Service Among Ancestral Puebloan Ruins, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13294A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Hike to ancient Anasazi ruins and examine detailed rock art on our day off
  • Explore spectacular slickrock canyons
  • Maintain important hiking trails and eliminate unnecessary social 


  • Ranger-led tours of ancient ruins
  • All meals and snacks prepared by an excellent outdoors cook
  • Rustic, secluded group 


DatesSep 22–28, 2013
StaffTim Wernette

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The Grand Gulch Primitive Area is a series of canyons that includes our camping area near the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Grand Gulch itself is 52 miles in length and stretches to the San Juan River. This area was once heavily populated by the Anasazi and now has the largest concentration of ruins in all of southeastern Utah. It is home to numerous rock art panels and prehistoric ruins. On our work days and day off we will have numerous opportunities to experience these archeological sites and learn more about the people who left them behind.

Eroding water created these canyons with so many twists and turns that from a bird's-eye view the canyon is snake-like. Here, water falls from the mountains at over 6,500 feet to the San Juan River at around 3,600 feet. Desert varnish streaks the canyon walls, while brilliant yellow foliage of Fremont cottonwoods stand in contrast to the blue sky and multi-colored sandstone cliffs.

September to October is one of the best times to visit this area, with cooler temperatures and the cottonwoods turning a brilliant gold. It can be a photographer's heaven. 

The Project

In the past few years, visitation to Grand Gulch has increased exponentially. Trails within the canyon need constant upkeep.

We will drive part way and then hike to a different work site each day. Although the exact nature of our work project will be determined at a later date, the work will be largely trail maintenance and can include clearing brush, building trail tread, and possibly doing some trail closures at archaeological sites. We might also build water bars for erosion control andre-route trails around sensitive areas.

To get the most out of this service outing it is important that you are in good physical condition. Trail work is very rewarding, but it is also quite strenuous. Workdays will likely include a few miles of additional hiking to visit Anasazi sites in the vicinity of that day's project. 


We will meet September 22nd at the group campsite near the Kane Gulch ranger station west of Blanding, Utah. The first meal of our trip will be dinner on day one.

We will work for four full days and enjoy one day off. On our free day, our ranger will lead us on a day hike to explore some of the many side canyons that contain archaeological sites. Of course, relaxing in camp is an option for those who would prefer to take it easy. Our last meal of the trip will be breakfast on September 28th.



Getting There

It is probably most economical to fly into Salt Lake City or Albuquerque and carpool with other trip members. Flights are also available into Cortez, Colorado, but they are much more expensive. Please allow extra time on both ends of the trip to get to your flight. The leader will provide participants with further information and detailed directions to the trip.

Accommodations and Food

We will be car camping at the rustic group campsite near the Kane Gulch Ranger Station.

Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Trip menu planning considers that there may be no refrigeration and food must be protected from animals. We provide healthy, nutritious, vegetarian-friendly meals with dairy and soy products added to ensure proper protein with occasional meat on the side.

We have a group commissary with everyone taking turns in food preparation. Before applying for the trip, people with food allergies and/or strong food preferences must contact the cook to see if accommodations are possible.

Our first meal will be dinner on day one and our last meal will be lunch on the final day.

Trip Difficulty

The work is moderate and consists of clearing out trail growth, but the hike to the work site can be challenging.

Weather conditions can be extremely variable this time of year. Be prepared for everything from 80 degrees and sunny, to below freezing and snowy. Nights are guaranteed to be chilly. A warm sleeping bag is a must!

Equipment and Clothing

The BLM will provide the tools for the work project. In addition to your regular camping gear, come prepared to work with sturdy boots, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and leather work gloves. You will need a day pack to carry your lunch, water, raingear, sunscreen, etc.

We will provide food and the necessary equipment for cooking it. You will need personal eating utensils such as bowl, cup, and spoon. A plastic food container with a tight-fitting lid is necessary for carrying your lunch to the work site each day.

We will also provide a first-aid kit for emergencies, but you should bring your own first-aid kit with any personal medications you require. A full list of needed equipment will be sent to you after you've been accepted onto the trip. If you have questions please contact the trip leader.



  • Blackburn, Williamson, Cowboys and Cavedwellers: Basketmaker Archaeology In Utah's Grand Gulch.
  • Hillerman, Tony, A Thief of Time. A novel.
  • Mcnitt, Frank, Richard Wetherill: Anasazi, Pioneer Explorer of Southwestern Ruins. A biography.
  • Muench, David & Polly Schaafsma, Images in Stone.
  • Roberts, David, In Search of the Old Ones: Exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest.



The Sierra Club is a member of the Utah Wilderness Coalition, which is working to protect Utah's wildlands from development, extractive industry, and road building.

Much of the land in and around Grand Gulch is designated as "Wilderness Study Area." On our trip we will learn more about this designation and how we can help bring about the much needed conversion to Wilderness.

As visitors to Utah's canyon country, we will be conservators of significant historical and archaeological sites. We will be reminded to take only photographs from these sensitive areas.



Tim Wernette has been leading Sierra Club service trips for more than 25 years. He is an avid "canyon rat" and has led numerous Sierra Club service trips on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, including previous trips in Kanab Creek Wilderness. He also leads international trips (to Nepal, Bhutan, Belize, Ecuador/Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica). Tim is semi-retired and continues to work part-time at the University of Arizona doing educational equity work. Tim enjoys hiking/backpacking and, with his wife, tandem recumbent bike riding and sea kayaking. The canyon country we will visit is Tim's geographical "spiritual home," and he loves sharing it with fellow Sierra Club members.


Charlie has been leading and/or cooking for Sierra Club service trips for 20 years. He particularly enjoys being able to do trips with his good friend and fellow Grand Canyon devotee, Tim Wernette. Charlie lives and works in Pasadena and travels the world with his partner, Wendy Wright, as often as they can manage to get away. In 2011 he managed to get to NYC, Chicago, Big Sur, North Rim, and Tahiti. When trip cook he serves mainly vegetarian but can handle vegan all the way to BBQ.

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