Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hotel Rock Trail

The Hotel Rock Trail is a 6 mile round trip along the north rim of Arch Canyon in the Cedar Mesa area of southeast Utah. It is a well known difficult 4WD drive route that is also a good hike to a very scenic small Ancestral Pueblo ruins site.

The trail head is the same as the Arch Canyon Trail. The parking area is 2.5 miles north of Utah Highway 95 just west of the sandstone wedge Comb Ridge, west of Blanding. About 100 yards down the Arch Canyon Trail there is a road splitting off to the right that starts to climb out of the canyon bottom area.

There isn’t a sign that identifies this as the route to Hotel Rock. About 2.5 miles along the Arch Canyon Trail there is a large side canyon on the north side that leads toward the Hotel Rock area, but the ruin isn’t visible from below.

The lower part of the route climbs steeply and is fairly easy to follow. In the first mile there is a short side trail leading to the rim with a good view up Arch Canyon. The main route makes a right turn that is easy to miss. I had to search around a little to get back on track.

At about 1.5 miles there is a circular turnaround point that is also at a view spot overlooking a short side canyon. It is not immediately clear where the trail continues without looking around. This view point has a small arch on the rim.

The Arch Canyon Trail down below leads to two large arches after about 8 miles. There is also the large Arch Canyon Ruins site in the early part of the trail and several small ruins sites in the canyon walls. The canyon bottom seems to have year round water and the trail crosses the creek many times.

The last 1.5 miles of the way up are more level and pass through Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest. The Hotel Rock formation is visible from about a half mile away and it towers over the surrounding terrain. There are several small structures side by side facing the east and they wind around to the north side and there is another small structure on the west side. There is also a small arch above and to the right of the small structures.

It is easy to get close and look inside. The views from the ruins site back to the east are very good. From this elevated spot, the LaPlata Mountains and Sleeping Ute Mountain are visible on the horizon far to the east. The Abajo Mountains slightly north are clearly visible. The elevation rises about 1200 feet from the trail head, enough to see over the jagged Comb Ridge.

The climb up took me 2:15 hours with stops at the rim view points. I spent about 0:50 minutes looking around the ruins site, including a walk on the west side and looking down into the side canyon there.

The return hike took 1:25 hours without any stops for a total hike of 4:30 hours. I carried 2 liters of water on a 65 F degree early October blue sky day. I didn’t see any other hikers or vehicles on the Hotel Rock Trail but there were some groups on the Arch Canyon Trail.