Cedar Mesa Grand Gulch

Junction Ruin in Grand Gulch

Junction Ruin is probably the most visited ruin in Grand Gulch. It’s an interesting Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) site located in Grand Gulch right at the junction with Kane Gulch. Kane Gulch is the most popular access to Grand Gulch so it stands to reason that Junction Ruin the most visited ruin in the canyon. The trail to the ruin is easy and Junction Ruin is a great place to get exposed to the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruins of Grand Gulch

Hiking Kane Gulch to the ruin

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Hiking to Junction Ruin begins at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station which is located on UT 261 4 miles south of the intersection with UT 95. The site is well signed and there is a large paved parking area. There are vault toilets but water is not available at the ranger station. The Kane Gulch Ranger Station operates seasonally so don’t be surprised if they aren’t open when you are there. If the station is manned you can get the latest information about trails, roads, and water availability in the canyons.

All of Cedar Mesa is BLM land and you need to purchase a permit to hike in Kane Gulch. If it’s open, you can purchase your permit at the Ranger Station. Otherwise, self-register and pay at the kiosk in the parking lot. If you want to backpack on Cedar Mesa you need a backcountry permit. Contact the BLM for more information about Cedar Mesa Backcountry Regulations and Fees

granaries tucked onto narrow ledge at Junction Ruin
These granaries are covering most of the ledge they sit on.

The Kane Gulch trailhead is right across the road (UT 261) from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. The trail is obvious, it’s a well maintained and easy hike as described on our Kane Gulch Hike page.

Junction Ruin

Junction Ruin is located in Grand Gulch right where Kane Gulch enters. The ruin was occupied during the Basketmaker II period with continued intermittent occupation until about 700 AD. There was then about a three hundred-year period during which there is little evidence of Anasazi occupation in Grand Gulch. After about 1000 the area was occupied until the Anasazi left forever in about 1250.

Junction Ruin cliffs
Junction Ruin is on three levels of the Grand Gulch canyon wall. The structures on the upper level are inaccessible and were quite likely defensive in nature.

The ruin is located on three levels, the upper of which is not accessible. There are remains of 28 structures on the lower level with 14 on the second level and 17 on the inaccessible third level. While the use of some structures is evident, many rooms were of uncertain use. However, there were definitely living rooms, kivas, storage rooms, and, from all evidence, defensive structures built on the third level. Rooms with smoke-blackened walls and/or ceilings were likely habitation rooms while those without blackening were used for storage.

A Blend of Construction Styles

Kiva ruin in Junction Ruin
This Mesa Verde style kiva has a single roof beam remaining. The Anasazi occupied this site until they abandoned the entire Grand Gulch region in about 1260.

Both Kayenta and Mesa Verde style construction is evidenced in the structures at Junction Ruin. There is also a waddle and daub constructed structure. There are several obvious kivas at Junction Ruin. They feature plastered walls and careful examination will show multiple layers of plaster that had been applied over the years.

The rock art found at Junction Ruin consists of both pictographs and petroglyphs. There are quite a few handprints on the canyon wall that were created by both positive and negative methods. There is some use of colors with a lot of yellow and orange art present.

pictographs in Junction Ruin

Remains of Daily Life

There are a number of grinding stations at the ruin. The most obvious is a large boulder with multiple grinding areas where corn was ground to meal by rubbing a handheld rock (called a mano) onto a flat rock surface (the metate). Repeated grinding will gradually wear a cupped place in the rock which aids in the grinding process. In addition to these “mealing marks”, this rock shows worn groves that were possibly created by the repeated sharpening of some sort of tool.

Grinding station in Junction Ruin
There are a lot of grinding areas in Junction Ruin where corn was ground into meal by using a handheld rock to grind the corn against the base rock. This station could be used while standing.

A very noticeable feature at Junction Ruin is the large midden heap that extends down and out from the ruin. This historic trash heap is rich with pottery sherds and other relics. This midden heap is lightly fenced by the BLM so please stay off and enjoy the pottery pieces from a distance. Historically, this midden has been dug up by looters and we all need to help preserve it. Please don’t gather sherds into displays and never take any pieces as souvenirs. These ruins are treasures that are easily damaged and can never be replaced. Please respect them enough to leave them untouched for others to enjoy.

section of midden heap below Junction Ruin
The midden heap downhill from the ruin is filled with pottery sherds and corn cobs. Look and take pictures but don’t move items and never even think about taking home a souvenir.

Exploring Grand Gulch

Grand Gulch is the best place to see Anasazi ruins outside of the developed parks and Junction Ruin is a great example of what Grand Gulch is all about. It offers the observant visitor a glimpse into aspects of the Anasazi life. The ruin can be visited in a day by most hikers as it’s about an 8 mile round trip on a mostly good trail.

Stimper Arch in Grand Gulch
Stimper Arch in Grand Gulch is short distance beyond Turkey Pen Ruin.

If you continue on into Grand Gulch, it’s only 1/2 mile to Turkey Pen Ruin and a visit there is easy to add. From Turkey Pen, it’s just a short hike to views of Stimper Arch. Visit these as a day hike or, better yet, take a multi-day backpack trip into Grand Gulch for an amazing experience.

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