Service Among Ancestral Puebloan Ruins, Utah

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14302A, Service/ Volunteer


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


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


DatesSep 21–27, 2014
StaffSteve Lachman

Trip Overview

Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.

The Trip

The Grand Gulch Primitive Area is a series of spectacular desert canyons that host the largest concentration of Anasazi ruins and some of the finest ancient rock art in all of southeastern Utah.  We’ll be car camping near the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, the main entry point to Grand Gulch, which extends 52 miles to the San Juan River. On our days doing trail work and our day off, we will have numerous opportunities to experience these archaeological 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 may include clearing brush, building trail tread, and possibly doing some trail closures at archaeological sites. We might also build water bars for erosion control and re-route trails around sensitive areas.

To get the most out of this service outing, it is important that you be 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 21 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 four 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 lunch on September 27.



Getting There

It is probably most economical to fly into Salt Lake City or Albuquerque and carpool with other trip members. It’s about a six-hour drive from either city. Flights are also available into Cortez, Colorado -- about a 2.5-hour drive -- 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 flavorful, 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 assisting 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.

All meals are included in the trip price, beginning with dinner on day one and ending with lunch on the final day.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is considered moderately strenuous. Trail maintenance is very physical work, but it usually includes a range of tasks to fit varying abilities. Our daily hikes to and from the work project can also add to the challenge.

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!

Health and safety are high priorities on our outings, and we find that self-awareness and preparation by everyone involved can go a long way toward ensuring a successful and enjoyable week.

Equipment and Clothing

The Bureau of Land Management will provide the tools and training 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 Bureau of Land Management's Monticello website:
  • You can purchase maps, books, and other informative materials on hiking, and the natural history and archaeology of the area at the Canyonlands Natural History Association:


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.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Steve Lachman has been leading and cooking Sierra Club Service Trips since 1990. He has a “more is better” philosophy towards cooking. When not Sierra Tripping, he is a lawyer, a part-time speech professor, and a high school forensics coach. He’s always been a northeasterner, but thinks the West is a nice place to visit, so he does.

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