Road Canyon

Three superlative hikes through one of Cedar Mesa’s most beautiful canyons visiting excellent ruins along the way.

★★★★★

Wow factor

★★★★★

Overall rating

★★★

Difficulty

★★

Access road

★★

Crowds

This is a real favourite of mine, and none of the hikes are too strenuous. There are two trailheads for Road Canyon, though you can hike straight through if have time. The first accesses a structure known as Fallen Roof Ruin, the second Seven Kivas Ruin and Peninsula House aka The Citadel. There are also other ruins you’ll see along the way. You can hike each of the trails in around 2-3 hours though most people spend more time here. I’ve rarely encountered other hikers and that’s a double-edged sword. Having the place to yourself is wonderful but if you encounter a serious problem you’re on your own and a long way from the highway.

 

From UT261, close to mile marker 261, turn east on Cigarette Springs Road. It’s driveable for most vehicles when dry. At around the 3.5 mile mark is a turn off to the left. This is the trailhead to the upper canyon for Fallen Roof Ruin. You’ll see the trail signed at the parking area. To access Seven Kivas Ruin and Peninsula House drive a total of 6 miles down Cigarette Road to a junction where you turn left on a rough road. You need a high clearance vehicle for this part and, preferably for the final section, 4WD. The road ends near the rim of the canyon after about 3/4 mile.

 

To hike to Fallen Roof, follow the trail across the mesa for a few hundred yards to descend into Road canyon via a shallow side fork full of boulders. Cairns will point the way around a dryfall. Soon you’re in the main canyon and you should bear right here and head for an obvious red rock pinnacle. Just beyond on the left wall is Fallen Roof Ruin. It’s so named after, relatively recently, huge chunks of the alcove roof fell in front of the ruin. It looks like they’ve not been moved. No more than a mile down canyon are more ruins.

 

For Seven Kivas, follow the obvious trail along the rim of a side canyon before dropping down a sinuous cairned trail into the main canyon. You may need to so some scrambling here but it’s pretty easy. Once you’re at the bottom bear right and hike down canyon for a mile or so. You’ll see the debris left by flash floods along the way. The ruin is in a large alcove not far up the left wall. It’s difficult to miss. Most of the kivas are in disrepair but a few still have their roofs intact, a rarity. Please don’t walk across them as they’re very fragile. You may also see corn cobs and pottery sherds if they haven’t been stolen.

 

For Peninsula House, drive to the Seven Kivas trailhead and hike east along the rim of Road Canyon for about a mile when the peninsula comes into view. Along the way there are some lovely views of the canyon below. Once you’re on the slickrock with the peninsula in front of you, make your way carefully down the left hand side to access the narrow ridge of rock that’s below you. There are no cairns so find a way that’s best for you. Once on the ridge, just head for the end of the peninsula. The Anasazi built some defensive rock walls here that you’ll pass on the way to the ruin. Peninsula House is right at the end hidden from view until you’re almost underneath it, under a shallow ledge right at the top. It’s one of the most beautifully constructed structures on Cedar Mesa and certainly the one with the best 360 degree views. (Perhaps only Moonhouse is better engineered.) It’s simply stunning. Walk around the ledge and you’ll find more tumbledown walls, more evidence of a people that didn’t encourage visitors. 

 

Road is a canyon that just keeps giving. Even if there were no ruins the sheer beauty of it would be tempting enough. And with less foot traffic here than in many Cedar Mesa canyons it should be on your to-do list.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.