Sheiks Canyon is a short and
steep side canyon that enters Grand Gulch between Todie and Bullet
Canyons. Sheiks Canyon is not shown or described in the Cedar Mesa
Travel Guide that the BLM provides to visitors. However, it's a fairly
well used access to Grand Gulch. It also provides day hikers with
access to the well-known Green Mask rock art panel. I do not recommend
Sheiks Canyon for beginning canyon country hikers. The trail is steep
and in places very hard to follow. Parts of this hike require good
route finding skills and, if you are in the canyon bottom in the wrong
place, it is a laborious hike/scramble through dense brush and piles of
house sized boulders.
These ruins are perched on a ledge just above
the canyon floor. In particular, their roofs are very well preserved.
The Sheiks Canyon
trailhead is fairly easy to access. The access road is west of Utah 261
at just about mile marker 24.2. The road is signed and is County Road
250. It is a pretty good road in dry conditions and suitable for any
type of vehicle, although low clearance vehicles will have to park
about ¼ mile before the car park. After turning onto the road drive a
bit more than 4.5 miles to the parking area where there is room for
several vehicles. I have never camped here but there are camping
Canyon trail is obvious from the carpark - just look for the BLM
sign-in kiosk. From the registry, follow straight down the canyon
Canyon starts shallow and not very interesting but quickly deepens.
Sheiks Canyon is one of the shortest accesses to Grand Gulch so it has
to drop steeply to reach Grand Gulch. After a short distance of hiking
in the shallow and open Upper Sheiks Canyon, the canyon
This close-up of the ceiling of one of the rooms
shown above. The construction techniques are easy to see.
drops fairly steeply. The trail through this section mostly goes
straight down the slickrock bottom and it's not too difficult to find
the side trails detouring around the rough places. Along this part of
the trail keep your eyes peeled as you will find ruins on a ledge just
above the canyon bottom. One set of two structures is very well
preserved and the roofs in particular are in great shape.
The middle section of Sheiks Canyon is broad, fairly flat and easy
hiking but then it narrows down again and from here the hiking gets
pretty challenging. First comes a series of small pour-overs that are
passable by staying straight through on the slickrock bottom. Soon,
there is a pour-over that's 3 to 4 feet high across the entire canyon
bottom. The way to get through is at the very left-hand edge looking
down canyon. It is easy and scramble down, as it's only about a 3 foot
step down. You come down behind a couple of giant boulders - one
leaning against the other and you go through a short little tunnel
formed by the rocks. At this point you have to immediately cross the
creek on the slickrock and start heading up the slope on the right-hand
This room is tucked onto a really cool rock formation. The ruin
is a short distance down the canyon from the previous two.
There are some cairns marking this
trail but it takes some route finding to figure it out. The trail
climbs up and out of the creek bottom and you can look down in the
creek at various places along the way. Looking down at the canyon
bottom makes you thankful to be above the mess. The canyon bottom
itself is littered with house-size boulders interspaced with jumbled
rock piles and thick vegetation. It would be a torturous effort to hike
down the canyon bottom.
trail skirts along this inner gorge of the canyon which is descending
rather rapidly. This is a skinny little trail and you have to pay
attention. Continue to follow along this side slope until you reach an
obvious saddle and stay in the canyon you are in.Continue to head down
canyon for a short distance until there is no more skinny little trail
and the only option is to go straight down a pretty ugly slope of loose
conglomerate rock. This slope has disintegrated badly and it is a steep
trail. There is no actual trail - you figure out your own way to get
down it. It's very steep and it's soft and loose. If you are day
hiking, one of the worst parts about going down this slope is realizing
the return trip requires a climb back up this same slope.
This view of the lower section of Sheiks Canyon shows the
steep, narrow canyon that you have to navigate. This view is from
above the canyon floor near the point where you need to climb
steeply down into the canyon bottom. Hikers are far better off finding
this trail than trying to make it through the canyon bottom.
The slope ends in the slickrock canyon bottom right where the jumble of
rock fall choking the streambed ends. Hiking the slickrock bottom you
quickly reach a broad sandy area where vegetation starts to spring up
as you approach the intersection with Grand Gulch. Green Mask Spring
and the Green Mask rock art panel are located a couple hundred yards
before Sheiks Canyon joins Grand Gulch.
Sheiks Canyon is a good hike for experienced hikers. It?s a quick way
to get into Grand Gulch and is not used nearly as much as the nearby
There are a number of books with good accounts of hiking Sheiks
Canyon. The most detailed hiking instructions are found in Cedar
by Jim Beard
A good description of Sheiks Canyon can be found in A
Hiking Guide To Cedar Mesa
Tassoni. However, I believe that the trail advice in Beard's book above
is more accurate.
I find it to be best suited for day trips into Grand Gulch for
backpacking, I prefer to use other accesses. While there are other
hikes I would recommend before this on Cedar Mesa, it offers the
experienced hiker and interesting option.