Fort Ruin – White Rim Road
An exciting full day trip from Moab to some Anasazi towers in the scenic Green River landscape.
First, check at a visitor center for road conditions and for oncoming weather. Then be sure to bring your high clearance 4WD vehicle, as nothing else will do. It’s not that the road is technically difficult but there are some deep washes that need to be crossed and you’ll need that extra grunt. After heavy rains those washes can be completely washed out. (In 2000 we were marooned overnight in the Labyrinth Canyon section of the road in a precarious position with flooding coming from all sides. By morning the banks of those ‘easy’ wash crossings were so severely eroded it took us 3 hours of digging to get out. And even with 4WD it was like driving on marbles. See the video here.
If you’re not driving the entire White Rim Road (80 miles long and 2 days driving) then the closest access point to Fort Ruin is Mineral Bottom Road. It was constructed in the 1950’s for access to uranium mines in the area, suffered a major flash flood washout a few years ago and has now been reconstructed. From UT191 near Moab turn onto UT313, the main highway to Island-in-the-Sky. After 12 miles turn right onto Mineral Bottom Road. It’s a good, graded road all the way across the mesa and down to the White Rim Road, and can be driven carefully in most cars in dry weather. Much like the Schafer Trail at the other end of The White Rim Road, the switchbacks are narrow but it’s an exciting drive. Once you reach the White Rim Road, at 13 miles from UT313, you’ll certainly need high-clearance and ideally 4WD. Turn left through Taylor Canyon following the Green River, though hundreds of feet above, as it twists between the steep canyon walls. Driving way below Island=in-the-Sky gives you a very different aspect of Canyonlands. After nearly 22 miles from UT313 you’ll see the Fort Ruin Trail signed.
You can see a prominent peninsula off to your right which nestles into a dramatic horseshoe bend of the river. The ruin is right on top. The hike is around 3.5 miles roundtrip, though you can extend that to take in an old cowboy cabin at river level which adds another half mile or so. Follow the descending trail as heads towards the butte. You’ll then come to a narrow causeway on the other side of which is an ascending trail to the top. This may require some easy scrambling near the summit. On top the views are 360 degrees and stunning. The two towers are equally impressive. One is over 10 feet high and there are other ruins close by. On a ledge under the rim are some granaries.
This is a great day trip from Moab with something for everyone. Just pray for dry weather.