have to follow the road about 4 miles back to your car at the Sheiks Canyon Trailhead.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife and two friends completed the loop, spotting a car to avoid the road walk, at a casual pace in 8 hours.
Maps: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map - Grand Gulch Plateau
A map of the hike may also be found here.
Books: Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Yellow House Ruins. Pictographs at the Green Mask Ruins.
Typical view in the canyons. Petroglyphs at the Wall Ruins.
Small granary in Bullet Canyon. Metates at the Perfect Kiva Ruins.